Once upon a time, children, the United States was caught red-handed (and red-faced) when its president denied an international incident. His name was Eisenhower, and he and his administration told the world that the plane that went down over the USSR was just a weather-gatherer that went off course. Poor pilot was lost. No telling what can happen to instruments when a vehicle is flying that high. Can we get the body back to his family?
Except the Soviets knew something the rest of the world didn’t: The pilot was alive, captured after parachuting to safety, and the plane was indeed a spy plane, called the U-2. When Nikita Khrushchev introduced Francis Gary Powers to the world, the U.S. was caught.
President Eisenhower told somebody in his office that at that moment in history he wanted to become the first American president to resign from office.
We doubt Vladimir Putin has that kind of shame. But after denying that a Russian pilot knocked an American drone out of the (international) skies this week, the Americans came with their own proof. Video proof. Two Russian jets played a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the drone over the Black Sea earlier in the week, and one of the jets actually made contact.
The U.S. European Command released footage Tuesday of the Russian jet colliding with the drone.
The drone, the Russians should be told now, had a camera. (Most do, guys.) A Russian Sukhoi SU-27 fighter jet rolled up to it and twice dumped fuel on the drone. Why the pilot would do so is still a question. Maybe it was a not-so-subtle message to the Americans: Phooey on you.
The camera caught the Russian jet closing in on the drone, then showed the damaged propeller. Our spooks somewhere in the world (they are legion) were able to bring down the drone into the drink. But before they did, multiple reports say they were able to hit the right buttons on their keyboards to “wipe” sensitive material off the drone’s equipment.
So if the Russians are able to gather up the wreckage — they are trying — they’ll just get some very expensive recycling material. Our people done good.
The American drone might have been expensive, but at least it was unmanned. The same cannot be said of the Russian jets.
If this had gone sideways — it could have easily — there might be at least one Russian casualty involved. And this dangerous but ultimately probably minor incident could have led to something much larger and more dangerous to more people.
The Russians really should be more careful. But if the wave-after-wave human sacrifices they’re making on the ground in Ukraine are any indication, and they are, then the Russian brass probably doesn’t think sacrificing one more airman is too big a price to pay to harass the Americans.