RUSSIA and the US are facing a crisis after a Russian fighter jet brought down a US reaper drone.
The incident over the Black Sea marks the first time since the height of the Cold War that an American aircraft has been brought down by the Russians.
And the US has warned it could escalate into war as fears of miscalculation are now looming over Putin's bloody war in Ukraine.
The drone was taken down while flying over the Black Sea near Russian occupied Crimea – close to the current frontline.
US officials said the Russian Su-27 jet struck the propeller of the MQ-9 Reaper drone resulting in it crash landing in the sea and its loss.
Prior to the collision, which happened at 7am local time, two Su-27s had "dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9" in a "reckless" and "unprofessional" manner.
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Horrified US military personnel in Germany watched a live feed from the drone as the Russian jets repeatedly flew around it, dumping fuel to damage cameras and sensors, reported New York Times.
Senior US officials have been worried for months that some sort of incident over the Black Sea could lead to a miscommunication and confrontation.
And predictably, the Russians denied everything – instead claiming the Reaper crashed due to a mistake by the pilot.
But what are the options for the US should they wish to respond to the Russians?
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The most direct form of retaliation – and of course the most dangerous – would be a direct attack on Russian targets.
It was a course of action contemplated by Donald Trump back in 2019 when the Iranians shot down a US surveillance drone with a missile.
The president had reportedly initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries.
But despite saying the US has been “cocked and loaded” to attack he called off the strike with 10 minutes to spare after being told that the airstrike might kill as many as 150 people.
Any attack on the Russian military risks the terrifying possibility of an escalation into nuclear war.
After backing down from military strikes against Iran, Trump turned instead to cyber warfare.
A hack disabled Iranian computer systems that controlled its rocket and missile launchers.
The attack was retaliation attacks on oil tankers that the US has blamed Iran for as well as bringing down the drone.
US military hackers have already conducted offensive cyber operations against Russia in support of Ukraine, the head of the US Cyber command has said.
General Paul Nakasone, who is also the director of the US National Security Agency, said “a series of operations across the full spectrum” took place.
This could present the US with a more feasible option for retaliation against Russia and one that doesn’t potentially end in Armageddon.
Tougher sanctions against Russia are also an option on the table for the US.
America recently marked a year since Russia invaded Ukraine by announcing a new range of sanctions against Russia.
They target more than 100 entities both within Russia and worldwide, including banks and suppliers of defence equipment.
At the start of the war, US barred Russia from making debt payments using foreign currency held in US banks, as part of a package of sanctions.
Assets belonging to Vladimir Putin and his cronies were seized.
The US imposed new sanctions on Iran after the 2019 drone incident and could be tempted to repeat that for Russia.
SUPPLY FIGHTER JETS TO UKRAINE
The Ukrainians have been pleading with the US to supply then with F-16 fighter jets to help them finally win the war.
So far, US president Joe Biden has ruled out sending the aircraft fearing they could be viewed by Russia as an escalation.
But could the Russians actions finally persuade America to begin supplying the planes Ukraine has been asking for?
A no-fly zone is a ban on all or certain types of aircraft flying through a designated airspace, over a country or region, and is enforced by shooting them down.
At the start of the Ukraine war, Volodymyr Zelensky urged Nato to impose a no-fly zone over his country saying it would protect against Russian air attacks.
A group of US defence and foreign policy experts released a letter calling for a “limited” NATO enforced no-fly zone over Ukraine.
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The US could face similar calls after the drone incident but as with any other military options the risks are high.
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