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US to monitor Russian-Chinese naval drills in Baltic Sea

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 20, 2017

STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. European Command is monitoring a series of coming exercises between Russia and China in the Baltic Sea, warning Moscow to observe safety protocols that American officials accuse Russia of flouting.

“Russia has a reputation of unsafe intercepts and naval activity,” EUCOM said in a statement Thursday. “Our concerns were raised through appropriate channels.”

Set to start in late July, Joint Sea 2017 will feature Chinese and Russian warships conducting drills as the two navies aim to forge closer ties.

This will be the first time Chinese warships have entered the Baltic sea. The two navies have held joint drills every year since 2012 in the Pacific and the Mediterranean. Joint Sea will involve 10 warships and a like number of aircraft, Russian media said.

The Russian and the Chinese militaries both stand to gain if their collaboration proves lasting, some analysts say.

“The Russians have greater experience and still have the lead in most warfare areas, particularly in submarine and anti-submarine operations,” wrote James Goldrick, an analyst with the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy. “But the Chinese have the resources and are rapidly pressing ahead.”

During the past two years, the Baltics and the Black Sea have been a flash point between Russia and U.S. military planes and ships conducting operations in the area.

The U.S. frequently complains about unsafe maneuvers, such as when Russian fighters buzzed the USS Donald Cooke in 2016 in a high-profile encounter caught on video.

Last month, EUCOM released photos that showed a close encounter between a Russian fighter and a U.S. Air Force surveillance plane flying over the Baltic Sea in international airspace.

EUCOM said Russian and Chinese navies have a right to conduct exercises in the region. For its part, EUCOM has numerous ongoing training activities stretching from the Baltics to the Black Sea and beyond.

“We are closely tracking Russian exercises with other participants, like China. While we support their rights to train in international commons, we expect all nations to adhere to international norms and laws,” EUCOM said.

EUCOM said it is concerned about the pace of Russia’s military buildup and its “unprecedented increased military activity focused on a nationwide approach to exercises, including modernized command and control, and higher operational tempo.”

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver

Russian navy reconnaissance frigate Liman leaves from the Black Sea fleet's base at Sevastopol, Crimean peninsula, in 1999.
EFREM LUKATSKY/AP

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