Counter Piracy Cooperation: 10 Years 10 Stories Anniversary Feature
Piracy, particularly off the coast of Somalia, was acknowledged by NRC Heads of States and Government as one of the key common security challenges when they endorsed the Joint Review of 21st Century Common Security Challenges at their Summit in Lisbon in 2010. This was an important step because multinational cooperation is vital in tackling piracy. Pirate attacks are increasing and their reach has extended deep into the Indian Ocean. Multinational cooperation is the only way to keep an area greater in size than the European continent with tens of thousands of ships passing through each year, safe from pirates.
That is why Russian and NATO naval ships began cooperating at the tactical level when they were first deployed off the Horn of Africa in 2008. Ship commanders meet on a regular basis, exchange situational awareness and also discuss the areas where they will be patrolling or escorting ships. Going forward, NRC nations are also taking steps to improve communications between their ships off the Horn of Africa by plans to install a NATO secure communications system aboard Russian ships deployed to the region. This will be an important move towards facilitating further tactical cooperation.
NATO and Russia are also actively working on other ways to improve practical cooperation in the future. A number of workshops and seminars, including at the level of operational commanders, have been conducted on improving cooperation at sea. An important part of these meetings is also sharing lessons-learned in tackling piracy. The most recent events took place in Copenhagen in June 2011 and in St. Petersburg in October 2011. Moreover, Russian mariners participate in supplementary training at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Training Centre (NMIOTC) in Souda Bay, Crete, on their way to the Gulf of Aden.
How NATO and Russia can support each other at sea during counter piracy patrols is an important part of cooperation on counter piracy. Discussions are currently underway on areas such as refueling ships and medical assistance. In February 2012 a mutual replenishment exercise was conducted by Russian and NATO warships in the Gulf of Aden which will inform these ongoing discussions.
It is clear there are limits to an exclusively sea-based approach to combating piracy. A collective effort, not only at sea but also ashore, is required to tackle the root causes of piracy effectively and on a lasting basis. However until an enduring solution to the wider causes of piracy can be found, multinational cooperation of the kind taking place among NRC nations is vital in working towards greater maritime security.