John Kirby: The Last Thing We Want Is Escalation Between the U.S. and Russia

( – The U.S. drone forced down by two Russian fighter jets on Tuesday lies deep in the Black Sea and may be unrecoverable, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN Wednesday morning.

Kirby said it’s “not uncommon” for U.S. drones to conduct surveillance over international waters off Ukraine, nor is it uncommon for the Russians to try to intercept or harass the drones, although this is the first time a Russian pilot actually struck one of our drones, rendering it inoperable and forcing the U.S. to bring it down.

Kirby said the incident “does increase the risk of miscalculations, misunderstandings.”

“And the last thing that we want, certainly the last thing that anybody should want, is for this war in Ukraine to escalate to become something between the United States and Russia. To have this actually, you know, expand beyond that.

“That’s not only not going to be good for the people of Ukraine, it’s not good for the people of Europe or even around the world.

“We’ve been working very, very hard throughout the beginning of this conflict to make sure that it doesn’t escalate into particularly into that area. And I think we can all understand how that would be absolutely horrible for everybody.”

Kirby said the State Department summoned the Russian ambassador on Tuesday to convey “a very direct message to him about our deep concerns over this reckless, unprofessional behavior by Russian pilots.”

“The message that we delivered to the Russian ambassador is that they need to be more careful if flying in international air space near U.S. assets, that are, again, conducting missions in support of our national security interests. They’re the ones that need to be more careful.”


Kirby said the U.S. “did the best we could to minimize any intelligence value that might come from somebody else getting their hands on that drone,” but he didn’t give specifics.

And this will not be the end of U.S. drone flights in that area:

“We were flying well outside of airspace that was — that’s claimed by Ukraine or any other country,” Kirby said. “The Black Sea doesn’t belong to Russia. It belongs to many countries. And the United States has been operating there on the sea and in the air, and we’re going to continue to operate, again, in complete accordance with international law.”

When Kirby spoke to CNN on Tuesday morning, President Joe Biden had not yet commented publicly or issued a statement on Russia’s provocative actions in forcing down the U.S. drone.


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