15 August 2000

Secretary Cohen Offers DOD Help in Submarine Crew Rescue Attempt

Quigley details U.S. equipment available for underwater effort
By Susan Ellis
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- U.S. military and White House officials have been quick to offer assistance to Russia in the effort to rescue more than 100 sailors trapped on the submarine Kursk, Deputy Pentagon spokesman Admiral Craig Quigley told the Defense Department briefing August 15.

He said that Defense Secretary Cohen had sent a message to Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev earlier in the day offering his department's aid.

Quigley reported that National Security Adviser Sandy Berger had earlier expressed U.S. concern about the incident to the Russian government, and offered assistance with their rescue efforts. He said "the response was cordial" but that the Russians indicated they had sufficient assets to cope on their own.

The spokesman said there is one U.S. oceanographic surveillance vessel "a couple of hundred miles away" from the site of the Russian exercise in or near the Barents Sea, but that there is "no evidence at all" that any U.S. vessel was involved in the accident.

Asked what U.S. sensor systems might have detected as to the cause of the accident -- collision, fire, or explosion -- he declined to be specific, observing only that even the Russians may not "yet be in a position to know with certainty" the cause.

Quigley complimented the Russians, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, for their "willingness to share information. . . in this most difficult time," adding that it reflects a marked change in attitude since the days of the Soviet Union. "The Soviet Navy would never have discussed publicly" such an event, he said.

Discussing U.S. sea rescue equipment that could be provided, Quigley mentioned Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles (DSRV), one of which is currently operational in the San Diego, California area. In addition, he said, "We have submarine rescue chambers," -- bell devices that can be "lowered down from a surface ship by a cable of some sort that would then mate up with a submarine's rescue or escape hatch."

He noted that "a variety of expertise exists in the Navy and in the private maritime salvage community for technical advice -- bringing another set of personal experiences and knowledge to the table," and medical information on "the effects of deep ocean environment on human beings" is also available to be shared.