The destroyer Carney steamed into the Black Sea on Friday to bolster allied defenses, a move Moscow views as part of an aggressive stance taken by Washington after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
U.S. warships usually only sail into the Black Sea for occasional allied exercises, but the Carney is the third U.S. destroyer to patrol the area since August. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers Porter and James E. Williams patrolled the Black Sea in August and November, respectively, according to Stars and Stripes.
“Returning to the Black Sea and Odessa is a familiar mission,” said Cmdr. Peter Halvorsen, commanding officer of Carney, according to the Navy’s press release. “Carney was here during the summer in support of Sea Breeze 2017, and we look forward to improving our cooperative capability with the Ukrainian Navy,”
Tensions between the two countries escalated recently when Washington elected to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine, some of which included Raytheon Javelin anti-tank missiles that will strengthen anti-tank capabilities in its fight against Russia-backed separatist rebels. In the past, Washington has only provided the country with training and support equipment.
Officials say sending ships to the Black Sea is necessary to protect international waters that hold economic and military importance, according to Stars and Stripes.
“U.S. ships will continue to enter the Black Sea and work with our allies and partners to ensure maritime security and stability,” Capt. Tate Westbrook, who oversees ships in the 6th Fleet theater, told Stripes.
While President Trump has expressed interest in repairing U.S. relations with Russia, some analysts say the U.S. must step up its aerial and maritime patrols in response to Russia’s own increase of deployed naval forces in the Black Sea. The increasing prevalence of tension and danger in the area signal that it might be time to get tough.
“If Moscow mounts a challenge to our presence and our alliances in the region on a day-in, day-out basis and Washington replies to that challenge only erratically and occasionally, who comes out ahead in that dialogue?” Jim Holmes, strategy professor at the Naval War College, told Stripes. “Moscow, in all likelihood.”