One might hope that after the dramatic close call June 23rd events on the Black Sea which saw a Russian patrol ship fire warning shots to deter a UK warship which came near Crimea - all of which was reportedly monitored by an overhead US reconnaissance plane (as Putin has alleged) - "cooler heads" would prevail and that the West would seek de-escalation in the waters. But this is hoping way too much as, instead, the US Navy is calling expansive military drills on Russia's doorstep "essential" in deterring Russian "aggression". The words were issued by Commander Daniel Marzluff of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet at a moment the large multi-nation Sea Breeze 2021 exercises are ongoing, which Moscow has deemed a serious "provocation".
This year's Sea Breeze drills are led by the US and Ukraine with military hardware made up of over 30 participant nations crowding the region in and around the Black Sea. This has prompted Russia to hold its own drills in the southwest part of the country.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov also this week issued a further warning to foreign vessels and military aircraft to not get too close to Russian territory:
"They would be better off leaving their provocations aside next time and staying away from that area because they will get clocked in the nose," Ryabkov said.
Commander Marzluff's strong words, however, suggested anything but 'de-escalation' and avoidance of hostilities with Russia:
Commander Daniel Marzluff, the U.S. Sixth Fleet's Black Sea Region Engagement Lead, told Newsweek Tuesday that the Sea Breeze drills as "essential" in deterring Russian aggression and asserting U.S. and NATO backing for Ukraine, which remains at war with Moscow-backed separatists in the east of the country.
"This is clearly the most effective way to bring a unified front to this kind of rogue action," Marzluff told Newsweek from the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, referring to the ongoing exercises.
The US commander further called regional allies like Ukraine the US military's "greatest strategic advantage" in confronting Russia. He described additionally:
"Here in the Black Sea, we have three NATO allies that are poised and ready to respond to any type of Russian aggression."
This reference includes Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey - while Ukraine has of late been increasingly vocal on wanting a path to full NATO membership, which Russia has declared a 'red line' that would certainly trigger major conflict.
And yet Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky has continued pushing for greater Washington intervention in the region, just this week in a press conference alongside Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda urging greater 'help' from the United States toward ending the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
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