There are still a number of unanswered questions about the incident that downed the MQ9 Predator off the coast of Crimea on Tuesday. Let us start with the facts:
- The MQ9 drone was conducting an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance mission in international air space off the coast of Crimea.
- The MQ9 turned off its Identification, Friend or Foe (IFF) transponder.
- Russian air defense systems were tracking the drone.
- Russian jet fighters were scrambled to intercept the drone.
- The United States and NATO have been flying drones along the Crimea coast for more than a year.
- The drone was brought down without a shot being fired by the Russian combat jet fighters.
So far the United States and Russian military are sticking with the same story — i.e, one of the planes clipped the drone’s propeller accidentally, which cause the drone to crash.
We are in full blown Kabuki theater. The United States insists this drone was harmless, just minding its own business, when an incompetent Russian pilot failed to control his plane. Russia insists there was no contact with the drone and claimed the drone turned sharply and fell from the sky.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov’s comments on the incident makes it clear Russia viewed this drone as a threat to its security:
Our military gave an assessment, which was reproduced by our Ambassador in Washington, Alexander Antonov. He outlined, including to journalists, how we regard this from the point of view of global security. He was invited to the US State Department, where he was presented with completely unfounded claims regarding the violation of the freedom of aeronautics.
You have heard representatives of the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff say that the United States will continue to fly wherever it pleases “in accordance with international law.”
Russia’s Ambassador in Washington reacted sharply to calls by American officials, specifically Senator Lindsey Graham, to shoot down a Russian jet interfering with a U.S. drone:
“ Intentionally attacking a Russian aircraft in neutral airspace is not just a crime under international law, but also an open declaration of war on the largest nuclear power ,” he warned. “ An armed clash between Russia and the United States would be radically different from a proxy war that the Americans wage remotely against us in Ukraine. Is the Capitol ready to expose American citizens and the international community to the risk of all-out nuclear war? Answer, dear senator! “
If you look closely at the picture of the MQ9 Reaper above you will see that it is almost impossible for a Russian jet to just “hit” the propeller without causing other damage to the drone. That kind of impact would have caused the drone to start tumbling, probably end over end.
The U.S. claims to have video footage of the incident. Really? Then why has it not been released. If the video supports this U.S. account of the incident this would be a major PR coup. It would expose the Russian Ambassador lying for his country (this would not be unique to Russia, all Ambassadors from all countries are known to lie from time to time). Russia also has video footage from both planes involved in the intercept. Why is that video not being released?
One possible explanation, the Russians used some kind of electronic weapon system that disabled the drone and caused it to crash. Russia does not want to release any footage that would show the drone being disabled.
I am confident this action was planned by Russia in advance. They chose the time and place to bring the drone down because they had their naval recovery vessels already in place to pick up the wreckage. If Russia recovers the intelligence sensors on that bird it will be able to analyze and develop counter measures to hinder future collection.
I think the United States and NATO are going to rethink their use of drones in the Black Sea area of operations. Russia laid down a clear marker that it is not going to allow untrammeled intelligence collection that can be used for planning and operations against Russian forces.
This is not a video game. Russia, from its perspective, is defending its homeland. As I mentioned in my previous piece, how would we react if Russian drones were flying along the Mexican/U.S. border collecting intelligence on the deployment of U.S. border forces and passing that information to the Mexican drug cartels, who in turn would use that information to flood the weak points of our border with illegal migrants? Americans would be rightly outraged. So why do we think we can do what we are doing and expect the Russians to roll over like a beaten dog and do nothing?
That is the reason for the title of this article. We need some adults in Washington, D.C. to quiet all of the belligerent threats and work on defusing this confrontation with Russia. If we do not, this will end badly for the United States.