Cold War Bumping Incident

Soviet frigate Bezzavetny (right) bumping USS Yorktown in the Black Sea in 1988
Soviet frigate Bezzavetny (right) bumping USS Yorktown in the Black Sea in 1988

Historical Context

In the 1980s, the Cold War reached new heights of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Though this was a proxy war, the military forces of each side occasionally came into contact. One of these incidents was in the Black Sea on February 12, 1988.

The dispute in the Black Sea came over a disagreement of the right of innocent passage, which allows the vessels of another country to pass through territorial waters of another, subject to certain restrictions.

The USS Yorktown attempted to exercise this right through Soviet waters in the Black Sea, and was bumped by the Soviet frigate Bezzavetny in an attempt to push it into international waters. Another US and Soviet ship had an altercation in the same area. The Yorktown reported minor damage to its hull.

The Russians believed innocent passage applied only to designated sea lanes. The incident was a rare example of direct contact between two hostile nations' navies.

Photo Info


Photographer: US Navy
Date taken: February 12, 1988
Location taken: Black Sea

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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  • 1988-02-12 US Navy frigate USS Yorktown bumped by Russian frigate Bezzavetny in the Black Sea in dispute over right of innocent passage

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