(NewsNation) — The Pentagon is monitoring a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon hovering over the U.S.
Federal officials say the balloon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. But many have questioned why the U.S. is not taking action against the suspected spy balloon that has been spotted over Montana, home to one of the country’s three nuclear missile silo fields.
Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, Ret. Gen. Philip Breedlove, believes one reason could be that the U.S. does not want to begin shooting things that may be in areas considered contentious.
“The first thing that comes to mind is, you know that if we shoot something down Chinese because it’s in our airspace, we fly in a lot of places in the South China Sea with our aircraft and things where China claims that as their airspace. There may be a consideration out there that we don’t want to start a process of shooting things that are in these kinds of contested areas,” Ret. Gen. Breedlove told NewsNation host Leland Vittert in an interview.
Ret. Gen. Breedlove says if the U.S. decided to bring down the balloon, the likelihood that it would strike anything of value is pretty low. He says it’s a little hard to understand how the Pentagon came to the conclusion that the balloon carries no risk at this time. He thinks it could potentially be able to gather new data.
“This is not the first time this has happened. It is flying in a place where they may actually be able to collect better, some of the intelligence they’re collecting from their satellites,” Ret. Gen. Breedlove said. “So there is marginal value to some, but what we don’t know is all the sensors that are in this package. There may be sensors that are not usable from satellites, so they might actually be collecting some new data.”
While there are several unanswered questions surrounding the balloon, Ret. Gen. Breedlove says, perhaps, the most interesting is: Why now?
“There’s two answers. This could be a mistake. We’re not always positive about how these upper-level winds move. Maybe the Chinese intended for this thing to come and go and not be a problem at this particular time. Maybe that that wind pattern has caused them a problem,” he said. “On the other hand, maybe this is exactly what they wanted, all of these events about to happen, and maybe they are then signaling, hey, we’re here and we have the capability to look at you and we can get into your most sensitive spaces.”
Whether it’s a mistake or contrived to happen ahead of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address and before Secretary of State Antony Blinken is slated to travel to China, Ret. Gen. Breedlove says we just don’t know yet.
Pentagon officials say it’s not unprecedented for these kinds of surveillance aircraft to be in the U.S. but pointed out that this one has been here longer than usual and came into our airspace a few days ago.