- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2019

A U.S. missile cruiser and Russian destroyer nearly collided Friday in the Philippine Sea, with the two vessels coming within at least 100 feet of one another as the two nations traded blame for the incident.

American officials say the USS Chancellorsville was forced to take emergency actions to avoid hitting Russia’s Udaloy I DD 572.

It’s the latest in a string of air and sea confrontations between the U.S. and Russia.

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“While Chancellorsville was recovering its helicopter on a steady course and speed when the Russian ship DD572 maneuvered from behind and to the right of Chancellorsville accelerated and closed to an unsafe distance of ~50-100 feet,” the Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement early Friday morning. “This unsafe action forced Chancellorsville to execute all engines back full and to maneuver to avoid collision.”

“We consider Russia’s actions during this interaction as unsafe and unprofessional and not in accordance with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS), ‘Rules of the Road,’ and internationally recognized maritime customs,” the statement continued.

Speaking to reporters Friday, acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said the U.S. will speak to Russia to figure out how to avoid similar incidents in the future. But he stressed that the U.S. will not change its naval strategy in the wake of Russia’s conduct.

“The behavior’s unsafe and unprofessional,” he said. “We’ll have military-to-military conversations with the Russians. … To me, safety at the end of the day is the most important. It will not deter us from conducting our operations.”

The near collision comes just three days after a Russian aircraft intercepted a U.S. plane over the Mediterranean Sea in an unprovoked and dangerous “high-speed pass” that endangered the lives of the American crew, U.S. officials said. And last month, U.S. planes intercepted Russian aircraft flying off the coast of Alaska.

Russian officials denied any wrongdoing in connection with Friday’s incident in the Philippine Sea.

“The U.S. cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed its course and crossed the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer’s course some 50 meters away from the ship. In order to prevent a collision, the Admiral Vinogradov’s crew was forced to conduct an emergency maneuver,” Russia’s Pacific Fleet said in a statement, according to Russia’s TASS News Agency.

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