Another US military ship is set to be deployed in the Black Sea amid the Ukrainian crisis. The US Navy destroyer Donald Cook will join the USS Truxtun, whose stay in waters bordering Russia was extended to ‘conduct drills’ with Romania and Bulgaria.
“We’ll also send another ship to the Black Sea within a week,” Derek Chollet, the US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs told the House Armed Services Committee, as he said the Department of Defense sanctioned to prolong USS Truxtun’s stay in the Black Sea “to conduct exercises with Romanian and Bulgarian naval forces,” after it left the region on March 21.
Chollet highlighted the main pillars of the Department of Defense response to the crisis in Ukraine and how they fit within the overall policy of US response towards Russia, saying that Moscow’s move to accept Crimea’s choice to join Russia “challenges our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace.”
The Pentagon maintains senior-level defense dialogue with Ukrainian officials since the outbreak of the crisis, Chollet said.
“We have led efforts at NATO to offer Ukraine greater access to NATO exercises, invited Ukraine to participate in the development of military capabilities and provided capacity-building programs to the Ukrainian military,” he said.
On Monday the Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren also stated that a second US ship will soon arrive to the Black Sea. No details have been provided, but DoD official told AFP that USS Donald Cook, a guided missile destroyer, has been deployed.
On Tuesday, headlines in Bulgaria circulated reports emerging from the Bulgarian Defense ministry, that a missile cruiser USS Donald Cook is soon to arrive to the Black Sea to join the war games.
Donald Cook is capable of firing SM-3 missiles, which allows the ship to function as part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. It is deployed in Spain as part of the US missile shield program in Europe. The vessel is expected to dock into a number of ports along Romanian and Bulgarian coast, and bring some additional 175 US marines to the Romanian coast.
Last week, the Pentagon announced that the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response force in Spain will be reinforced with 175 marines.
“We’re increasing the number from 500 to 675,” Warren said, claiming that the move had been planned last year.
While the additional marines will officially be part of the Spain-based force, Warren said they are to be based in Romania where they will join nearly 300 marines already in the country.
Warren insisted that the purpose of additional deployment of another ship is done “primarily to reassure our allies and partners in the region that we’re committed to the region,” he said. “We’re still planning the details of our operations in the Black Sea but we expect port calls and exercises with other Black Sea nations.”
This is the fourth US warship to visit the Black Sea since February, a trend Moscow heavily criticized in the past.
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Washington as violated the Montreux Convention which regulates the number ships that can enter the Black Sea.
“There exists the Montreux Convention, which gives extremely clear criteria limiting the deployment of warships not belonging to the Black Sea governments in regard to tonnage and length of stay,” Lavrov said.
“We have noticed that US warships have extended their deployment beyond the set terms a couple of times lately, and at times they did not always comply with the regulations that are set within the Montreux Convention.”