Russia Presenting US Aerial Drone Mission near Crimea as a ‘Casus Belli’
Russia is making very loud and angry noises against a mission carried out by a U.S. Air Force RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that overflew eastern Ukraine with that country's permission, despite the UAV turning on its transponder so it could be tracked by anyone, even civilians using the internet.
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Using state run media and media allies, Russia claims the RQ-4 flew close to the Crimea, which it illegally seized from Ukraine in early 2014, when the UAV did no such thing, as can be seen from its flight path posted on the internet.
RQ-4s flying over friendly Ukraine are nothing new; the U.S. has been doing this since 2014 with Kyiv's permission.
But this mission last Oct. 15 has received unusual attention from Russian media at a time when speculations abound a Putin offensive to seize eastern Ukraine is a definite. The Russian people are also being incited to support the upcoming military action with warnings to prepare for the worst, even a nuclear war over eastern Ukraine Russia claims to own.
One important missing piece is a "casus belli" to legitimize Russia's formal entry into the war against Ukraine.
The Russians said the drone's 300 kilometer field of view would have easily allowed it to observe eastern Ukraine, including areas of Donbass, where Ukrainian and pro-Russian militia have maintained a ceasefire.
One Russian analyst said the drone's mission was "to find the location, operating conditions and emission characteristics of radar air defense systems" because of the route it took. He also said turning off the drone's transponder was a ruse used by the Americans to claim "the drone was carrying out its monitoring mission legally -- in the framework of agreements with Ukraine, and without violating Russian airspace."
Another said Russia is now seeing an increase in reconnaissance drone flights because of an increase in the budget of the United States European Command. A large part of this boost "was also committed to intelligence-gathering."
"The Pentagon is actively monitoring where certain units are stationed in Crimea and southern Russia, as well as the disposition of DPR and LPR militia in southeast Ukraine," said this analyst.
DPR stands for the Donetsk People's Republic, a self-proclaimed state in the Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine created by Russia to rule that part of eastern Ukraine it seized in 2014 and 20115.
LPR is the Luhansk People's Republic, a self-proclaimed state in eastern Ukraine bordering the Russian Federation created from territory seized by Russia from the Ukraine.
The U.S. is sharing intelligence collected by its UAVs with Ukraine, claimed the same analyst, who also said the U.S. does so to provoke Ukraine into taking military action against the DPR and the LPR.
Another military analyst said that from a strategic perspective, "using a drone for reconnaissance on the location of DPR and LPR units is overkill ... Such a flight would be justified only in one case -- if the U.S. very needed to know something urgently, because otherwise satellite intelligence flies over the area every day."