The Sunday Times cites a Royal Navy source stating two British warships will enter the Black Sea next month as the newspaper put it, “tensions continue to rise between Ukrainian and Russian forces.” As always with the Western press it is not indicated where and in what manner there have been tensions between Ukrainian and Russian – presumably armed – forces until now.
The account states a Type 45 destroyer armed with anti-aircraft missiles and an anti-submarine Type 23 frigate are the ships in question. The two ships, unnamed in the report, are currently attached to the Royal Navy carrier task group on its way to the Mediterranean. The Times indicates that Royal Air Force F-35B Lightning stealth jets and Merlin submarine-hunting helicopters will be on stand-by aboard the task group’s flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, “to support the warships in the Black Sea should they be threatened by Russian warships, submarines or aircraft.”
As the U.S. cancelled plans to deploy the USS Donald Cook and USS Roosevelt Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers to the Black Sea on April 14 and 15 as earlier reported, the announced British deployment can be seen as replacing them as part of a NATO naval build-up targeted at Russia. The USS Eisenhower nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its carrier strike group, which includes four guided-missile destroyers, including USS Donald Cook and USS Roosevelt, and a guided-missile cruiser as well as 90 aircraft, has been conducting joint exercises in the Arabian Sea with the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the only non-American nuclear aircraft carrier, and its strike group. Both carriers and their strike groups will return to the Eastern Mediterranean shortly.
In fact the Sunday Times‘ report included the speculation that “Putting the ships off the coast of Ukraine is intended to show solidarity with Kiev and Nato allies in the region after the President Biden decided to cancel the deployment of two American warships to the Black Sea last week….”
The paper also mentioned that four British Typhoon fighter jets will fly to Romania next week for NATO air policing operations over the Black Sea, and that hundreds of British soldiers are to be deployed to Ukraine this summer for the Cossack Mace military exercise.
Rarely is the prospect of peace in the Black Sea region given a reprieve for a few days than a troubling new report like this surfaces. What is possibly even more menacing a prospect is one Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan broached when recently discussing his nation’s Kanal Istanbul project, which will connect the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara while bypassing the Bosporus – and the Montreux Convention of 1936 which limits the number and size of warships that can enter the Black Sea. He said of the canal that it “has nothing to do with the Montreux Convention….” He added:”We are bringing about work through which we will establish our own independence, our own sovereignty in full measure.” That would seem to mean Turkey would no longer be obligated to enforce the terms of the Montreux pact and as a result NATO nations could deploy as many warships to the Black Sea as they choose to.
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