Over 2,000 personnel and 30 ships are taking part in exercise Breeze 2021 in the Black Sea. The Bulgarian-led maritime exercise, which began on 12 July and wraps up today (19 July), involves forces from 14 NATO Allies and partners – Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States.
The exercise aims to enhance interoperability among participating units and strengthen NATO’s readiness in the Black Sea region. “The Black Sea is of strategic importance to NATO. The Alliance remains strongly committed to Black Sea security,” said NATO Deputy Spokesperson Piers Cazalet.
Exercise Breeze is an annual exercise, dating back to 1996. This year, two of four NATO fleets are participating – Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) and Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2).
Since Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, NATO has increased its presence in the Black Sea. NATO ships routinely operate in the Black Sea, consistent with international law, usually patrolling the waters for around two-thirds of the year. Prior to exercise Breeze, SNMG2 conducted patrols in the Black Sea and participated in exercise Sea Breeze, a multinational exercise co-hosted by Ukraine and the United States.