Russian/US Naval Commanders Meet

Top commanders for both the Russian and US naval forces met recently at an American naval base in Naples, Italy, in order to discuss some of the recent incidents between the two naval forces in the Black Sea.

Russian Vice Adm. Oleg Burtsev and USN Rear Adm. John Nowell were both in charge of their respective delegations for the one-day talk, the first held under the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas bilateral agreement, which was established in 1972 in order to avoid any potential confusion or miscommunication that could result in a runaway conflict. Some recent incidents in the Black Sea have involved Russian aircraft coming to within about 10 feet of a USAF reconnaissance aircraft, close flybys of American ships by Su-24 attack aircraft, and being shadowed by Russian surface ships (and presumably submarines as well). Russia has claimed that USN ships were headed toward Russian waters, while the US says that it ships have stayed in international waters, unless making a port call.

Although only time will tell how productive and useful these talks will be, the immediate result appears to be positive. Vice Adm. James Foggo III, the deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, wrote on his command's website last week that the "discussions between the two delegations were frank and professional with the intent of alleviating any miscues, misunderstandings or miscalculations between our two naval and air forces wherever they might encounter one another."

This meeting was the first since Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and the rapid escalation of tensions in Ukraine itself.