US, Ukraine Kicks Off Joint Naval War Games

The United States Navy and the Ukrainian Navy have been joined by more than 15 other nations to conduct war games in the Black Sea region.

Under the name Sea Breeze 2017, the joint naval war games are taking part from July 10 to July 23 and involves more than 30 warships and 25 aircraft (both fixed-wing and rotary).

Sea Breeze 2017 will mainly focus on naval maneuvers, air defence, anti-submarine drills, search-and-rescue operations and are aimed to forging a strong co-operation between NATO allies and Ukraine. According to NATO and Ukraine, the joint naval exercises enhance the stability in the Black sea region.

The U.S. Navy is represented by the USS Hue City, the USS Carney as well as a P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine aircraft. More than 800 American personnel are taking part in the war games.

USS Hué City (CG-66) is a Ticonderoga class-guided-missile cruiser
USS Hué City (CG-66) is a Ticonderoga class-guided-missile cruiser

As for the Ukrainian Navy, more than 10 vessels are taking part in the joint training. However, according to Rostislav Ishchenko, head of the Center for Systemic Analysis and Prognosis, no Ukrainian Navy warships are in an acceptable condition to partake in the war games. Ishchenko believes Ukrainian sailors will use U.S. and Romanian ships this year.

“Ukraine repaired its frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy, but it broke down again as soon as it set sail. But it is the only capable warship with the Ukrainian Navy. The rest are small boats, a mosquito fleet,” Russian military expert Capt. Dmitry Litovkin said in an interview with Radio Sputnik.

Docked at the port of Odessa, multiples NATO warships, including a Turkish frigate and a Romanian corvette, were spotted. The port of Odessa seems to be where the joint war games headquarters will be stationed.

The Rear-Admiral Eustațiu Sebastian-class corvette (also known as the Tetal-II class by NATO) is a series of two corvettes used by the Romanian Naval Forces for Black Sea duty.
The Rear-Admiral Eustațiu Sebastian-class corvette (also known as the Tetal-II class by NATO) is a series of two corvettes used by the Romanian Naval Forces for Black Sea duty.

Two NATO military transport aircraft also landed in Odessa carrying specialized equipment as well as military specialists such as army divers. The army divers are most likely going to be working on harbour clearance, equipment recovery and salvage operations.

Royal Canadian Navy clearance divers taking part in Sea Breeze 2017.
Royal Canadian Navy clearance divers taking part in Sea Breeze 2017. 

Other specialists most likely consist of intelligence analysts, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians (EOD) and many other trades related to the good conduct of a realistic war game.

Romanian EOD and clearance divers taking part in Sea Breeze 2017.
Romanian EOD and clearance divers taking part in Sea Breeze 2017.

The Russian Navy Black Sea Fleet reacts to war games

The Russian Slava-class Moskva guided missile cruiser is the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet
The Russian Slava-class Moskva guided missile cruiser is the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet

The Russian Black Sea Fleet has been put on high alert and will carry out combat drills in both Crimea and the Black Sea.

“The exercises will test the ability of coastal units to operate at their permanent deployment areas in conditions of high alert, while the warships are being redeployed to maritime training ranges,” the Southern Military District press service said in a statement.

The Black Sea Fleet will remain within the limits of its training ranges in and around the Crimean Peninsula.

No Threats to Russia’s Security

Rostislav Ischenko believes the U.S.-Ukraine joint war games absolutely pose no threats to Russia’s national security.

“This exercise is rather a diplomatic routine, than a real political instrument. There is an agreement [to hold these drills] and it has been implemented year after year, despite the fact that Ukraine doesn’t even have a fleet,” the expert noted.

Ukrainian Frigate U130 "Hetman Sahaydachniy"
Ukrainian Frigate U130 “Hetman Sahaydachniy” is still under repair.

Although the recent allegations of Ukraine reviving its interest in joining NATO, the naval drill is definitely not a prelude to a bigger permanent NATO naval deployment in the Black Sea region.

That said, this exercise is a “show of force” at Russia’s doorstep but only remains a political statement. Basically, the NATO allies, along with Ukraine, are telling Russia that they can deploy a sizeable number of forces to Crimea’s doorstep. However, Russia’s A2/AD in the region is so strong that it would be a clear mistake for NATO and Ukraine to keep a permanent force in the region. This would only fuel the current tensions and would end up being a possible war-triggering action.