Russia may have aggressively and deliberately shot down a US surveillance drone in the Black Sea, but these actions did not constitute an act of war, will not impede missions and will not lead to future US military escorts.Top White House national security spokesman John Kirby told CBS News.
“It was a deliberate, aggressive, over-aggressive move by this pilot,” Kirby told CBS News on this week’s episode of “The Takeout.”
Kirby spoke shortly after the Pentagon released video of the Russian pilot’s attempt. The video confirmed the Pentagon’s account of the incident and undermined Russian claims that the drone was flying in an unstable manner.
“What’s not clear in the video is whether the pilot intended to hit the drone or whether it was flying weak,” Kirby said. “I don’t think I would call it an act of war. It was unsafe. It was unprofessional. But look, nobody wants to see this war that escalates this war between the United States and Russia so that it becomes a war between the United States. Russia.”
If the Russians recover, Kirby saidDrones from the Black Sea, it will yield almost nothing of value.
“They won’t find anything of intrinsic value, I can assure you,” Kirby said. “We’ve taken steps to minimize any intelligence-gathering capabilities. Whatever remains on the surface might be… pieces of wings or fuselage. Doubtful that it’s going to be of value to anyone. Intelligence-wise… we’re not concerned. That they’re valuable. They’re going to get something. The water they have in the Black Sea is 4,000 to 5,000 feet deep. Something valuable, the drone hardware, will sink. It seems unlikely to me that they’re going to be able to recover something like that.”
Kirby also rejected the idea of military escort flights for surveillance drones over the Black Sea or any international airspace near Ukraine. Kirby said the drones gather vital intelligence on Russian activity in and near Ukraine, which is then shared with the Ukrainian military.
“You put pilots out there escorting drones…there’s a little bit of redundancy there,” Kirby said. “Why would you need both unmanned and manned aircraft to do (aerial surveillance)? There is a great risk to our pilots and to the broader possibility of escalation. These flights are critical to our national security interests. They are going to continue.”
Kirby welcomed Poland’s decision to send at least four – and possibly as many as 10 – MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.
“It’s not a surprise,” Kirby said. “Poland has talked about this in the past. It’s up to them to decide how, when and under what circumstances they will deliver the jets. The additional air capability these MiGs can provide… you can’t underestimate that. It’s going to happen. Their Helpful for.”
But Poland’s decision will not affect U.S. policy on sending F-16 fighter jets, Kirby said.
“He’s not considering the F-16 right now,” Kirby said, referring to President Biden. “We don’t believe this is a decision we need to make right now or that we should make right now.” Instead, according to Kirby, the White House is analyzing what Ukraine needs in terms of artillery, ammunition, air defenses and armored vehicles.
“When you look at the weeks ahead, the kind of fighting that Ukrainians say they believe they’re fighting is on open terrain,” he told CBS News. “What they need is what the Pentagon calls a combined arms warfighting capability, a combined arms strategy.”
Kirby said the U.S. did not know who blew up parts of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and would await a European investigation into the matter, and he insisted the U.S. was not involved.
“We don’t know who did it,” Kirby said. “Three investigations are underway by our three European partners. We will not go beyond what they have found. The United States government had no role in what happened at Nord Stream 2. We believe it was an act of sabotage. But I can tell you positively. I can assure you that the United States had no role in this.”
Kirby also said the White House’s procedures for handling classified documents had not changed in the wake of the discovery of documents with classified markings in the possession of former President Trump, Mr. Biden and former Vice President Pence.
“Same method,” Kirby said. “They’re tested, well-worn and understood by the National Security Council and everyone who works in the White House. There’s been no review, no change in procedure. They’re not just procedures we use in the White House. These are procedures you use across the government. . No need to revisit (them).”
Executive Producer: Arden Fury
Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sarah Cook and Eleanor Watson
CBSN Production: Eric Sosanin
Show Email: TakeoutPodcast@cbsnews.com