Provocation or Reassurance?
- Sending the USS Donald Cook into the Black Sea has two uses for Washington. First, it does reassure our allies.
- But second it establishes a "trip wire" like the Gulf of Tonkin incident where the USS Maddox may or may not have been attacked by North Vietnam. In any case, the Tonkin event gave Washington the cover it needed to go to war in Vietnam.
USS Donald Cook, a destroyer equipped with the powerful Aegis missile defense system, has crossed through the Bosphorus and entered the Black Sea, with Russia claiming that NATO is assembling a battle fleet in the region.
Earlier, the US Defense Department said the ship’s mission was “to reassure NATO allies and Black Sea partners” following the events in Ukraine.
“It demonstrates our commitment to our … allies to enhance security, readiness and capabilities,” spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said in a statement.
But sources in the Russian military believe the move is part of a systematic build-up of naval forces.
“What we are seeing is that for the first time since 2008, NATO is creating a naval battle group outside the Russian borders,” a source told Interfax news agency, citing the entry of French reconnaissance ship Dupuy de Lome and destroyer Dupleix – both expected within the next week reports RT News.
The French rescue vessel Alize has been inside the Black Sea basin since late last month.
Aegis-equipped USS Donald Cook enters Black Sea
|US warship USS Donald-Cook sails through the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, |
on April 10, 2014, en route to the Black Sea.
(AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)
“The purpose of this is to provide moral support for the regime in Kiev, but also as a demonstration of power to make Russia come to heel. But the ship will also collect information on Russian military activity in Crimea and on the Ukrainian border,” the source said.
Russia’s Black Sea fleet is stationed in Sevastopol in Crimea, which was incorporated into Russia following a referendum last month.
NATO also believes that Moscow is massing troops on its border with eastern Ukraine, which has experienced uprisings by pro-Russian activists calling for secession from Kiev. On Thursday, NATO released satellite shots of Russian border bases heaving with troops and equipment, though Moscow has said that the shots are from last year, and in any case, show no unusual activity.
USS Donald Cook had already aroused the anger of Moscow when it arrived in Europe earlier this year, as it carries the sophisticated Aegis weapons and radar system and will form a key part of NATO’s missile defense shield in Europe. Moscow has vehemently opposed the project, saying it is a direct security threat and alters the nuclear balance of power in the region.
Moscow has said that NATO naval movements since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis at the end of last year have violated the Montreux Convention on naval movements in the Black Sea.
According to the treaty, warships from non-Black Sea states can only stay in the basin for up to 21 days consecutively. USS Taylor spent 11 more than that in the region in February and March.