One region that remains a flashpoint between the US and Russia is the Black Sea, an area where Washington and NATO are expected to increase their military presence this year. Adding to the tensions, Ukraine is moving forward with plans to build two new military bases in the region.
One base will be built on the Black Sea, and the other will be on the Sea of Azov, a waterway between Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal announced plans for the new bases at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday. Shmyhal said the UK was “helping financially” with the projects, and work is expected to start soon.
While Ukraine is not an official NATO member, Kyiv has warm ties with the alliance. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reaffirmed the alliance’s support for Ukraine during Shmyhal’s visit and noted the increase in NATO activity in the Black Sea.
“Just some days ago, the US Navy destroyer USS Porter trained with Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea and Spanish aircraft are currently conducting NATO air policing in the region,” Stoltenberg said.
The USS Porter is one of three US warships that entered the Black Sea in January. The USS Donald Cook, another destroyer, and the oiler USNS Laramie have also been operating in the waters. On Tuesday, US European Command said the USS Donald Cook and USS Porter joined the Turkish Navy for exercises in the Black Sea.
According to Stars and Stripes, the two US warships departed the Black Sea on Wednesday after operating in the waters for 17 days, one of the longest US Navy deployments in the region in recent years.