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    US show of force sends Russia a message in Black Sea

    The US Navy is ramping up its presence in the Black Sea as part of a bid to counter Russia’s increased presence there, a US military official tells CNN.
    It’s a region that has become increasingly fraught with tensions as Russia has reinforced its military forces in the area following its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move rejected by the vast majority of the international community.
    On Saturday the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney joined the USS Ross in the Black Sea to “conduct maritime security operations,” according to a statement from the US Navy’s 6th Fleet, which oversees US naval operations in the region. It’s the first time two US Navy warships have been in the Black Sea since July 2017.
    “Our decision to have two ships simultaneously operate in the Black Sea is proactive, not reactive,” US Navy Vice Adm. Christopher Grady, the commander of 6th Fleet, said in a release announcing the Carney’s arrival.
    “We operate at the tempo and timing of our choosing in this strategically important region,” Grady said, adding that “the continued presence of the U.S. Navy in the Black Sea demonstrates our enduring commitment to regional stability, maritime security of our Black Sea partners, and the collective defense of our NATO allies”
    On Sunday Russia announced its own naval deployments to the area, with the Russian Ministry of Defense issuing a statement saying that a Russian frigate, the Admiral Essen, and two patrol ships had entered the Black Sea for a series of exercises.
    A US military official told CNN that the decision to deploy both the Carney and the Ross to the Black Sea was part of an effort to “desensitize Russia” to the presence of US military forces in the Black Sea, which sits between Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Western Asia.
    Two US defense officials based in Europe told CNN that Russia is particularly sensitive to US military operations in the Black Sea given recent Russian moves to militarize Crimea.
    US and NATO officials have accused Moscow of deploying large numbers of troops and military hardware to Crimea in recent years.
    A NATO official told CNN that Russia had deployed submarines to Crimea, saying that while the Western alliance was not looking for a tit-for-tat deployment of military assets to the region, NATO was strengthening its position in southeastern Europe.
    “Basically anything new that they have they are putting in Crimea,” a US defense official based in Europe said of Russia’s military activity.
    The official told CNN that Russia was “putting in the full panoply of their weapons systems” in Crimea, saying Moscow had stood up a new Army Corps there and was deploying “a lot of their new anti-access missile systems, coastal defense, air defense” systems, in addition to the ground troops.
    Given Russia’s increased military presence, US officials say Moscow has become increasingly sensitive to US forces in the region, fearing that US military capabilities could undermine Russia’s advantages.
    Another US defense official based in Europe told CNN that the Russians “are very sensitive to our precision strike capability” as well as US ballistic missile defense assets such as the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, which is deployed on both the Ross and Carney.

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