The United States is preparing to send a warship into the Black Sea in response to Russian seizure of Ukrainian vessels and sailors, a decision that could lead to further heightened tensions in the region.
The Pentagon has asked the State Department to inform the Turkish government of its plan to possibly send a warship into those disputed waters and has said that the move would be in response to Moscow’s aggression towards Ukraine.
These measures were carried out in the Kerch Strait, which connects the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.
For its part, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced Wednesday that its troops in eastern Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014, conducted a military drill with its Pantsir anti-aircraft missile systems.
The potential movement of the warship came just after the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the Ukrainian government of undertaking “active preparations” for an offensive against Russia in the eastern portion of the Ukrainian peninsula.
The ministry indicated that the recent declaration in parts of Ukraine was being used as a cover for those preparations.
The State Department must notify the Turkish government before a warship can pass through the straits in accordance with the Montreux Convention, which was ratified in 1936 and governs the movement of military vessels through the Dardanelles and Bosporus, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea.
The planning comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow on a range of issues.
Russia engaged in a confrontation on November 25 with Ukrainian vessels around the Kerch Strait, which links the Azov Sea and the Black Sea. Russia rammed and fired on Ukrainian naval vessels, subsequently capturing three ships and detaining 24 service members. Ukraine imposed martial law for 30 days in several regions around the country in response and has barred entry to male Russian nationals aged 16 to 60 for the duration of the state of emergency.
Russia’s actions and its detention of Ukrainian sailors prompted President Donald Trump to cancel a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G-20 in Argentina.
“Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin,” Trump tweeted from Air Force One en route to Argentina.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking at a NATO conference in Brussels Tuesday, said the alliance “will collectively develop a set of responses that demonstrate to Russians this behavior is unacceptable.”
The potential relocation of the warship follows after a different US military exercise in the Sea of Japan that saw a Navy ship come close to contested waters in the Sea of Japan on Wednesday.
It was expected that the mission would upset Russia, and was performed in order to challenge Russian claims to waters in the area that are used by the US and other countries to move goods.