The Washington Post

Recent U.S.-Russia snubs don’t affect joint military exercise


The recent decline in U.S.-Russia diplomatic relations hasn’t stopped the two nations from moving forward with plans for a joint military exercise next week to prepare for the possibility of a future aircraft-hijacking scenario.

The training operation, dubbed Vigilant Eagle, will focus on monitoring and “handing off” the seized plane while it crosses international boundaries, according to a statement from the defense command.

The drill is scheduled to take place Aug. 26-30, with the Russian Federation Air Force (RFAF) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) launching or diverting fighter aircraft to follow the mock-hijacked aircraft.

Canada, Russia and the U.S., all of which are participating in the training, have held four similar exercises since 2008. Two of the operations were computer simulations while the rest were live-fly events.

“These exercises continue to foster the improved cooperation between the RFAF and NORAD in their ability to respond quickly to threats of air terrorism,” NORAD said in a statement Friday.

The joint operation stands in contrast to recent diplomatic tensions between Russia and the United States. President Obama this month canceled a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin after Russia granted temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information about a top-secret surveillance program run by the National Security Agency.

A Washington Post timeline of U.S.-Russia relations shows how the two nations have moved apart in recent years after a period of relative cooperation during the early years of the Obama administration.

In 2009, Russia allowed the U.S. and NATO to establish a distribution route through Russia for sending troops and supplies to Afghanistan. The two nations also signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in 2010.

Relations went downhill from there, with Putin accusing former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton of encouraging Russian protests in 2011 and then banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children in 2012. The two nations have also backed opposing sides in the Syrian civil war.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed or email josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.



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Josh Hicks · August 23, 2013

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