Two U.S. warships are set to deploy in the Black Sea until May 4th.
On Thursday, CNN reported the U.S. Navy was considering sending warships into the Black Sea. Later on Thursday, Turkey’s foreign ministry told Reuters the U.S. had submitted a request to deploy its warships through the Bosporus Strait, which serves as the southern entrance to the Black Sea.
Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, countries must provide 14 days notice to Turkey when they plan to send ships into the Black Sea.
“A notice was sent to us 15 days ago via diplomatic channels that two U.S. warships would pass to the Black Sea in line with the Montreux Convention. The ships will remain in the Black Sea until May 4,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
With the timeline of the U.S. notice, the two U.S. warships could have already entered the Black Sea.
The U.S. Black Sea deployment comes as Russian troops are massing on Ukraine’s borders.
Dozens of Russian tanks, armored vehicles and helicopters have been seen along the Ukraine-Russia border in recent weeks. Russia recently increased its troop presence on the Ukrainian border during a set of March military drills, but some 4,000 troops remained in the border region since those drills ended on March 23. Renewed skirmishes between Russian and Ukrainian forces have also been reported and the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) reportedly raised its threat levels in Europe to a “potential imminent crisis” amid the Russian troop buildup.
Russian and Ukrainian forces have been fighting in a low-intensity conflict since Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014. The fighting has seen some up occasional flare-ups in that time.
The arrival of two U.S. warships could serve as a check to a potential Russian offensive in Ukraine with its latest troop buildup.
Reuters reported Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko expressed concern with activities in the Black Sea by countries that do not border its waters.
Last week U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and Blinken “affirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression.”
Russia’s troop buildup has also caused Ukraine to increase calls for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to approve its membership in the alliance. Ukraine has applied for NATO membership and is a member of NATO’s Partnership Interoperability Initiative, granting the country enhanced opportunities for partnerships with the alliance. This week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reportedly told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that NATO membership is the only way for Ukraine to put an end to its conflict with Russia.
Zelensky also called on NATO members to bolster their military presence in the Black Sea region, to serve as a “powerful deterrent” against Russia.