- The Washington Times - Friday, January 29, 2021

The U.S. Navy this week dispatched a second guided-missile destroyer to Russia’s doorstep in the Black Sea, sending an unmistakable message to the Kremlin and beefing up NATO defenses in the strategically vital region.

The Navy’s Sixth Fleet said that the destroyer USS Porter entered the Black Sea on Thursday, joining another destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, and a refueling ship, the USNS Laramie. 

“Every time our adversary changes how they operate, we stay one step ahead of them,” said Capt. Joseph Gagliano, commander of the Navy’s Task Force 65. “We maintain control of the sea by drawing from the best capabilities of the NATO alliance, and together we are guaranteeing stability in the Black Sea.”

Russian military officials said they were tracking the U.S. moves.

“U.S. ships sail into the Black Sea periodically,” reads a story on Russia’s state-run TASS news agency. “The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly noted that presence of ships in the Black Sea that belong to states outside of the region does not boost stability there.”

On Friday morning, the Russian military said it had launched its own series of naval exercises in the Black Sea, destroying mock air targets and practicing the use of electronic warfare jamming measures.

The dueling maneuvers come just days after President Biden had his first phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They also come amid an agreement by Washington and Moscow to extend the landmark New START nuclear arms treaty for another five years.

Against that backdrop, U.S. military officials described the Black Sea mission as “part of a continual integration of air and maritime units operating across the U.S. European Command area of responsibility.”

“The ultimate goal of these operations is to refine joint air defense procedures to better defend U.S. Navy ships,” the Navy said in a statement. “Participants conducted scenarios to establish air and maritime superiority, which enable freedom of navigation in all international waters and airspace. “

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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