U.S. says it will stay in Black Sea
despite Russian warning
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[June 17, 2016]
By Steve Scherer
ABOARD THE USS MASON (Reuters) - The
United States will maintain its presence in the Black Sea despite a
Russian warning that a U.S. destroyer patrolling there undermined
regional security, the U.S. Navy Secretary said.
The USS Porter entered the Black Sea this month, drawing heavy
criticism from Moscow. Turkey and Romania are expected to push for a
bigger NATO presence in the Black Sea at the NATO summit in Warsaw
Aboard the USS Mason, another U.S. destroyer, in the Mediterranean
on Thursday, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told Reuters that it was the
U.S. Navy's job to deter aggression and keep sea lanes open.
"We're going to be there," Mabus said of the Black Sea. "We're going
to deter. That's the main reason we're there -- to deter potential
Mabus spoke days after Russia criticized NATO discussions about a
creating 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
news agencies quoted senior Foreign Ministry official Andrei Kelin
Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimea in 2014, has its own Black
Sea Fleet based at Sevastopol.
The NATO summit takes place as relations between Russia and the
alliance are severely strained over Moscow's role in the Ukraine
crisis and in Syria. While Russia says it poses no threat to
alliance, NATO is considering what to do to counter what it sees as
growing Russian aggression.
Mabus said the United States follows the rules of the Montreux
Convention, which states that countries without a Black Sea
coastline cannot keep their warships there for more than 21 days.
NATO members Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria are all Black Sea Basin
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U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter sets sail in the
Bosphorus, on its way to the Black Sea in Istanbul, Turkey, June 6,
2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Bulgaria appeared to buckle to Russian pressure on Thursday. Prime
Minister Boiko Borisov said he would not join a proposed NATO fleet
in the Black Sea because it should be a place for holidays and
tourists, not war.
Also increasing tensions with Moscow is the U.S. Navy's deployment
of two aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean ahead the NATO summit
as Washington seeks to balance an increase in Russian military
activities in the Mediterranean.
"We've been in the Mediterranean continuously for 70 years now,
since World War Two," Mabus said. "We've been keeping the sea lanes
open...It's what we do."
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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