September 23, 2021
Thursday, September 23, 2021


Massive Exercise In Black Sea With US Comes After Russia Warning

On June 21 the US Sixth Fleet announced it would participate in the Sea Breeze exercise that will take place from June 28 to July 10. The US says that “this year’s iteration has the largest number of participating nations in the exercise’s history with 32 countries from six continents providing 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 aircraft, and 18 special operations and dive teams scheduled to participate.” 

This is important because it comes days after a UK warship and Russia appeared to clash off the coast of Crimea. Ukraine claims Crimea, but Russia annexed the area in 2014. There have been other tensions between Russia and Ukraine and Russia and the US, increasingly at sea in recent years. Ukraine is fighting a war against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russia has warned the UK against what it sees as provocations.  

This means that this year’s exercise, as large as it is, has more ramifications for the region. The US says that “Ukraine and the US are cohosting the exercise in the Black Sea with participation and support coming from 32 countries in total: Albania, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Morocco, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States.” 

Of interest here is that Israel is participating alongside new peace partners such as the UAE. In addition Israel and Turkey are participating, despite tensions between the two. It is apparently not the first time Israel participated, the country also took part in 2012. Another angle that is interesting is the number of ships and the fact that the drill will concentrate on complex operations such as “amphibious warfare, land maneuver warfare, diving operations, maritime interdiction operations, air defense, special operations integration, anti-submarine warfare, and search and rescue operations.” 

Naval joint drills are increasingly important. Israel hosted Noble Dina, a naval drill, back in March. France and Cyprus joined Israel and Greece for the first time. Egypt and Greece have been working more closely together in recent years and the UAE has begun to play a greater role in the Eastern Mediterranean via close work with Greece. Israel and the UAE also participated in the Greek-led Iniochos drill in April. Israel, Italy, the UK and US also trained with F-35s in Italy earlier this month in a drill called Falcon Strike. 

According to Reuters, Russia has warned the US and UK not to “tempt fate” in the Black Sea. The Black Sea is only one place where there are naval tensions. Last year Turkey threatened Greece repeatedly and the country’s came close to possible conflict. The US has expressed support for Greece and Cyprus. However, maritime issues matter because Israel, Greece and Cyprus want to construct an East Med pipeline and they are part of a gas forum with Egypt. In addition. Israel has received two new Sa’ar 6 advanced corvette warships in the last year. This is important for Israel’s naval footprint and the wider region. 

Last week British and American F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters flew anti-ISIS strike missions from the UK Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), according to USNI news. It was “a first for the U.K. in a decade, defense officials confirmed to USNI News on Tuesday.” According to the report the F-35s from the Royal Air Force  were from the 617 Squadron, “The Dambusters” and they flew anti-ISIS operations.  “The involvement of HMS Queen Elizabeth and her air wing in this campaign also sends a wider message. It demonstrates the speed and agility with which a U.K.-led Carrier Strike Group can inject fifth generation combat power into any operation, anywhere in the world, thereby offering the British government, and our allies, true military and political choice,” Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of the U.K. Carrier Strike Group, said in a statement. 

The Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group left the UK on may 22 and is in the Mediterranean Sea, heading eventually to the Indo-Pacific region. “The [ship] escorts from the Royal Navy include Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, Type 23 anti-submarine frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring, and an unspecified Astute-class nuclear attack boat. The group also includes Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen (F805) and U.S. Navy destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68),” USNI reports. It was HMS Defender that ran into tensions with Russia last week. Russian jets and ships have shadowed the British ship. Russia is now doing drills in the Mediterranean. Russia says it does not rule out a “tough response” to the UK. This sets the stage for a week or more of tensions.


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