A Russian Navy vessel “aggressively approached” an American naval destroyer while on patrol in the northern Arabian Sea on Thursday, the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet said, turning away just in time after the U.S. ship sounded a warning. The close call comes amid heightened tensions in the region between the U.S. and Iran.
The Russian ship reportedly got as close as about 60 yards away from the American vessel before finally altering its course and moving away from it.
The incident involving the USS Farragut, a destroyer that is part of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet based out of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, was initially reported in a four-tweet thread posted by the official Twitter account of the Fifth Fleet on Friday.
“On Thursday, Jan. 9, while conducting routine operations in the North Arabian Sea, USS Farragut (DDG 99) was aggressively approached by a Russian Navy ship,” the account tweeted along with a video clip of the Russian ship closing in distance to the Americans.
“Farragut sounded five short blasts, the international maritime signal for danger of a collision, and requested the Russian ship alter course in accordance with international rules of the road,” the account continued, along with another video clip showing the Russian ship bearing down on the rear of the U.S. ship. Watch:
Farragut sounded five short blasts, the international maritime signal for danger of a collision, and requested the Russian ship alter course in accordance with international rules of the road. pic.twitter.com/OGCeAGKOy3
— U.S. 5th Fleet (@US5thFleet) January 10, 2020
The Fifth Fleet account noted, “The Russian ship initially refused but ultimately altered course and the two ships opened distance from one another.”
“While the Russian ship took action, the initial delay in complying with international rules while it was making an aggressive approach increased the risk of collision. The U.S. Navy continues to remain vigilant and is trained to act in a professional manner,” the account added in conclusion.
Not the first time
As disconcerting as this incident may be, it is certainly not the first time that a Russian ship or aircraft has made aggressive and provocative moves toward an American counterpart in international waters or airspace, nor will it likely be the last.
Last June, a U.S. Navy ship in the Philippine Sea was forced to take emergency measures after a Russian destroyer came dangerously close to it.
Unfortunately, such incidents happen on a fairly regular basis, and while the intent of such provocations may not always be clear, one potentially useful byproduct of such encounters is that it allows U.S. ships to test response procedures and battle-readiness in a real-time, non-drill engagement.
In this particular case, the reason for the Russian ship acting “aggressively” toward the U.S. ship is unclear but may be related to the recent goings-on regarding Iran and the broader Middle East.
Russia is a prominent backer of the Iranian regime and many of its allies and proxies, such as the Assad regime in Syria, where Russian President Vladimir Putin visited in person just last week.