EXCLUSIVE: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul called Russia’s interception of a U.S. drone a “blatant intimidation tactic,” and stressed the need for the United States to continue its support for Ukraine and security efforts in the region.
A Russian Su-27 fighter plane collided with a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone, which was conducting “routine operations” over the Black Sea on Tuesday. The jet in question was one of two Su-27’s flying in tandem when the collision occurred in international airspace over international waters.
“To be clear, the Black Sea is not a Russian lake. The U.S. surveillance drone intercepted by a Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace,” McCaul told Fox News Digital. “The U.S. must not be deterred in its support for Ukraine or its commitment to Black Sea security by this blatant intimidation tactic or Russia’s pattern of unsafe behavior.”
McCaul’s comments come as Ukrainian officials claim the incident was Russia’s attempt to escalate U.S. involvement in the war.
“The incident with the American MQ-9 Reaper UAV — provoked by Russia over the Black Sea — is Putin’s way of signaling his readiness to expand the conflict to involve other parties,” Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said. “The purpose of this all-in tactic is to always be raising the stakes.”
The White House admitted that there have been “other intercepts” of U.S. aircraft by Russian aircraft in the last few weeks, but said that Tuesday’s intercept was “reckless” and the first to cause the “downing of one of our aircraft.”
The United States is rushing to secure the debris of the drone, after Russian officials, while denying responsibility for the incident, announced that their own recovery operations were underway.
“The aircraft is U.S. property,” a U.S. defense official confirmed to Fox News. “We take the recovery very seriously but will not get into details right now.”
National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby told CNN on Wednesday that the U.S. military has already moved to “protect our equities” and that they did not want anyone else “getting their hands on [the drone].”
“Without getting to too much detail, what I can say is that we’ve taken steps to protect our equities with respect to that particular drone, that particular aircraft and its United States property,” Kirby said. “We obviously don’t want to see anybody getting their hands on it beyond us.”
Later, though, Kirby admitted that the drone and its debris “has not been recovered.”
“And I’m not sure we’re going to be able to recover it,” he said, acknowledging that the drone fell into “very, very deep water.”
“We’re still assessing whether there can be any kind of recovery effort mounted there,” he said. “There may not be.”
The U.S. Navy does not have any ships operating in the Black Sea, a spokesperson for U.S. European Command told Fox News on Wednesday.
Russia has denied that one of its aircraft touched the drone and accused the U.S. of unnecessarily escalating the issue.
“We assume that the United States will refrain from further speculation in the media and stop flights near Russian borders,” said Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov on Wednesday.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and Timothy H.J. Nerrozzi contributed to this report.