Deployment is part of effort to strengthen presence in region after Crimean annexation
The U.S. Navy has deployed three warships to the Black Sea as part of an effort to strengthen its presence in the region after the annexation of Crimea.
The destroyer Porter began crossing into the Black Sea Thursday in support of NATO efforts, joining two other Navy ships conducting operations in the strategic waterway, the Naples-based Sixth Fleet said.
The refueling ship Laramie entered the Black Sea on Sunday to refuel the destroyer Donald Cook, allowing it to continue operations without entering port, the Navy said.
“Presence matters most when it is permanent, and refueling at sea makes that a reality,” said Capt. Joseph Galliano, commander of Task Force 65, which oversees U.S. ships in Europe.
NATO has repeatedly said in recent years that it wants a strong military presence in the Black Sea region, including the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.
As Navy spokesman Kyle Raines explained, the deployment to the Black Sea demonstrates that the U.S., along with NATO allies and partners, intends to provide “a safe, secure and prosperous European region and a global security environment.”
According to Raines, there have been no disturbing interactions with Russian ships or aircraft tracking the deployment, although Moscow is unhappy with such an overt U.S. presence in the Black Sea.
In August, two Russian fighter jets unsafely intercepted two B-52 bombers flying in international airspace over the Black Sea.
The dispatch of U.S. ships to the Black Sea did not go unanswered by Russia.
On Thursday, Russian state media reported that a mobile anti-ship coastal defense system was deployed in Crimea for exercises timed to coincide with the Donald Cook ship’s visit.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu welcomed the decision to send three ships to the Black Sea, saying, “In response to Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the ongoing military build-up in the Black Sea, the North Atlantic Alliance is increasing its defense presence in the region and remains firmly committed to the security of the Black Sea.”