A US defense official has told CNN on Thursday that the Biden administration is seriously considering sending warships into the Black Sea amid reports that Russia is mustering forces near the border with Ukraine in response to a renewed uptick in fighting in nearby Donbas.
The warships could be deployed "in the next few weeks in a show of support for Ukraine," the unnamed defense official described. And further, "The US Navy routinely operates in the Black Sea, but a deployment of warships now would send a specific message to Moscow that the US is closely watching, the official said," according to the CNN report.
Typically the US gives 14-days notice prior to sending warships into the Black Sea, according to a long established treaty with Turkey regarding use of the Bosporus to enter the waters.
Importantly, the new CNN reporting comes two days after Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky personally urged NATO to immediately expand its Black Sea presence.
He had said in a phone call with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, "Such a permanent presence should be a powerful deterrent to Russia, which continues the large-scale militarization of the region and hinders merchant shipping," the president's press service indicated in a readout.
Despite a slew of international reports this week hyping threat of a Russian "offensive" in eastern Ukraine - based largely on Kiev officials loudly claiming as much - the Pentagon's official assessment still appears to be that the Kremlin is not preparing for some kind of offensive move on Ukraine.
Surprisingly even CNN is bluntly stating that the US doesn't see this as imminent, despite all the breathless reports over extra Russian troops in Crimea and near the border:
Although the US does not see the amassing of Russian forces as posturing for an offensive action, the official told CNN that "if something changes we will be ready to respond."
Their current assessment is that the Russians are conducting training and exercises and intelligence has not indicated military orders for further action, the official said, but noted that they are well-aware that could change at any time.
But should US battleships indeed enter the Black Sea (though they semi-regularly conduct drills there) during this particular period of heightened tensions, we can expect Russia will "answer" with a greater naval build-up in its own backyard - something which appears to have already begun in a preemptive fashion.