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5 Jun, 2008 01:25

Russia joins NATO for historic sub exercise

For the first time, Russia has taken part in a NATO training exercise. The submarine rescue mission was held off Norway.

The scenario in the exercise involved a collision with a merchant vessel, resulting in a military submarine, with 24 crew members on board, being pushed to the bottom of the ocean.

For the next hour at a depth of 90 metres, the trapped sailors escaped from the sunken vessel.

“In this mission, submarine escape with the Russian help could not be better. Right now we are very comfortable with each other,” David B. Ditter U.S. Navy Deputy commander.

International escape-and-rescue drills have been run every three years by NATO since 1987.

“I am very happy to see we are doing our job well as it matters for Russia’s image, the country’s reputation. And it seems to me our western colleagues look impressed with our job,” Maksim Polikarpov, Russia’s AS-34 rescue vessel captain.

The 33-year-old Norwegian captain Ruben has devoted half of his life to the Navy and he says the Russians are doing well.

“Russians are very efficient professionals. We were a little bit sceptical at first as we’ve never worked with Russians but they are great, it is not a problem working with them,” said Norway’s HNOMS Uthaug submarine captain.

While NATO staff praise their Russian counterparts, they say lots still needs to be done to further the partnership.

Analysts say the major benefit of this year's drill is not the rescue itself but communication between nations.