On Tuesday, November 9, the Russian Defense Ministry told reporters that the United States is forming a multinational task force in close vicinity to the Russian border. The military department clarified that in the Black Sea there are currently the USS Porter destroyer with Tomahawk cruise missiles, the USNS John Lenthall tanker and the USS Mount Whitney command ship. Two B-1B strategic bombers of the US Air Force were flown over the Black Sea at a distance of about 100 km from the state border of Russia.
In a statement, the Russian Defense Ministry called such actions a destabilizing factor in the region, aimed, among other things, to study the Black Sea as a theater of possible hostilities. "Considering that in addition to the US Navy, the drills will involve tactical, patrol and strategic aircraft, and also the contingents of the armed forces of Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine, this is evidence of an attempt to study the prospective theater of military operations in case that Kiev prepares a use-of-force scenario in the southeast (of Ukraine – ed. note)," the message states.
The Russian Defense Ministry said its armed forces were maintaining surveillance and monitoring the situation. The Black Sea Fleet implements an action plan to control performance by US Navy ships in the Black Sea. "Currently, the destroyer Porter and the command ship Mount Whitney are in the port of Batumi (Georgia) and the tanker John Lenthall is in the southwestern part of the Black Sea," the report says.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu gave his own assessment of the current Black Sea situation. In an interview with state TV he explained why US warships have been frequent in the Black Sea lately. "This is an almost constant attempt to test us, to check how ready we are, how much we have built the entire [defense] system off the Black Sea coast... When a warship belonging to a non-regional power enters the Black Sea and we understand that it carries long-range precision weapons, when we see that these weapons are aboard it and it is not on a tourist tour, we, naturally, keep a close eye on it and track it and we understand that any provocations are possible at any time as was the case recently with a British destroyer and, of course, we must prevent such things," Shoigu said.
In turn, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained NATO maneuvers in the Black Sea as US policy of deterring Russia. "The NATO military exercises have to do with the striving of the United States and its allies to press on with the policy of containing the Russian Federation, despite all pledges... not to move its military infrastructure further eastwards to the territory of the new members of the block," the Russian Foreign Ministry head told reporters on November 8 following his Moscow talks with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Felix Plasencia. According to Lavrov, Russia is "fully prepared for any course the events might take."
Russian President Vladimir Putin described the current situation in the Black Sea succinctly and eloquently. "The US warship that has entered the Black Sea can be clearly seen through a binocular or a sight of Russia’s defense capabilities," he said on November 1 at a Sochi meeting with Defense Ministry leaders and defense industry representatives. A statement to this effect can only indicate Russia's readiness to strongly retaliate against any US scheming in the Black Sea.
They did also respond to US military activities in the Black Sea and the Donbass region. Thus, deputy of the DPR People's Council Vladislav Berdichevsky said that by displaying military activity in the Black Sea, the United States is pushing Ukraine to a conflict with Russia, though is not about to engage. "It is likely that in the event of a massive offensive, American warships can serve as a deterrent for the Russian Black Sea Fleet. For the same reason, American ships enter the South China Sea to deter China in the event of an escalation with Taiwan," Berdichevsky said.
US and NATO military presence expansion in the Black Sea runs counter to Washington's official statements about normalizing relations with Moscow in the light of the June Geneva meeting between the two countries' presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden. Some experts and officials, including Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov, believe that contacts between Moscow and Washington are being gradually restored, despite mutual distrust and an impressive number of controversies.
This is particularly evidenced by the October visit to Moscow by US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who is in charge of relations with Europe and Eurasia, and the most recent visit by CIA chief William Burns. Both high-ranking American guests called their talks in the Russian capital "successful and fruitful."
Moreover, these latter days saw the two countries' media actively discuss the issue of a possible new meeting between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, whether personal or via videoconference. In this regard, the Russian President's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters the following: "There is a understanding that a meeting is needed, that communication between the two presidents should be continued, though accurate terms are not clear yet."
Here the question arises as to the probability of a summit amid the United States' latest muscle-flexing in the Black Sea? Further dialogue and normalized Russian-American relations require desire and aspiration of both sides. Moscow has those, but what about Washington?