Navy Chief: Russia, US Affirm Safety at Sea Pact amid Incidents

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very-low altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. (U.S. Navy 6th Fleet photo/Released)
A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very-low altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. (U.S. Navy 6th Fleet photo/Released)

WASHINGTON — The United States and Russia agreed to uphold a Cold War-era pact to prevent incidents at sea and in the air after recent aggressive maneuvers by Russian planes on U.S. ships and aircraft, the Navy's top officer said Tuesday. In June, the United States and Russia validated their "Incidents at Sea" agreement during a meeting in Naples, Italy, said Adm. John Richardson, the Navy's chief of naval operations. In the last year, the United States has reported several aggressive encounters with the Russian navy and its aircraft, including two close encounters with U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea in the last month. The annual meeting was used "to communicate that that type of behavior is just not helpful," Richardson said. "It just increases the chance … even a slight miscalculation when you are that close – of developing into a collision." The agreement, first signed in 1972, calls for both nations to commit to avoid collisions, not interfere with each other's exercises and avoid "acrobatics" or aggressive maneuvers around ships. As part of the agreement, the United States and Russia meet annually to validate the need for safe operations at sea and to discuss the previous years' incidents. While the Navy does not regularly communicate with Russia due to its 2014 annexation of Crimea, the annual "Incidents at Sea" meeting was still held. "To the degree that we can bring Russia back into … behaviors that are safe, professional … we are having these dialogues," Richardson said. "I wish we could have more of these dialogues with my counterpart."

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