Two Russian intelligence gathering ships are currently shadowing U.S. Navy and other NATO vessels operating in the Baltic Sea during a major international exercise this month, according to U.S. Navy Vice Admiral James G. Foggo III, leading the exercise.
“What we have seen is shadowing by two Russian intelligence vessels since we left port in Tallinn, Estonia” on June 5th, Foggo said. He added that the Russian ships have been “well behaved” but have refused to communicate with the U.S. Navy despite coming as close as one mile at times with U.S. and allied vessels.
Foggo also commands the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet, responsible for the waters around Europe, and spoke to reporters on a conference call Wednesday while on his command ship, USS Mount Whitney, currently steaming off the coast of Poland.
The exercise, BALTOPS 2016, is in its 44th year and includes more than 40 ships from 17 nations and some 6,000 sailors, airmen and marines conducting training operations from June 3-19. Non-NATO counties Finland and Sweden are also participating.
According to other NATO officers on the conference call, Russia normally likes to take a peek at the exercise, but tensions were heightened this year as NATO announced plans to deploy troops to Eastern Europe to deter Russian aggression in the region, which Russia says violates longstanding treaties between Russia and the West.