Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggested that the Biden administration needed to start shooting down Russian military aircraft after a Russian-provoked incident on Tuesday led to the destruction of a U.S. military drone over international waters.
U.S. European Command said that two Russian fighter jets were harassing a $32 million unmanned MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea when one of the fighter jets clipped the propeller of the drone, forcing the U.S. to down the drone in the body of water.
“They shot down our drone,” Fox News host Sean Hannity said to Graham during an interview Tuesday night. “What should our answer be?”
“Well, we should hold them accountable and say that, ‘If you ever get near another U.S. asset flying in international waters, your airplane will be shot down,’” Graham responded. “What would Ronald Reagan do right now? He would start shooting Russian planes down if they were threatening our assets. American foreign policy’s in free-fall.”
“Weakness breeds provocation. They know they can get away with it. Mexico is blaming us for the fentanyl crisis and Joe Biden is like a deer in the headlights. He needs to up his game quickly,” Graham continued. “So President Biden, you’re the Rodney Dangerfield of world leaders. Nobody respects you. And if you don’t change your game and up your game, we’re gonna have World War III.”
The statement from U.S. European Command added that both of the Russian Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless manner that was environmentally unsound and demonstrated a “lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional.”
“Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”
“U.S. and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely,” Hecker added.
The statement said that the incident followed a “pattern of dangerous actions” by Russian pilots while interacting with U.S. and Allied aircraft over international airspace that could “lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.”
“U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa routinely fly aircraft throughout Europe over sovereign territory and throughout international airspace in coordination with applicable host nation and international laws,” the statement added. “In order to bolster collective European defense and security, these missions support Allied, partner, and U.S. national objectives.”