Russian Diplomat Accuses Lindsey Graham of Provoking 'Dangerous Escalation'

Russia Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov warned that Senator Lindsey Graham’s idea to shoot down any Russian aircraft that gets too close to American assets over international waters would be “an open declaration of war.”

Antonov’s statement was published by the Russian embassy in response to comments by Graham while appearing on Fox News Tuesday. Speaking to host Sean Hannity, the South Carolina Republican suggested that President Joe Biden should tell Russia, “If you ever get near another U.S. asset flying in international waters, your airplane will be shot down.”

Earlier in the day, two Russian fighter jets collided with a U.S. surveillance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over the Black Sea. According to the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), the Russian fighters dumped fuel on the drone before flying in front of it and striking one of its propellers. U.S. officials called the incident an “unsafe and unprofessional act.”

GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, left, holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on February 16, 2023, in Washington, D.C., while Russia Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov, right, speaks on November 29, 2017, in San Francisco, California. Antonov condemned Graham’s reaction to the U.S. drone taken down by Russian fighter pilots over the Black Sea. Chip Somodevilla/Getty; Justin Sullivan/Getty

Antonov told Newsweek that Russian pilots took down the drone because it was aiding Ukrainian forces in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. But U.S. officials say the drone was conducting routine operations before being “intercepted” by Russia.


“The Russian Ministry of Defense has explained in detail the reasons and course of actions of Russian pilots during yesterday’s incident over the Black Sea,” Antonov said in the statement released Tuesday. “I repeat, for those who have not gathered themselves to look at the situation objectively: our fighters did not come into contact with the American UAV.”

“Of course, it is a shame for the Pentagon to lose expensive piece of equipment,” he said later. “But in this case, the U.S. military should redirect accusations of unprofessional actions back to themselves.”

The Russian ambassador went on to say that Graham’s suggestion on Fox News “is by no means the first attempt by the notorious lawmaker to provoke a dangerous escalation in the U.S.-Russian relations.”

“A year ago he urged our citizens to make an assassination attempt on the president of Russia,” Antonov added. “Does Senator Graham really believe that a direct military clash with Russia is in the interests of the voters who entrusted him with their lives and livelihood?”

“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,” he added. “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? Give us an answer, distinguished Senator!”

Newsweek has contacted Graham’s press secretary via email for comment.

While speaking on Fox News, Graham also pointed a finger at Biden for acting like “a deer in the headlights” in light of Russia’s actions on Tuesday, and called for the president to “up your game” when it comes to foreign relations.

“So President Biden, you’re the Rodney Dangerfield of world leaders,” he told Hannity. “Nobody respects you. And if you don’t change your game and up your game, we’re going to have World War III.”

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