Senator Graham calls Russian statement ‘lies’ in U.S. drone downing

FILE - Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)
FILE - Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)(Mariam Zuhaib | AP)
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 12:31 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) issued a response Thursday to the downing of a U.S. drone during an incident involving a Russian fighter jet.

Thursday morning the Pentagon released footage from the drone. The video shows a Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on the drone before it clipped a propeller, leading the drone to crash into the Black Sea.

The collision has raised tensions even higher between the United States and Russia in an already heightened state from the war in Ukraine. Leaders in both militaries were in contact Wednesday. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during a Pentagon press briefing, “We take any potential for escalation very seriously. And that’s why I believe it’s important to keep the lines of communication open.”

Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said in a statement,

“I repeat for those who did not find the strength to look at the situation objectively: our [Russian] fighters did not come into contact with the American UAV. Russia did its best to prevent such incidents - it brought to the attention of the international community in advance information about the borders of the area of the temporary regime for the use of airspace established for the purpose of conducting the NVO.

“Of course, it is a shame for the Pentagon to lose expensive equipment. But in this case, accusations of unprofessionalism by the US military should be redirected to their address.”

“A deliberate attack on a Russian aircraft in neutral airspace is not just a crime under international law, but an open declaration of war against the largest nuclear power. An armed conflict between Russia and the United States would be radically different from the proxy war the Americans are waging remotely against us in Ukraine. Is the Capitol willing to put American citizens and the international community at risk of a full-scale nuclear war?”

In response to Antonov, Graham issued a statement Thursday,

“When it comes to Russian actions against the U.S. drone you can believe the Russian ambassador’s lies about how this happened. I choose not to.”

“I fear those who suggest we give in to intimidation by aggressors – like President Biden has done throughout the world – are going to make things dramatically worse, not better. Russia intentionally knocked down a U.S. drone operating legally in international airspace. Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump, and other strong leaders would not take crap like this from adversaries of the United States.”

“I hope the Pentagon sends drones back in the same airspace and lets Russia know that we will defend American assets. Big wars start when brutal aggression is met with weakness. The best way to prevent big wars is to quickly stand up to aggressors.”

“What will lead to a wider war would be to allow Putin to succeed in Ukraine - enticing him to take other territory in Europe - which he claims belongs to Russia. That would lead NATO to invoke Article 5 and American troops would immediately be put in harm’s way. In other cases, allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium, ultimately reaching weapons-grade level, will force Israel to eventually act. Weakness against Putin will surely lead to China’s invasion of Taiwan.”

“If this weakness continues we are on course to have major conflicts in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. History has shown us weakness in the face of aggression only leads to wider conflict.”

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