The US and NATO have significantly stepped up military activity in the Black Sea in recent years, ratcheting up tensions with Russia. Despite the fact that this is a clear provocation aimed at Moscow, Western leaders act surprised when Russia reacts to their presence in the waters.
On Tuesday, US Navy Adm. Robert P. Burke, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, said Russia was “increasing aggression” in the Black Sea. He accused Moscow of trying to “bully” its neighbors into believing that other nations don’t have the right to be in the Black Sea.
Burke’s framing makes it sound like the US and NATO are simply passing through the Black Sea. But the US and Ukraine just finished leading a 32-nation exercise in the waters, known as Sea Breeze 2021. The drills were much larger this year than previous ones. The last time they were held, 19 nations participated.
The Sea Breeze 2021 exercises concluded on July 10th, and only two days later, the US and NATO launched another exercise in the Black Sea. Similarly named, the Breeze exercises involved 14 NATO allies and partner countries, including Ukraine. The drills were held from July 12th to the 19th.
While Burke says Russia is “increasing aggression” in the region, Western powers are intentionally provoking Moscow. In June, the UK sailed its destroyer the HMS Defender 12 miles off the coast of Crimea, a reckless provocation that Russia responded to by firing warning shots.
It was revealed by classified British documents that were found at a bus stop that the UK intentionally sailed the warship so close to Crimea and knew the Russians would react strongly. A US spy plane was deployed when the Defender made the passage, likely to watch Russia’s reaction. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the US of coordinating the provocation with the British.