US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reached out to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoigu, on Wednesday, for the first time in months, to discuss the incident in which an American spy drone went down in the Black Sea waters off Crimea.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Shoigu told Austin that the incident was caused by the Americans violating the airspace restriction declared by Russia, with all the proper international notifications in place. Shoigu called US drone flights off the Russian coast “provocative in nature” and risked an escalation of tensions in the Black Sea.
While Russia does not desire such a development, it will “continue to respond proportionately to all provocations,” Shoigu said. He added that the two nuclear powers “must act as responsibly as possible,” which includes keeping a military channel open to discuss any crisis.
Speaking at a Pentagon press briefing, Austin confirmed that he made the call, and said it was “important that great powers be models of transparency and communication.” However, he insisted the US would “continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows.”
The last time Shoigu and Austin spoke was in October 2022, according to AP. The top military officers also had a phone call about the matter, with US General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reaching out to his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov.