Wondering what shook the market this afternoon? Look no further than this “brazen violation of international law.” That’s what State Department spokesman Ned Price called this recent encounter between Russian Su-27 pilots and a U.S. drone.
The event: Two Su-27 pilots “harassed” an MQ-9 U.S. drone over international airspace, pouring fuel on it, flying in front of it, and eventually damaging the propeller, which brought it down. MQ-9 drones are designed for reconnaissance missions, but are capable of carrying Hellfire missiles and JDAMs. A spokesman from the Pentagon declined to say whether the drone was armed.
According to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, the interaction took place over a patch of international airspace that the U.S. had been regularly flying over long before the war in Ukraine.
The Russian Ministry of Defense offered a lukewarm defense of the encounter, saying that its two fighter aircraft never came in contact with the drone (a verified falsehood), and that the U.S. drone simply went into “unguided flight” before falling into the water on its own.
The event caused a sudden break in the rally that had been taking place following the February CPI report, which indicated a continued softening in inflation.
This is the first instance of Russian jets using fuel to intercept U.S. aircraft. The aircraft that intercepted the U.S.-operated drone was likely damaged during the encounter, but was able to land in Crimea, a peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014.
Despite being called upon by U.S. officials, the Russian Embassy has yet to respond to inquiries about the event.