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STUTTGART, Germany — For military logisticians, there’s one thing you never want to run out of, and that is options.

When Pakistan blocked the flow of U.S. military equipment into Afghanistan last year after U.S. planes mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, an agreement that allowed Afghanistan-bound cargo to transit through Russian territory was one of the alternatives that helped ensure supplies reached the troops.

“That proved to be critical,” said Rear Adm. William A. Brown, U.S. European Command’s director of logistics. “You never want to run out of options. And that’s what we’re trying to do now with fuel.”

EUCOM officials met with a delegation of Russian fuel experts this week at U.S. military facilities in Germany as part of an effort to conclude an aviation fuel-sharing agreement.

Brown hopes the agreement, in the works for two years, can be finalized in the coming year. It would allow for fuel-sharing during potential contingency operations. Such an agreement could have been helpful in 2010, when the U.S. delivered firefighting supplies to Russia as it battled raging wildfires, Brown said.

During a five-day tour that wraps up Friday, the Russians inspected Defense Logistics Agency labs at Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Kaiserslautern and watched various refueling operations, Brown said. Before the two sides can share aviation fuel, tests must be performed to ensure compatibility. Measurement systems and certain refueling equipment also need to be interoperable.

At a time of tension between Russia and the U.S. over missile defense plans in Europe, the less controversial subject of logistics appears to be one potential zone of cooperation.

Eventually, Brown would like to see fuel-sharing extend to ships, but that could take time. “There’s counter-piracy ops. There’s a lot of practical things that could be accomplished in the future,” Brown said. “It may take some years, but you have to plant the seed.”

EUCOM officials said the Russian delegation was unavailable for interviews.

During the visit, which included a stop at the same installation that houses the Army’s missile defense command in the Kaiserslautern Military Community, the contentious issue of NATO’s missile defense plans didn’t come up, Brown said.

“Russia is one of our key countries in the AOR (Area of Responsibility) that we try to engage. It’s not always easy,” Brown said. “But it seems like in fuels, it’s one of the areas where we can come up with a signed agreement to show how we are cooperating as two militaries.”

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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