Steaming with the Russians

By Admiral Robert E. Kramek, with Commander W. Russell Webster, U.S. Coast Guard

Most of our two services' activity is focused in the Bering Sea, a common operating area for the Northeast Border Guard District (NEBG) and the Coast Guard's 17th District (CGD 17). This remote ocean area's harsh climate and difficult logistics requirements have stretched each service's capabilities; dedicated liaison officers and a long-term commitment to working together are helping both NEBG and CGD 17 act as force multipliers to accomplish missions under these challenging circumstances.

A Combined Operations Manual

During August 1997, Rear Admiral Terry Cross, Coast Guard District 17 Commander, visited his Northeast Border Guard counterpart, General Vitaliy Gritsan, in Petropavlovsk, Russia, to assess the previous year's joint activities and to plan combined activities for 1998. A major topic of discussion was the need for a combined operations manual to facilitate bilateral operations, and the two regional commanders agreed to make the manual their first priority and to have drafts finished by the close of this year. Each service's version will be tested in planned combined afloat operations during the spring and summer of 1998, and a final manual is planned to be completed in December 1998.

The NEBG-CGD 17 Combined Operations Manual will address use-of-force policies, communications, logistics, and other substantive operational issues. CGD 17 and NEBG have established a working group of three-to-four officers from each region whose mission is to develop the manual. Admiral Cross and General Gritsan agreed, in principle, to explore possible communications links among Coast Guard and RFBS ships and aircraft.

Growing Fisheries Interactions

In August 1997, Russian President Boris Yeltsin called on the RFBS to police Russia's fishing industry, to stem the growth of a burgeoning black market in the export of marine biological resources. This landmark role, including the enforcement of fisheries quotas, assigns the maritime branch of the RFBS a law-enforcement mission similar to that of the U.S. Coast Guard in preserving marine resources. Previously, Russia's Special Marine Inspection Service and RYBVOD, the regional administrations, had responsibility for fisheries enforcement and protection. President Yeltsin's proclamation paves the way for the RFBS to enhance its efforts in Russia's exclusive economic zone and opens the door for increased interaction along the U.S.-Russia exclusive economic zone boundary, as CGD 17 can offer several decades worth of fisheries law enforcement expertise.

NEBG and CGD 17 have agreed to share fisheries law enforcement information, including vessel locations, through the Internet and will participate in two fisheries law enforcement operations between July and September 1998. One of these combined patrols will focus on the central Bering Sea and northwest Pacific Ocean. General Gritsan and Kamchatka Lieutenant Governor Timoshenko also have committed to hosting a future visit by members of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

In addition, NEBG and CGD 17 have agreed to exchange officers for training in fisheries management and enforcement. The Russian agencies especially are interested in sending representatives to our Fisheries Law Enforcement Training Center in Kodiak, Alaska.

Closely aligned with the development of the Combined Operations Manual is a proposal to explore the development of a maritime shiprider agreement. This agreement would target fisheries law enforcement operations in the Bering Sea and would place U.S. Coast Guard and Russian Federal Border Service personnel on each other's ships, ensuring more effective and efficient operations. It also would enable members from the Special Marine Inspection Service and RYBVOD to ride our cutters on an informal basis and to share information during fishing vessel boardings. As a first step, CGD 17 and NEBG have agreed to exchange observation officers for one-to-two week periods on each other's ships.

Pollution Exercises

Unlike the U.S. Coast Guard, the RFBS has no formal marine environmental protection responsibilities, but General Gritsan has indicated a desire to introduce our pollution-response technology to those in Kamchatka who do, including the regional administration of the Ministry for Emergency Response and Civil Defense (EmerCom) and the Marine Pollution Control and Salvage Administration. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the lead U.S. agency for national-level civil preparedness, has a Memorandum of Understanding for interactions with EmerCom, and a representative from CGD 17 recently traveled with a FEMA delegation to Khabarovsk, Russia, and met with EmerCom's Far East Commander in an effort to clarify the EmerCom/FEMA/Coast Guard relationship. This fact-finding trip also explored Russian oil pollution response capabilities.

A combined oil spill cleanup demonstration by a Coast Guard cutter and NEBG forces will showcase several state-of-the-art oil recovery systems near Sakhalin Island in July-September 1998. A delegation from NEBG and Russia's Marine Pollution Control and Salvage Administration will visit Juneau, Alaska, in late 1997-early 1998 to plan this combined exercise.

Professional Exchanges and Port Visits

The Coast Guard and the RFBS are developing greater cultural understanding through professional exchanges and familiarization visits. These efforts are focused on mission-related activities but may expand into support areas such as pay, personnel, and administration. We also are considering exchanging historians; displaying each other's service art at our museums; and sharing information on acquisitions, shipbuilding, aviation, and computers.

Following the success of Lieutenant Krill Goussev Russia's first graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, who now serves on the NEBG district staff-Russia is exploring sending more students to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. This is an example of an exchange of educational opportunity that has been strategically parlayed into an operational plus for both services. In addition, the Academy and its Russian counterpart are proposing to exchange two to three cadets for two week periods each year for familiarization, and the RFBS's Maritime Training Center near Anapa, Russia, is proposing to accommodate two or three Coast Guardsmen at their schools and training centers. Likewise, we have reserved two places for RFBS personnel in our October 1998 International Maritime Officer's Course at Yorktown, Virginia.

Since 1991, U.S. Coast Guard and RFBS ships have visited each other's ports on numerous occasions. In 1994, for example, the RFBS icebreaker Anadyr visited Juneau after the successful completion of a search-and-rescue exercise with CGD 17 units. And in July 1996, the Academy's training barque Eagle visited St. Petersburg.

Proposed future port visits include a spring 1998 visit to Alaska by an NEBG vessel in conjunction with an information exchange visit by General Gritsan. One of our cutters is scheduled to visit Novorossysk or Anapa on the Black Sea as part of operations with the U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet. In the fall of 1998, a Coast Guard cutter will visit Nakhodka or Vladivostok, in Russia's Far East, for orientation, combined maritime law enforcement/search-and-rescue exercises, and professional exchanges.

The Coast Guard is proud to serve as a role model and partner with today's RFBS and to provide a blueprint and springboard for tomorrow's combined humanitarian missions with other former Soviet Union Republics, such as Ukraine and Georgia. As democratic roots grow deeper in Russia, we will continue to develop this cooperative relationship in keeping with this international engagement in support of the National Security Strategy.


Captain Webster is Chief of Operations, First Coast Guard District, in Boston, Massachusetts. He is a frequent contributor to Proceedings.

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