Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says Russia’s downing of a U.S. Reaper drone over the Black Sea is a “test” and the Biden administration should begin flying more drones with fighter escorts in the region.
“This is a direct test of the Biden administration to try to see what the limits are,” Rubio told “CBS Mornings” in an interview. “It’s a test to see if we’ll respond to it.”
Rubio made his comments in response to footage released by the Pentagon showing a Russian fighter jet flying at the American drone and forcing it out of the sky.
The collision that disabled the drone was the culmination of a 30- to 40-minute interaction between the drone and Russian Su-27 fighters.
“I think our response should be to fly more of these in that area and to potentially have them escorted by U.S. fighter jets who are manned and have the capability to respond,” Rubio said.
Rubio said members of the Gang of Eight, the top four party leaders in Congress and the chairmen and vice chairmen of the Senate and House Intelligence committees, have not received an additional briefing on the incident, but that it’s clear that Russian fighters acted intentionally.
“This was a deliberate effort, this wasn’t some accident. It wasn’t some harassment effort that went awry. This was a design. They basically decided we’re going to begin to shoot down U.S. asset, whatever’s flying in what they call restricted airspace,” he said.
Rubio clarified that the drone was flying in international airspace that Russia is arbitrarily trying to close off from American aircraft.
“They declare a restriction over it,” he said.
Russian officials are claiming the drone flight shows that U.S. forces are directly involved in the war in Ukraine.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the mid-air collision was the latest incident in a “pattern of aggressive, risky and unsafe actions” by Russian fighter jets operating in international airspace.