NATO to boost naval presence in Black Sea
AFP, Feb 16 2017
BRUSSELS – NATO will step up naval war games and surveillance in the Black Sea, it said Thursday. Sec-Gen Stoltenberg said the decision taken by ‘defence’ ministers in Brussels was not designed to be a provocation. He told a press conference:
We agreed on an increased NATO naval presence in the Black Sea for enhanced training, exercises and situational awareness. We will have an increased presence in the Black Sea, but it will be measured, it will be defensive and it will in no way be provoking any conflict or escalating tensions. It is one element in a broader adaptation of NATO defence and deterrence to a more demanding and challenging security environment, including the Black Sea region.
Russia swiftly condemned the move. Russia’s ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko told Russian news agencies:
It’s another step towards increasing tension in the regions that touch on Russia’s vital interests. Of course all the necessary measures will be taken to ensure Russia’s security interests in this region.
A NATO boxtop told AFP on condition of anonymity:
The decision was taken to counter Russia’s military build-up in the Black Sea and bolster the alliance’s south-east flank after it sent troop reinforcements to the Baltic States and Poland in the north-east. The goal is to bolster intelligence-gathering, of Russian ground-to-air missiles in the region, for example.
Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Georgia share the Black Sea coastline.
Note this from June of last year:
Bulgaria says will not join any NATO Black Sea fleet
Reuters, Jun 16 2017
SOFIA – Bulgaria’s prime minister said Thursday he would not join a proposed NATO fleet meant to counter Russian forces in the Black Sea as he did not want a war there, a day after Moscow warned against any build-up. Boiko Borisov said he did not want to see frigates sailing past the tourist resorts, at a joint press conference with Pres Plevneliev, who described Bulgaria as a peaceful country. Turkey and Romania, the two other NATO members along the Black Sea coast, have called for the NATO fleet and more alliance troops. Borisov said:
I always say that I want the Black Sea to see sailboats, yachts, large boats with tourists and not become an arena of military action. I do not need a war in the Black Sea. Let’s stop with the speculations that fleets will be set up against anyone. Bulgaria is a peaceful country and its foreign policy is not aimed at anyone.
A senior Russian diplomat on Wednesday warned NATO not to build up its naval forces in the Black Sea, saying such a move would undermine regional security. The issue of the fleet is expected to be raised again at NATO’s Warsaw Summit in July. Bulgaria has expressed readiness to take part in a multinational NATO land brigade based in Romania, saying it could deploy up to 400 people for training and joint exercises. Under the Montreux Convention, countries which don’t have a Black Sea coastline cannot keep their warships there for more than 21 days.