To prove that the United States has neither forgotten nor forgiven an incident in which Russia detained the crews of several Ukrainian ships last year, an American destroyer entered the Black Sea on Tuesday.
“We’re showing solidarity,” Adm. James Foggo, commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa, said, according to the Washington Examiner.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook entered the Black Sea on Tuesday, Military Times reported.
The destroyer, which had left the Black Sea last month, was followed by Russian ships, Stars and Stripes reported.
Moscow’s state news reported Tuesday that the Russian Black Sea Fleet was “continuously tracking” the USS Donald Cook’s as it transited the Dardanelles Strait. https://t.co/oLAHWjOhYC
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) February 19, 2019
Last November, Russian ships fired on three Ukrainian naval vessels as they sought to enter the Kerch Strait, a waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. Russia then detained the sailors, claiming the ships violated Russian waters.
The U.S. has rejected that claim.
“The whole episode in the Sea of Azov was extremely bothersome to me,” Foggo told reporters over the weekend at the Munich Security Conference.
He focused upon the fact that Russia is still holding 24 Ukrainians.
“Let me tell you, that irritates me to no end,” Foggo said. “They are uniformed Ukrainian sailors and officers and chiefs. They’re not criminals, and they are being charged under a criminal code. They should be protected under the Geneva Convention, which is why the United States and other NATO allies have come to the table and said, ‘Release them immediately,’ and they still continue to hold them. That is just absolutely wrong, and it is not the kind of behavior that you would expect from a major power — which Russia wants to be.”
The admiral indicated there isn’t any doubt who would win a military confrontation.
“Let’s face it, the Russian carrier Kuznetsov doesn’t even come close to the Ford-class carrier or the Nimitz–class carrier, and the surface navy is not an equivalent match for either the United States Navy or (other) NATO navies in the world,” Foggo said.
However, he said, in this case, Russia is using its military to attack the Ukrainian economy.
“It’s economic strangulation,” Foggo said. “No, I don’t think they want to take the port of Mariupol. I think that they’re using other methods to punish the Ukrainians through the economy by restricting shipping traffic in there.”
In January, the Donald Cook underwent maneuvers with naval vessels belonging to Georgia.
“Each visit here affords us the unique opportunity to work with our regional maritime partners,” Cmdr. Matthew Powel, the ship’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “The crew and I look forward to experiencing the rich history and culture in this region.”
Russia, however, looks upon U.S. ships in the Black Sea as a provocation, said Emily Ferris, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.
“Given the recent incident in the Kerch Strait, the U.S. move to send a warship to the Black Sea will undoubtedly exacerbate tensions with Russia,” she said.
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