Thursday, August 14, 2008

Russia-NATO naval drill called off after U.S., U.K. boycott

Gori in flames

VLADIVOSTOK, August 14 (RIA Novosti) - A Russia-NATO naval exercise in the Sea of Japan has been canceled after the United States and Britain refused to send their warships, a spokesman for Russia's Pacific Fleet said Thursday.
Russia's Marshal Shaposhnikov ASW ship, the French Vendemiaire light monitoring frigate, the U.S. McCampbell Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer, and the HMS Kent Type 23 Duke class frigate were to have taken part in the FRUKUS exercise off the Russian coast on August 15-23.
A Pentagon official earlier said the United States would stay away from the drill because of the South Ossetia-Georgia conflict.
But Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of Russia's General Staff, said the exercise may nevertheless take place as there had been no direct official decision to call it off.
"Preparations for the exercise have entered its broad and active stage and the statement [from the Pentagon] has been taken into account by Russia," he said. "Meanwhile, there have been no decisions made on the cancellation of the exercise."
Washington and London have been critical of Moscow's actions during the conflict, which erupted on August 8 when Georgia attacked Tskhinvali, the capital of breakaway South Ossetia.
During the subsequent counter operation to expel Georgian troops from the de facto independent republic and to reinforce Russian peacekeepers, Moscow sent some 10,000 troops and several hundred armored vehicles into the area.
Previously called RUKUS, the exercises were launched in 1988 as a vehicle for dialogue between the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They involve training scenarios both at sea and ashore.
France formally joined the group in 2003, and the name of the exercises was changed to FRUKUS.
The exercises typically involve around 1,000 personnel from the four countries.
FRUKUS-2007 was held in the North Atlantic with the participation of the Admiral Chabanenko, a guided-missile destroyer from Russia's Northern Fleet.


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