US ramps up presence in Black Sea
Washington: The US Navy is ramping up its presence in the Black Sea as part of a bid to counter Russia's increased presence there, an American military official told CNN.
The Black Sea region that has become increasingly fraught with tensions as Russia has reinforced its military forces in the area following its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move rejected by the vast majority of the international community.
On February 16, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney joined the USS Ross in the Black Sea to "conduct maritime security operations", according to a statement from the US Navy's 6th Fleet, which oversees US naval operations in the region.
It's the first time two US Navy warships have been in the Black Sea since July 2017.
On Sunday, Russia announced its own naval deployments to the area, with the Russian Ministry of Defence issuing a statement saying that a Russian frigate, the Admiral Essen, and two patrol ships had entered the Black Sea for a series of exercises.
The military official told CNN on Monday that the decision to deploy both the Carney and the Ross to the Black Sea was part of an effort to "desensitise Russia" to the presence of US military forces in the Black Sea, which sits between Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Western Asia.
According to US defence officials, Moscow is particularly sensitive to US military operations in the Black Sea given recent Russian moves to militarise Crimea.
US and NATO officials have accused Moscow of deploying large numbers of troops and military hardware to Crimea in recent years.
"Basically anything new that they have they are putting in Crimea," a US defence official told CNN.