U.S.-Russian Maritime Boundary Giveaway

Admiral James D. Watkins, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), disappeared from Washington for several days in May 1985. When he literally “resurfaced” Watkins, a veteran submariner, was aboard the USS Trepang (SSN 674) about 250 miles from the North Pole. He was visiting an Arctic Ocean hydroacoustic research site at 86 degrees north, and the CNO’s presence there underscored the strategic naval importance of this Arctic interface between the United States and the Soviet Union. Data developed there was proving vital for the cat-and-mouse games that U.S. attack submarines played and continue to play with Russian attack and ballistic missile submarines hiding under the ice cap. Exact sonar readings are crucial for the tricky acoustic behavior for near freezing temperatures in the confined environs bounded by the ice floes above and the shallow Arctic Ocean bottom below. The Trepang’s crew was ignorant of the negotiations then shuttling between Washington and Moscow over where precisely to fur the maritime boundary between the two countries in the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea. The talks had already lasted four years and another five would pass before their conclusion.

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