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Top Democrat Warns Putin Against Unintended Escalation After Black Sea Spat

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against “unintended escalation” after a Russian fighter jet downed a US drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday.

The US Air Force on Tuesday said that a “reckless” Russian jet collided with a US drone over the Black Sea, resulting in the drowning of the UAV. While Russia has not issued a statement on the matter, and its intentions remain unknown, the US has accused Russian troops of conducting themselves unprofessionally.

The incident threatens to exacerbate already-strained relations between the United States and Russia, which have long been adversaries on the global stage. After Russia began its Ukraine invasion in February 2022, the United States backed Kyiv, providing its military large amounts of weapons and issuing sanctions against Moscow’s economy. US support for Ukraine has been met with a critical response from Russia, which has accused Washington of overstepping.

Schumer addressed the incident during a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon, condemning the Russian military for the “dangerous” intercept.

“Earlier today, two Russian military aircraft conducted an unsafe intercept with an unmanned US surveillance drone that was operating within international airspace over the Black Sea. This intercept was so dangerous and so brazen that the US Air Force was forced to crash their drone into international waters,” Schumer said.

He continued to plead Putin to halt his military from conducting similar “risky” actions in the future.

“I want to tell Mr. Putin. Stop this behavior before you are the cause of an unintended escalation,” Schumer said. “We have seen this behavior from the Russian military before, and it will not deter the United States from conducting operations over the Black Sea. These aggressive actions by Russian aircraft are risky and could lead, I repeat, to unintended escalation.”

However, William Pomeranz, director of the Wilson Center’s Russia- and Eurasia-focused Kennan Institute, told Newsweek that he believes the incident will likely “blow over fairly quickly.”

“US-Russian relations are so dismal right now that I do not believe that this one incident will really make the mark on US-Russian relations,” he said. “There is always the question of unintended consequences, but I think there would have to be a much more dramatic incident for the United States to want to weigh in against Russia in light of all the actions the US has taken against Russia in the past year .”

He said the Russian ambassador may be called to discuss the situation with the State Department, but that relations are too “far gone” for this to be “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Javed Ali, a professor of international relations at the University of Michigan, told Newsweek the downing “serves as a strong reminder of the potential for small-scale incidents like this to further heighten tensions between both sides and possibly trigger unintended escalation in response.”

“The Biden administration has been careful in publicly signaling to Moscow that it does not seek direct confrontation, but at the same time is providing ample amounts of military, intelligence, and economic support to ensure Ukraine can withstand and fight back against Russia’s campaign,” Ali said.

Ali said the US will need to engage in “swift diplomacy and crisis communication” with Russia to prevent an escalation of the conflict, pointing to a similar incident that occurred with Iran in 2019, which “inflamed tensions” between the two countries.

Earlier Tuesday, National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby confirmed that President Joe Biden had been briefed on the incident. He said Russia has conducted previous intercepts against US aircraft, but noted the circumstances of the Tuesday incident were “unique.”

“But this one obviously is noteworthy because of how unsafe and unprofessional, indeed how reckless it was, and causing the downing of one of our aircraft,” he added. “So, it’s unique in that regard.”

Newsweek reached out to Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Schumer’s press office.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against “unintended escalation” after a Russian fighter jet downed a US drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday.

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