WASHINGTON, DC – A Mayport-based warship was “aggressively approached” by a Russian Navy ship in the North Arabian Sea, the United States Navy said Friday.
Navy Cmdr. Josh Frey, spokesman for U.S. 5th Fleet, said that the USS Farragut, which is homeported in Mayport, was conducting routine operations Thursday and sounded five short blasts -- the international maritime signal for danger of collision -- to warn the Russian ship of a possible collision.
He said the USS Farragut, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, asked the Russian ship to change course and the ship initially refused but ultimately moved away.
Even though the Russian ship moved away, Frey said the delay in shifting course “increased the risk of collision.”
“The U.S. Navy continues to remain vigilant and is trained to act in a professional manner,” the Navy said in a statement. “We continue to encourage vessels from all nations to operate in accordance with internationally recognized maritime laws, standards and norms.”
The USS Farragut left Mayport last month to go with the Harry S. Truman carrier group to the Mideast. About 290 sailors were aboard the 509-foot-long ship. The Russian ship appeared to be similar in size.
The U.S. 5th Fleet posted two videos of the encounter on its Twitter page, showing just how dangerously close the ships came.
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
Nancy Soderberg, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the incident was reckless and a clear violation of international law.
“It seems to be testing us and demonstrating their muscle in the region in a very, very dangerous fashion,” Soderberg told News4Jax on Friday. “Nothing happens in Russia without (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s approval. And the fact that this is not a one-off incident indicates it’s from the top order to test the waters and airways in a way that’s trying to flex muscles in an irresponsible, dangerous and illegal manner.”
Soderberg, who now works at the University of North Florida, said the Kremlin has been using Cold War-era tactics like this for quite some time, despite repeated warnings from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“It’s yet another example of Russia trying to reinsert its influence globally,” she said. “They are repeatedly and consistently globally challenging our access to freedom of the seas and of the air. It’s dangerous and it needs to stop.”
News4Jax found a video of a similar incident in June when a Russian destroyer got within 50 to 100 feet of the USS Chancellorsville in the Philippine Sea. And there are reports of the same maneuvers in the air where Russian jets have gotten aggressively close to American aircraft. Soderberg said it has gotten out of hand and the antics could have serious consequences if one thing goes wrong.
“An accident or attack or loss of life could easily escalate into a serious conflict. It requires the president to get on the phone with Putin and say, ‘Enough is enough -- back off,’” Soderberg said.
She also said the show of intimidation this week will garner the attention of the U.S.'s top leaders -- including President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Department of Defense.