MOSCOW -- Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that a Russian warship prevented a U.S. Navy ship from entering into its territorial waters in the Sea of Japan.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command retracted the Russian statement hours later and stated that the ships were in "safe and professional" interaction.
This incident occurred as Russia and China were conducting joint naval drills in the region. It also followed other dangerously close encounters between Russian and Western warships. This incident appears to be indicative of Moscow's intent to increase the stakes in deterring America and its allies sending ships on missions near Russian waters. Relations between Russia and the West have fallen to a post-Cold War low.
According to the ministry, the Russian navy's Admiral Tributs destroyed approached the U.S. ship USS Chafee in an attempt to chase it from the area close to Russian waters. This was due to the fact that shipping was not allowed to enter the area.
The ministry claimed that the Russian vessel approached the U.S. warship shortly after it ignored repeated warnings not to enter the Peter the Great Gulf. According to the ministry, the U.S. warship made "an attempt at crossing the Russian sea boundary" and changed course just 60 meters (66 feet) from one another. The ship then sped off.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command stated that the Chafee was performing routine operations in international waterways when the Russian destroyer came within 65 yards of it as it prepared for flight operations. The statement stated that, although Russia had issued a Notice for Airmen and Mariners to avoid the area for a time later in the day it was not in force at the time of the ships' interactions.
The U.S. statement stated that USS Chafee operated in accordance to international law and custom at all times.
Russian officials denounced U.S. destroyer's maneuvers in violation of international rules for preventing ships' collisions and a 1972 agreement between Washington and Moscow on preventing naval incidents. They summoned the U.S. Military Attache to protest the "unprofessional" actions of its crew.
Russia claimed that one of its warships fired warning shot and a warplane landed bombs on the British destroyer Defender in June to force it from Black Sea waters close to Sevastopol, Crimea. Britain refuted the claim, insisting that its ship was not fired upon and claiming it was sailing in Ukrainian waters.
The UK recognizes Crimea, like most countries around the globe, as Ukraine even though Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014.
June's incident was the first time that Moscow had admitted to using live ammunition in deterring a NATO warship since the Cold War. This underscores the growing threat of military collisions between Russia and the West.
Moscow stated that it was ready to strike intruding warships, if they don't heed its warnings. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the incident could not have caused a global conflict, even if Russia had sink the warship. The West knows this and has no plans to win it.
Other recent naval incidents include the Russian military claiming that the British destroyer HMS Dragon invaded Russian waters near Crimea in Oct 2020 and the U.S.-based destroyer USS John S. McCain violated the Russian border at the Peter the Great Gulf in the Sea of Japan, November.
Russia rejected U.S.- and British arguments that warships were exercising international maritime law's right to "innocent passage", in the wake of these incidents.
Former Russian navy chief of staff, Adm. Viktor Kravchenko said that Friday's incident could lead to serious consequences. According to Interfax, he stated that the Americans "appear to want to test our strength."
Moscow appeared to be ready to increase the stakes in order to stop similar intrusions in future.
This encounter brought back memories of a Cold War incident in which a Soviet frigate bumped into the U.S. Cruiser USS Yorktown as it was traveling in Russian waters. In 1988, the collision caused damage to the U.S warship.