Exercise led by US, Ukraine moves from usual Black Sea waters to UK
Stars and Stripes June 27, 2023
An annual Black Sea exercise that has frequently drawn Russia’s ire resumed this week after a year hiatus, thousands of miles away from its hotly contested home waters.
Sea Breeze, led this year by the U.S., kicked off Monday in Glasgow, Scotland, the Ukrainian navy and U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet said.
The exercise includes 15 countries and the NATO Maritime Command, Lt. j.g. Triona Swanson, a spokesperson for NAVEUR-AF/6th Fleet, said Tuesday. It’s taking place in the Firth of Clyde near Glasgow and Loch Ewe, Scotland, through July 7.
A small contingent of U.S. sailors and Marines is taking part in the exercise, which last took place in the Black Sea in 2021.
Sea Breeze this year is land and sea-based, with an emphasis on mine countermeasures and dive operations, Swanson said. It also offers an opportunity for training and preparing the Ukraine Maritime Command staff, Swanson said.
The Ukrainian minehunter ships Cherkasy and Chernihiv are participating in the exercise.
Tensions ahead of the 2021 exercise ran high as Russia threatened to fire on participants if they encroached on its territorial waters.
Moscow ultimately claimed to have fired at and dropped bombs in front of a British ship transiting the Black Sea near Crimea in June of that year.
The British disputed the Kremlin claim, saying no shots were fired and their ship was transiting Ukrainian waters in accordance with international law.
Shortly after Russia launched its full-scale war on Ukraine in February 2022, the Black Sea was closed to foreign warships. Since then, only Black Sea-homeported warships from Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine can enter.
In February, the destroyer USS Nitze visited Turkey, bringing the ship closer to the Black Sea than any other U.S. warship since Russia invaded Ukraine.
On Monday, Ukrainian navy commander Vice Adm. Oleksiy Neizhpapa said he was thankful for the help of the U.S., the U.K. and others in ensuring that the exercise went ahead despite the war.