Turkey has confirmed an earlier CNN report that the U.S. will send warships to the Black Sea in what a Pentagon official cited by CNN said was a demonstration of support to the government of Ukraine in response to claims of increased Russian military presence on Ukraine’s eastern border. The Black Sea is nowhere near the current conflict zone in the Donbass, further east of which the alleged Russian build-up is occurring.
Under terms of the 1936 Montreux Convention naval vessels from non-littoral nations have to notify Turkey, whose territory the Dardanelles and Bosporus Straits linking the Black Sea to the Mediterranean are, of a planned visit to the Black Sea nine days in advance. The ships, which will enter the sea on April 14 and 15 and stay until May 4 and 5, are the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Donald Cook and USS Roosevelt. The Convention regulates by tonnage individual ships and groups of ships entering the sea. More than two U.S. destroyers might surpass the limit of the latter maximum.
What advanced warships like the Tomahawk- and Standard Missile-3-equipped American destroyers are doing in a sea half a world away from the U.S. seems to be a question no one ever asks.
Russian news reports of the past twenty-four hours have quoted from the CNN feature the words of the unnamed Defense Department official that the deployment would “sent a significant signal” to Moscow. Delivering a message sounds innocuous enough. The traditional term for such an action is brinkmanship.
The CNN feature mentioned that U.S. Navy routinely operates in the Black Sea, crisis or no crisis, but that dispatching additional warships to the sea would “send a specific message to Moscow that the US is closely watching.” The equivalent of what’s being considered would be Russia sending several guided-missile cruisers through the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Great Lakes to “send a message” to the U.S. over Washington moving troops in the direction of the Canadian border.
The same Defense Department official informed CNN that U.S. Navy was flying reconnaissance flights over the Black Sea where Russia maintains its naval fleet of that name at Sevastopol in Crimea.
To increase U.S. and allied NATO military presence in the Black Sea region would mean a substantial forward presence indeed, as the U.S. had three guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser in the Black Sea in the last three months, frequently two at a time: USS Thomas Hudner, USS Porter, USS Donald Cook and USS Monterey. The first three are destroyers, the last a cruiser. The destroyers can carry 56 Tomahawk missiles apiece, and both the destroyers and cruisers are part of the Navy’s Aegis Combat System and can also be equipped with Standard Missile-3 anti-ballistic missiles that could shoot down Russian missiles.
CNN also reported that on April 7 two American B-1 supersonic bombers (previously nuclear-capable) flew over the Aegean Sea, which gives access to the Black Sea.
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier with its attached carrier strike group is currently in the Eastern Mediterranean. Four guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser are assigned to the group. The warships could have as many as 280 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Dwight D. Eisenhower has 90 fixed-wing planes and helicopters in addition to Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft and anti-missile missiles and Rolling Airframe Missile surface-to-air missiles. All within immediate striking range of the Black Sea.
The above comes against the backdrop of mounting anti-Russian rhetoric from Washington, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stating on April 8:
“The United States is increasingly concerned by recently escalating Russian aggressions [sic] in eastern Ukraine, including Russia’s movements on Ukraine’s border. Russia now has more troops on the border of Ukraine than any time since 2014. Five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed this week alone. These are all deeply concerning signs.”
In recent days President Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan have all had conversations with Ukrainian counterparts on the intensified fighting in the Donbass and in regard to reported Russian “aggressions.”
Also on April 8 Interfax reported the Russian Defense Ministry announced it was relocating ten navy vessels, described as landing craft and artillery warships, from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea for exercises. (As the Caspian is landlocked, the vessels can’t be of great size as they would be required to be moved overland.)
Without doubt we are witnessing the most serious escalation of tensions between the world’s two major nuclear powers since the first Soviet troops crossed the Oxus River to enter Afghanistan in late 1979. In fact maybe since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. He is the manager of Stop NATO. This originally appeared at Anti-Bellum.
18 thoughts on “US Warships to Enter Black Sea in ‘Significant Signal’ to Russia”
Why the game of chicken? I thought the point of afghanistan, now ukraine, and various other strategic playgrounds of empires was to help a proxy poke the rival in the eye while maintaining deniability. When bluffing, bet big..?! Or is no one bluffing this time? What morons.
Russia has won considerable victories against the US in Syria and Ukraine. These were places of no import to US national security, but hey let’s talk about loss of face. Can’t stand for it. Gotta demonstrate and do the combatant thing. Can’t let peace break out. That’s why the US has ‘combatant commands’ covering the world and a seven hundred billion dollar Pentagon budget. As SecDef Austin would say. . .oops, he hasn’t said anything yet. Let’s hope he doesn’t. He seems incapable of it. We’ll just expect the ‘combatant commands’ to do their combatant things. . .combatant . . .a person or nation engaged in fighting during a war.
“As the Caspian is landlocked, the vessels can’t be of great size as they would be required to be moved overland.”
Nope. Do some research. There is a canal between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea.
A lots of words. Bottom line — Turkey is enforcing Montreux Convention, proper notification, capacity as well as duration. Message? That US intends to keep the rotation, and have a presence in Black Sea? What for?
There is something really bizarre afoot. Germany has been invited to join Japan navy in a “message” to China. In Europe, all the Hitler’s allies in Baltic area, East Europe, Balkans and Ukraine – – are invited to send a “message to Russia”.
What is up?
Replaying WWII? With US at the helm? To prove what?
The Pentagon has a principle strategy of forward emplacement of troop camps and ships. It’s the case in the Persian Gulf, Korea, China Seas, etc. The idea is that this practice has a great public relations value. Hey, look at us, right on your doorstep! It’s a “significant signal!”
However this strategy lacks military value, because it places the US military and naval contingents involved in the cross-hairs of enemy weaponry, at a short range. So it is actually detrimental to any hope of military success if the balloon goes up. In fact it signals to any US enemy, Iran for example, and Russia, that the US is not about to start anything with an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, or destroyers in the Black Sea. So let us applaud the anti-war attributes of forward emplacement.
Exactly it places thousands of US troops and billions of dollars of equipment in an indefensible situation.
If US starts with for instance Iran, then 12,000 US troops will be obliterated in the first hour.
All its’ equipment will still have to be lifted from the US mainland as whatever is in the forward positions E,g, Bondsteel, Kuwait and Israel will be incinerated.
But 8 -10 Trillion dollars are now safely in some A-holes bank account.
Yup, and it’s actually some figure north of 40,000 in the Persian Gulf area, and that doesn’t include dependents (Bahrain, etc)
Add Kosovo, Georgia, Romania and all the others within easy reach. Iran has said that if Israel attacks then all US troops are targets.
The US had better believe them, they do not play games.
The American armada can certainly inflict great damage on Russia, no one can deny this. But the retaliation would also inflict equal damage. Ships have become easy targets, especially if they are cruising around in a small lake. Furthermore, it is the American/NATO forces who are the aggressors, presumably seeking revenge for being faked out by the Crimean referendum. Revenge is never a good motive. There is no way that referendum will be reversed since it is legitimate in the eyes of Crimean and Russia. Furthermore, Sleepy Joe is not going to “inspire” a great wave of patriotic fervor. Best long term solution would be for Ukraine to recognize their so-called revolution of dignity has been anything but. Start over.
I have always had a difficult time understanding how the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, “gifted” for administration purposes, to Ukraine, where it remained the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, until the referendum, and still referred to as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea by Ukraine, isn’t allowed to be autonomous. The entire stated purpose of US foreign policy is to spread democracy, yet when the people of Crimea exercise the stated US foreign policy – democracy – it is annexation.
“Democracy” and “annexation” aren’t opposites. In fact, in US domestic politics they tend to go together — if a city government wants to annex additional land, it requires a vote of the residents of the land (and sometimes a vote of the residents of the city; other times just of the city council or whatever).
I understand what you are saying, but the law of imminent domain does not apply to Crimea. The citizens of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea voted to leave Ukraine. They voted a second time to join the Russian Federation. A request to join the Russian Federation was submitted, and the Duma of the Russian Federation voted to accept the application. Only in the US English speaking world does that constitute annexation. In International Law, annexation is a forceful takeover of territory.
BREAKING NEWS! Russian warships cruising in the Gulf of Mexico and seen docking at Cuba. Russian nuclear subs detected in the Gulf of Mexico as well.
Washington sends in more war ships while whining that Russia is reinforcing the region in response.
Russia will go to war to protect Crimea so what is the point of testing them on the issue?
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