The Kremlin has slammed NATO’s multi-national “Sea Shield 2019” naval drills which kicked off in the Black Sea on Friday and will include limited Ukrainian defense forces. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said upon the military games’ beginning, which also happens to mark NATO’s 70th birthday: “Having militarized NE Europe, NATO has decided to increase its military presence in the Black Sea.”
The Sea Shield 2019 is set to run from April 5 to April 13 and involves “14 Romanian warships and six warships from Bulgaria, Canada, Greece, the Netherlands, Turkey with 2,200 troops will carry out joint combat tasks in the Black Sea region,” according to Ukraine’s Mission to NATO and the Romanian Ministry of National Defense. Aerial assets will also be deployed as part of the games. Prior drills on the Black Sea by war ships of the NATO Standing Maritime Group-2, via the AFP
Crucially, non-NATO countries Ukraine and Georgia will also take part — both of which have long been potential flash points between the west and Russia. However, officials reports say their involvement will be limited to coast guard maneuvers.
But NATO officials have described the exercise as “a long-planned, annual exercise led by Romania” and claimed that “neither the patrols, nor the exercise, are linked to events in Ukraine.”
“Three Allied nations [Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey] border the Black Sea, and NATO regularly conducts exercises and operations in the Black Sea in order to maintain credible deterrence and readiness,” a NATO official continued in response to questions from Russian reporters last week. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commemorating NATO’s 70th in Washington on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. Image source: AP
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