June 18, 2020 – The United States Navy dock landing ship USS Oak Hill joined the guided missile destroyer USS Porter in the Black Sea on Thursday (18 June 2020) for maritime security operations and to train with Allies and partners in the region. Porter entered the Black Sea on Wednesday.
NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu welcomed the deployment, saying: “The Black Sea is of strategic importance to NATO. Since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, the Alliance has increased its presence in the region. This includes maritime security operations such as this one, as well as training for partner navies and coast guards, and information sharing. By working with Allies and partners, we continue to ensure the security of the Black Sea region.”
The arrival of the USS Oak Hill marks the fourth time a US Navy ship patrols the Black Sea in 2020. The two vessels will not be making any port calls in the region, but stay at sea to avoid any potential COVID-19 exposure. The US Navy and other NATO navies routinely operate in the Black Sea, consistent with international law, patrolling the waters for around two-thirds of the year.
Three NATO members – Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey – are littoral Black Sea states, with their own forces in the region. NATO is also strengthening support for its partners Georgia and Ukraine. In April, NATO Foreign Ministers agreed to conduct more Black Sea exercises with both countries, as well as stepping up joint work to counter hybrid warfare and share more air traffic radar data.