by John Konrad (gCaptain) Every year, the US Navy sails warships into the Black Sea as part of Sea Breeze 2022 an annual joint military exercise with Romania and eight other NATO nations. The goal is to show solidarity and strength in the region. This year the US Navy will not be sending warships to the exercise because of fears of escalation and because of Turkey’s diplomatic blockade of NATO.
Last year, the USS Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, joined 31 other ships in the Black Sea for Sea Breeze 2021, hosted by Ukraine. This year the US Navy will not be sending any warships into the Black Sea. Instead it will send people, land, and air-based assets.
In addition to the US, no NATO warships from outside the region – including those from Great Britain, Germany, and France – have entered the Black Sea this month to attend.
Russian Cargo Ship Blockade
Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Russian Black Sea Fleet began attacking unarmed civilian NATO member nation-owned cargo ships in efforts to enforce a maritime blockade in the northern Black Sea. The US Navy did little to stop this. These actions made it impossible for cargo ships, including those with Ukrainian grain, to safely transit the area.
This month cargo shipments increased in the region after Russia abandoned Snake Island and mines were cleared by from the region.
Related Article: Black Sea Convoys…Odesa, We Have a Problem! by Sal Mercogliano
Turkish Warship Blockade
The US Navy – and all other allied NATO navies operating outside the Black Sea including the United Kingdom and France – decided not to respond for fear of escalating the conflict. Further complicating the issue was the decision by Turkey to close the Black Sea to all warships, not just those covered under the Montreux Convention. At the time a US CRS report for Congress warned that Turkey’s recent closure of the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits to all navies could undermine the Montreux Convention – which allows them only to block Belligerent nations – and put NATO at a disadvantage in the Black Sea.
Also Read: Blockade Of Ukraine – Did Turkey Put NATO Shipping At Risk?
Sea Breeze 2022 Assets
This year’s exercise will include 24 warships, cutters, and auxiliary vessels, five planes, and four helicopters manned by 1,390 naval personnel from 10 NATO member countries, including Albania, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Turkey, the news agency said.
Although the United States won’t be sending a warship to Romania for Sea Breeze 2022, US Navy personnel and aircraft will participate in this year’s exercise. US Navy Task Force 68 will take part in several events, including mine response, remote-operated vehicle searching techniques, and underwater ordnance reconnaissance, the Navy said. Task Force 67 will send P-8A Poseidon patrol and reconnaissance planes.
Related Article: U.S. Navy Left The Black Sea Unprotected Allowing Russia To Invade Ukraine
Stars and Stripes reports that the aircraft carrier USS Truman sailed in the northern Aegean Sea in March and the USS Bainbridge, a US Navy destroyer, made a scheduled port visit in the Sea of Marmara to Aksaz, Turkey, on Monday.
In the weeks leading up to last year’s Sea Breeze 2021 exercise, Russia threatened to bomb HMS Defender, a British Royal Navy warship operating near Crimea.
The Future Of The Black Sea
While the US Navy will not be sending warships to this year’s Sea Breeze 2022 exercise, it is still participating in the joint military drill. People, land and air-based assets will take their place in the show of solidarity and strength with Romania and other NATO nations in the region. This move has drawn criticism from some who feel that a larger naval presence is necessary to check Russian aggression and protect commercial shipping in the Black Sea. What are your thoughts? Should the US Navy stay away or pressure Turkey into ending its diplomatic blockade of NATO warships? Visit the gCaptain forum to discuss.
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