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EU nation warns of escalation after US drone crash

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Human error or an aggressive move by one individual could trigger a stand-off between Russia and the West, Italian FM has said

The US drone crash in the Black Sea has marked a moment of great tension in relations between Moscow and Washington, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on Wednesday. He also urged the West and Russia to exercise caution so that they could avoid a direct clash.

On Tuesday, the US accused Russia of downing an MQ-9 Reaper drone, spotted off the coast of Crimea as it conducted a reconnaissance flight. Washington claimed that the aircraft was on a routine mission in international airspace when it was intercepted by a pair of Russian Su-27s, which dumped fuel on the drone, with one jet then colliding with the Reaper’s propeller.

Russia, however, insisted that its fighters had neither come into contact with the American drone or fired from a weapon, adding that the MQ-9 “went into uncontrolled flight” and came down “as a result of sharp maneuvers.”

Speaking to Sky TG24 TV channel, Tajani suggested that, although the US and Russia had each struck tough stances over the incident, they attempted to “not to turn the affair into a casus belli.” “There is firmness, but no desire to escalate,” he pointed out.

However, in the current climate, the situation could escalate “due to a human error or an aggressive action by an individual,” the minister warned.

To avoid the worst-case scenario, “we need a lot of prudence on the part of those engaged on the borders of Europe and NATO,” Tajani explained.

His comments come after the US National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, John Kirby, told CNN on Tuesday that Washington certainly doesn’t want the Ukraine conflict to “escalate beyond what it has already done to the Ukrainian people.” However, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asserted that, despite the incident, the US would still “continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows.”

Also on Tuesday, while condemning the incident as a “provocation,” Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov signaled that Russia “did not seek confrontation” with Washington.

On Wednesday, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov stated that Moscow had no high-level contacts with Washington over the drone crash. He added that, although relations between Moscow and Washington are currently in a “deplorable state,” Russia “has never refused a constructive dialogue.”

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