WASHINGTON: In a heated exchange with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned that American military planes will fly “wherever international law allows,” following a suspected Russian interception of a US drone.
The US has accused a Russian Su-27 of hitting an MQ-9 drone over the Black Sea, resulting in the drone’s crash. While Washington has held Moscow accountable for this “hostile” behavior, the latter denies any involvement.
In a statement, the Pentagon said Austin discussed with Shoigu the Russian air force’s “unprofessional, dangerous, and reckless behavior” in the international airspace over the Black Sea. Austin made it clear that the US military will continue to fly wherever international law allows, regardless of the circumstances.
Russia confirmed the call and noted that it was initiated by the US. During a news conference, Austin emphasized the importance of Russia conducting its military operations in a safe and professional manner.
The defense secretary stressed that maintaining communication with Russia is crucial, particularly following more than a year of direct conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which has led to limited contact between senior US and Russian defense officials.