'Complete ineptitude'

An official said that the Russian pilot showed “complete ineptitude” and that it was shocking to see such poor flying by a military pilot in an operation environment.

The U.S. summoned Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov to the State Department over the incident, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters Tuesday, to convey the “strong objections” of the U.S. to this “unsafe unprofessional intercept.” A Tuesday afternoon meeting between Antonov and the assistant secretary for Eurasian Affairs, Karen Donfried, lasted less than an hour, a senior State Department official said.

In Moscow, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, conveyed “a strong message to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Price said. The U.S. first engaged with allies and partners at high levels to brief them on what they knew as they were still learning details of the incident.

Price declined to speculate on any potential intentions or motivations behind the incident, instead accusing Moscow of incompetence.

The European Command statement said that the incident “demonstrates a lack of competence” on the part of the Russians, “in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional,” and that it is part of a pattern of dangerous behavior by Russian pilots while interacting with U.S. and Allied planes.

Said Hecker, “U.S. and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely.”

The U.S. said it routinely flies aircraft in Europe in both sovereign and international airspace in accordance with international law and with the approval of host nations “in order to bolster collective European defense and security” and “support Allied, partner, and U.S. national objectives.”