The U.S. is going to maintain its presence in the Black Sea to deter Russian aggression, U.S. Secretary of the Navy told Anadolu Agency on Friday.
“We’re going to be there. We’re going to be present. We’re going to deter. That’s the main reason we’re here — to deter potential aggression; to be where we ought to be, when we ought to be there,” Ray Mabus said in an email.
Mabus’ comments come amid a row with Moscow about NATO discussions regarding the establishment of a permanent force in the Black Sea.
“If a decision is made to create a permanent force, of course, it would be destabilizing, because this is not a NATO sea,” Russian Foreign Ministry official Andrei Kelin was quoted earlier this week by that country’s media.
The U.S. has quadrupled the funds for reassuring European partners against Russian activities in the Eastern Europe.
An American destroyer The USS Porter entered the Black Sea this month and the U.S. is also planning to increase its number of troops in Europe.
“We still operate under the Montreux Convention, which was signed in the mid-30s, in terms of what ships go in and out of the Black Sea and how long they operate there,” Mabus said.
Since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, it has its own Black Sea Fleet based at Sevastopol.
NATO will hold its annual summit in Poland next month as ties between Russia and the alliance are strained significantly due to Moscow’s support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.
The U.S.’s deployment of two aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea also strained ties with Russia as Moscow also has a military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“We’ve been in the Mediterranean continuously for 70 years now, since World War II,” Mabus said. “We’re going to be where we need to be and we’re going to have that presence and that is normal … that has kept the sea lanes open for everybody.”