APL Colloquium

September 28, 2018

Colloquium Topic: Incidents at Sea

Free to patrol the skies and surface of the high seas under international law, U.S. and Soviet naval and air forces made daily direct contact during the Cold War. Often confrontational and occasionally violent, air-to-air contacts alone killed more than 100 American and Soviet Aviators during the Truman and Eisenhower years. Diplomacy to curtail the hostility produced mixed results. In the 1960s the Soviet Navy challenged U.S. naval dominance worldwide and collisions and charges of harassment became common. In 1972 the two nations signed an Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA) that established navy-to-navy channels to resolve issues.

David Winkler’s dissertation at American University argued that in contrast to conventional diplomatic channels, Soviet and American naval officers sharing bonds inherent in seamen, were able to put ideology aside and speak frankly. Working together they limited incidents that may have had unfortunate consequences. 

Though the Cold War is over, the agreement remains in effect nearly a half century later and remains germane. Multiple “copycat” accords exist between Russia and neighboring states. In addition, similar type measures have been negotiated in the Western Pacific that have been utilized in areas such as the East and South China Seas.

On June 27, 2018, Dr. Winkler summarized progress and proposed additional initiatives during a keynote address at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. For this presentation he will provide additional historical background and discuss the ongoing dialog about safety at sea and in the air.

Colloquium Speaker: David Winkler

David F. Winkler earned his Ph.D. in 1998. from American University in Washington, DC. His dissertation Cold War at Sea: High Seas Confrontation between the U.S. and Soviet Union was published by the Naval Institute Press in 2000, was republished under the title Preventing Incidents at Sea: The History of the INCSEA Concept by Dalhousie University in 2008. A Chinese translation of this edition was published in 2015 by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Given continuing confrontation activity on the world’s seas, the U.S. Naval Institute invited Dr. Winkler to update his dissertation under the title Incidents at Sea: American Confrontation and Cooperation with Russia and China, 1945 – 2016 which was published in December 2017.

In addition, he has published numerous articles and blogposts related to incidents at sea including: “Breaking News: Incidents at Sea did not end with the Cold War!” with the Canadian Naval Review in 2014. He has spoken on the subject at other forums in the United States, China and Europe. 

A historian with the non-profit Naval Historical Foundation for over two decades, he also wrote Amirs, Admirals, and Desert Sailors: The U.S. Navy, Bahrain, and the Gulf which also was published by Naval Institute Press in 2007, and was managing editor of The Navy, an illustrated coffee table book published by the Naval Historical Foundation. His 2014 book Ready Then, Ready Now, Ready Always covers the history of the U.S. Navy Reserve was published by the Navy Reserve Centennial Book Committee. In addition, he writes a monthly naval history column in the Navy League of the United States Sea Power magazine. Winkler received his commission as a Navy ensign in 1980 through the NROTC unit at the Pennsylvania State University. In addition to a B.A. in Political Science, he has an M.A. in International Affairs from Washington University. He is a retired Navy Reserve commander. Dr. Winkler currently resides in northern Virginia with his wife Mary and two daughters Katherine and Carolyn.