US warships sail to Black Sea, attracting Russian ire

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NAPLES, Italy – The arrival of US warships in the Black Sea to support NATO allies has once again angered Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said one of the ships was in the Russian army “reticule”.

Putin made the comment to military leaders on Monday, stressing the need for Russia to strengthen its air defenses. He cited the deployment of the United States-led NATO missile defense system in Eastern Europe and the missions of Alliance ships in the Baltic and Black Seas, the Associated Press reported. .

“Even now, an American warship has entered the Black Sea, and we can see it through binoculars or in the reticle of our defense systems,” Putin said at the meeting in Sochi, southern. Russia.

Meanwhile, the Russian Black Sea Fleet said on Tuesday that its warships had been training to destroy enemy targets, Reuters reported.

The destroyer USS Porter entered the Black Sea on Saturday for routine patrol after participating in NATO exercises in the Aegean Sea, the U.S. 6th Fleet said in a statement.

“The crew of the USS Porter look forward to entering the Black Sea to maintain security and stability throughout the region,” said Cmdr. Christopher Petro, the destroyer’s commander. “Our ability to work alongside our NATO allies and partners enhances our collective readiness and overall maritime security.”

The USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the U.S. 6th Fleet, arrived for a stopover at the port of Istanbul on Monday and will soon join Porter, the U.S. 6th Fleet said in a separate statement.

Mount Whitney remained in port on Tuesday, said Lt. Cmdr. Karl Schonberg, fleet spokesperson. The port is considered the entrance to the Black Sea.

The destroyer USS Arleigh Burke also recently completed NATO exercises in the Baltic Sea, the navy said.

Russia has long complained about NATO and US warships in the Black Sea, especially when they sail near the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. The international community still considers the Crimea as part of Ukraine.

Six countries border the Black Sea, including several that organize training exercises with the United States or participate in patrols in its international waters.

In June, tensions escalated just ahead of an annual NATO military exercise in the Black Sea, with a Russian ship reportedly firing warning shots at a British destroyer traveling near Crimea. Some analysts have called this and other actions, such as the low-level overflights of a Dutch frigate by Russian warplanes, as an escalation of Moscow’s efforts to control the region.

Still, some analysts have said Putin’s latest comments sounded less hostile than previous ones.

“Remember, Moscow has threatened to attack NATO warships passing within 12 nautical miles of Crimea, even legally as part of an innocent passage,” said James R. Holmes, President JC Wylie of Maritime Strategy at US Naval War College in Newport, RI “Putin had a cutesy line about being able to see the USS Mount Whitney through the reticle, but that’s less of a stretch.”

Holmes said the US strategy is to “” fly, navigate and operate “wherever the law of the sea permits, in order to preserve the right of passage in waters such as the Black Sea.”

Secondary goals include challenging Russian claims to sovereignty over Crimea, although free-sea cruises may not be as effective at this, he said.

“We show our support for Ukraine and declare that we can project electricity from the sea, even (near) Russia,” Holmes said.

Jorge Benitez, European security expert with the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank, warned that Russia’s behavior shows an escalating trend that “will lead to more provocations and possibly even to a confrontation with NATO “.

“I think Putin’s direct threats against US warships are proof that Russia’s military aggression against NATO ships is approved at the highest level in Moscow,” Benitez said.

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