The US is considering deploying naval warships in the Black Sea over the next few weeks to show support for Ukraine as Russia continues to amass its troops on Ukraine’s eastern border, a US defence official told CNN Thursday.
The Defence official also said the Navy is continuing to fly reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace above the Black Sea to monitor Russian naval activities and any military activities in Crimea. Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
If Washington wanted to proceed with a deployment, it would have to give Turkey 2 weeks’ notice of its intention to enter the Black Sea. It is required under a 1936 treaty that gave Turkey control of straits of the Sea.
According to CNN, the official said that the US Navy operates regularly in the Black Sea. However, now the move of sending Navy warships into the Black Sea will send a specific message to Moscow that Washington is watching closely.
On Wednesday, two US B-1 bombers conducted missions over the Aegean Sea. Although the US does not view the amassing of Russian forces as preparation for any offensive move, the Pentagon official told CNN that “if something changes, we will be ready to respond.”
US CONCERNED ABOUT RUSSIA-UKRAINE TENSIONS
The Biden administration said on Thursday that it was engaged in discussions with NATO allies about rising tensions in Ukraine as Russia has muscled up its military presence along the country’s border.
In recent weeks, President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley and national security adviser Jake Sullivan have all spoken to their Ukrainian counterparts.
During a briefing on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Russia’s actions are “deeply concerning.”
“Russia now has more troops on the border with Ukraine than at any time since 2014, five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed this week alone.”
“The United States is increasingly concerned by recent escalating Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, including Russian troop movements on Ukraine’s border,” Psaki said.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said this week that it was important “for all sides to comply with the Minsk Agreement” and “for the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Ukraine to be respected by Russia.
Psaki’s comments come before a disputed phone conversation between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the phone call Merkel demanded that Moscow drops its force posture in the region near eastern Ukraine.
“The Chancellor demanded that this build-up be unwound in order to de-escalate the situation,” the German government wrote in a readout of the call between the two leaders.
Last month, the government of Ukraine claimed that four of its soldiers had been killed by Russian shelling in Donbas. Moscow has denied the presence of its troops in eastern Ukraine. According to U.N. figures, Kiev has been fighting Russian-backed separatists in a conflict since 2014 killing at least 13,000 people.
The Kremlin has said that it is worried about the mounting tensions in eastern Ukraine and that it feared Kyiv’s forces were attempting to restart a conflict.
“It’s not completely clear what the Russians are doing there, we’d like to understand that more, and that uncertainty is obviously not contributing to a more stable, more secure situation,” Kirby told reporters Wednesday.
“As I said, the full intentions are not 100% clear and we’d like to understand more about what it is the Russians are doing there and what they intend to do there, but it is not conducive, this build-up and a fairly rapid build-up, it’s not conducive to greater stability,” Kirby added.