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U.S. Navy Adm. Harry Urlich, right, commander of Allied Joint Forces Command Naples, Italy, and U.S. Naval Forces Europe, welcomes Vice Adm. Aleksandr Arkadyevich Tatarinov, commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, at JFC Naples on Tuesday.
U.S. Navy Adm. Harry Urlich, right, commander of Allied Joint Forces Command Naples, Italy, and U.S. Naval Forces Europe, welcomes Vice Adm. Aleksandr Arkadyevich Tatarinov, commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, at JFC Naples on Tuesday. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)
U.S. Navy Adm. Harry Urlich, right, commander of Allied Joint Forces Command Naples, Italy, and U.S. Naval Forces Europe, welcomes Vice Adm. Aleksandr Arkadyevich Tatarinov, commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, at JFC Naples on Tuesday.
U.S. Navy Adm. Harry Urlich, right, commander of Allied Joint Forces Command Naples, Italy, and U.S. Naval Forces Europe, welcomes Vice Adm. Aleksandr Arkadyevich Tatarinov, commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, at JFC Naples on Tuesday. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)
For the first time in its 54-year history, the Allied Forces Band Naples played the Russian national anthem Tuesday.
For the first time in its 54-year history, the Allied Forces Band Naples played the Russian national anthem Tuesday. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

NAPLES, Italy — The upbeat notes of the Russian national anthem wafted Tuesday from the marbled steps of the Allied Joint Forces Command Naples headquarters building, played there for the first time in the organization’s 54-year history.

Then Russian Vice Adm. Aleksandr Arkadyevich Tatarinov, commander of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, followed U.S. Navy Adm. Harry Urlich, commander of Allied Joint Forces Command Naples, to his office. There the two were to discuss the Russian fleet’s future participation in an ongoing NATO operation to fight terrorism.

Four non-NATO nations — Russia, Israel, Algeria and Ukraine — have voiced desires to join NATO’s efforts to fight terrorism on the Mediterranean Sea to the boundaries of the Middle East through Operation Active Endeavor.

On Monday, two Russian vessels, the cruiser Moskva and frigate Pytliviy, conducted exercises with the Italian vessel ITS Espero in waters about 150 miles south of Naples. They conducted ship maneuvers and communication exercises and watched a demonstration of Italian sailors boarding a “suspected” ship, according to NATO spokesman Lt. Craig Moran of the British navy.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, NATO enacted Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which committed its forces to the fight against terrorism. Active Endeavor started with patrols and escorts of vessels transiting the Straits of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal. Last October, it expanded to patrols of the entire Mediterranean, particularly in waters near the Middle East.

Neither Urlich nor Tatarinov addressed the media Tuesday before heading to their closed-door meeting. After meeting with Urlich, Tatarinov was to meet with Italian Vice Adm. Roberto Cesaretti, commander of Allied Maritime Component Command.

Combining the assets of nations interested in combating terrorism makes sense, especially if it limits duplicated efforts, said JFC spokeswoman U.S. Navy Lt. Liubor Russell.

“The sharing of intelligence, for example, can be very beneficial, and we see the importance of reaching out to non-NATO countries. Terrorism is a threat all around the world, and Russia sees that.”

In addition to keeping an eye on potential terrorists, Active Endeavor also targets human traffickers, and drug and weapons smugglers. In the more than three years since the operation began, more than 65,000 vessels have been hailed and questioned, and 92 merchant ships have been boarded, officials said.

Right now, eight countries permanently contribute sailors and ships to the Standing NATO Response Force Maritime Group 2, charged with carrying out Operation Active Endeavor. They are Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, Britain and the United States.

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