The U.S. Navy has deployed three warships into the Black Sea as part of its increased presence in the region following the annexation of Crimea.
Destroyer Porter began sailing into the Black Sea on Thursday in support of NATO efforts, joining two other naval vessels conducting operations on the strategic waterway, the Naples-based Sixth Fleet said.
On Sunday, tanker vessel Laramie entered the Black Sea to refuel destroyer Donald Cook, allowing it to continue operations without entering port, the Navy said.
“A presence matters most when it is ongoing, and refueling at sea makes it a reality,” said Captain Joseph Galliano, commander of Task Force 65, which controls American ships in Europe.
In recent years, NATO has repeatedly stated that it wants to ensure a strong military presence in the Black Sea region, including the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014.
Navy spokesman Kyle Raines explained that the deployment in the Black Sea demonstrates that the United States, together with NATO allies and partners, intends to provide “a secure, reliable and prosperous European region and a global security environment.”
There have been no disturbing interactions with Russian ships or aircraft tracking the deployment, Raines said, although Moscow is unhappy with such an overt American presence in the Black Sea.
In August, two Russian fighters carried out an unsafe interception of two B-52 bombers flying in international airspace over the Black Sea.
The dispatch of American 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 a training exercise in conjunction with the visit of the Donald Cook ship.
NATO spokesman Oana Lungescu welcomed the decision to send three ships to the Black Sea, stating: “In response to Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and an ongoing military build-up in the Black Sea, the Alliance is strengthening its defensive presence in the region and remains firmly committed to ensuring the security of the Black Sea. “.