First US warship to transit near Black Sea since war in Ukraine departs Turkey
Stars and Stripes February 7, 2023
A Navy destroyer that visited Turkey, bringing it closer to the Black Sea than any other U.S. warship since Russia invaded Ukraine, has left the region, Navy officials said Tuesday.
USS Nitze left the Golcuk Naval Base on the east coast of the Sea of Marmara on Monday and is heading back to the Mediterranean Sea, Lt. Taija Griffin, a U.S. 6th Fleet spokeswoman, said Tuesday.
The visit came in advance of Monday’s devastating earthquake that has left at least 7,200 dead, mainly in southeastern Turkey and neighboring Syria. The epicenter of the 7.8 magnitude quake occurred near Gaziantep, about 600 miles southeast of the port visit.
Nitze, operating as part of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, arrived at Golcuk on Friday after a stop in Istanbul to host U.S. diplomats, 6th Fleet said in a statement Sunday.
That visit put the vessel near the Bosporus, a strategic waterway leading from the Sea of Marmara into the Black Sea.
Turkey closed the Bosporus to most warships in February 2022 after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, USNI News reported Feb. 28, 2022.
Only warships whose homeport is in the Black Sea — those from Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine — may use the strait to enter or leave the sea, according to Turkish policy invoked at the time. Merchant ships are not restricted.
The destroyer USS Arleigh Burke was the last U.S. warship to transit the Bosporus, leaving the Black Sea in December 2021, according to the ship watching website turkishnavy.net.
U.S. and other NATO warships regularly have patrolled the Black Sea in previous years, participating in maritime exercises such as Sea Breeze. The annual multinational exercise jointly led by the U.S. and Ukraine was canceled last year.
Nitze’s visit to Turkey makes it at least the third U.S. warship to visit the country since war broke out in Ukraine.
The destroyer USS Bainbridge visited Aksaz, which is nearer to the Dardanelles waterway, in July 2022. Another destroyer, USS Mitscher, also visited Aksaz in March 2022.
On Friday, the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group remained in the eastern Mediterranean visiting Piraeus, Greece, 6th Fleet said in a separate statement the same day.