Whatever caused the U.S. drone to crash, Washington is acting carefully and has made it clear that it is a match for Vladimir Putin’s fearmongering.
What exactly happened on March 14 in the sky above the Black Sea remains unknown for the time being. Russia and the U.S. each give very different versions of the events which ultimately led to the crash of a U.S. surveillance drone.
It is fairly obvious that the U.S. government in particular has no interest whatsoever in publicly assessing the incident in such a way that a military response would be necessary. Admittedly, the Russian ambassador has been summoned to Washington and the U.S. ambassador in Moscow has conveyed a message of protest, accusing the Russian fighter jets of negligent and unprofessional behavior. This falls short of accusing Russia of now seeking direct military confrontation with the U.S.
In fact, U.S. President Joe Biden has absolutely no interest in giving even the faintest impression that the war could spiral out of control beyond Ukraine’s borders. On the Republican side, calls from those demanding an end to U.S. support for Ukraine are, admittedly, multiplying. As long as the war stays in Ukraine, Biden can still count on bipartisan support in Congress; however, escalation over the Black Sea would be toxic.
Whether the Russian fighter jets caused the drone to crash or not remains unclear; however, they do not at all deny the fact that they attacked it on the grounds — disputed by Washington — that the drone was too close to the Crimean Peninsula and no longer over international waters. It may well be that the truth will emerge over the next few days. If it was supposed to be a test of how the U.S. reacts, which would certainly fit with Russia’s policy of provocation, then, with its measured approach, Washington has made it clear that it will not be so easily fooled by Putin’s World War III fearmongering.