America’s top military officer said Wednesday that he does not consider two Russian nuclear submarines patrolling off the East Coast a sign of resurgence of the Cold War.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters and editors at The Washington Times that U.S. military officials have been working diligently in recent years to improve communication links with their Russian counterparts.
He said he remains in contact with Russian military leaders, including Russian armed forces Deputy Chief of Staff Anatoly Nogovitsyn.
Both nations, Adm. Mullen said, have common interests that need to be addressed “where we can build confidence in each other and then see where this relationship goes.”
“I don’t consider it a resurgence of the Cold War piece,” Adm. Mullen said of reports of Russian submarines off the Atlantic coast. “I’m not alarmed by it. I’m very mindful of it and keeping an eye on it.”
Two Russian nuclear submarines have been spotted in recent days. They have not crossed into U.S. territory, which extends 12 miles from shore.
When asked why Russians would do this, Adm. Mullen replied: “Some of this is to show that [Russia] can.”
He said Russia is clearly invested in their strategic forces and any global power does a certain amount of investment to sustain their own needs.
Russia’s Gen. Nogovitsyn said Wednesday that the patrols were routine, adding that the U.S. Navy carried out similar missions in Russian waters.
“I don’t know if there is any news in this news for anyone,” Gen. Nogovitsyn, told reporters, the Associated Press reported from Moscow. “The fleet shouldn’t sit on its hands and be idle.”
During the Cold War, Moscow would deploy submarines near U.S. shores. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s the Russian military, especially its Navy, was in shambles.
Adm. Mullen said he saw evidence that the Russian Navy’s severe problems in 1992, when he was commanding officer of a cruiser that sailed to Northern Russia.
“They were in really, really bad shape,” he said. “I don’t mean we thought that. I saw it in their Northern Fleet, which was sort of their signature fleet. So they’ve reinvested there.”
Last year, Russia conducted several exercises off the coast of the Caribbean and sent one warship through the Panama Canal for the first time since World War II.
Adm. Mullen said that the Russian Navy had advised him at the time of their intentions to send the warships to Venezuela.
“One of the things navies do is [send ships] to protect interests, and power, presence and support.” He said the Russian military was very clear on their intentions and “I certainly don’t object to that.”
“Clearly, they’ve made decisions now to operate these submarines, here in international waters off the coast and I understand all that,” he said.
U.S. officials said they were not advised by Moscow in advance of the submarine patrols.