Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany: In a continuing effort to tone down rapidly escalating tensions with Russia and China, it was the turn of the US Air Force in Europe (USAFE) to play host to a team of Russian air force members led by the deputy chief of the Russian Federation's Air Force, Col-Gen Aleksandr Nikolaevich Zelin.
The visit of the Gen Zelin comes hard on the heels of a visit by the head of the US joint chief of staffs, Marine Gen Peter Pace, to Chinese military establishments a few days ago.
Gen Zelin was part of a team of top Russian air force leaders who visited USAFE from March 20 to 23 to discuss cooperative efforts and exchange ideas on interoperability.
"We came to USAFE for two reasons," said Gen-Col Zelin, deputy chief of the Russian Federation Air Forces. "The first reason was because we met Gen. (William T.) Hobbins and became good friends, and the second was for our military-to-military contact programme with our air force and USAFE. Through this contact program, we are solving issues concerning interoperability, and working on planning engagements where we can exchange ideas for the future."
As part of the contact program, the Russian deputy air chief received an F-16 Fighting Falcon orientation flight here.
"During our visit to the 52nd Fighter Wing, we had the opportunity to fly on the wings of each others' aircraft," said General Hobbins, the USAFE commander. "When I was in Russia last August, I had the pleasure of flying on the wings of General Kharchevsky's (Russian 4th Combat Training Center commander) MiG-29, and two hours later flew on General Zelin's wing in the Su-27, and now we've reciprocated. I look forward to another opportunity to return to Russia."
According to a US Air Force communiqué, the tours to Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases by the Russian team aroused common sentiments on one theme - terrorism.
"I believe the main theme that unifies us right now is global terror," said team member General-Major Nuzhin. "In the end it will show that we all have to work together to solve these types of problems. We are more effective when we work together and try to resolve global problems bilaterally."
General Hobbins agreed that military-to-military cooperation is essential to success.
"It would be my goal in the future for our respective air forces to fly on our wings together in defense against a common enemy," the general said.