US Navy Cancels Participation In "Essential" Annual Black Sea Drills, Citing Ukraine War

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Jul 26, 2022 - 02:25 AM

The United States has canceled its participation in major annual naval drills which were set to take place on the Black Sea, citing the dangerous regional situation amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Sea Breeze 2022 exercise which takes place in July every year was "canceled due to Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine," according to a US Navy statement given to Newsweek Monday. However, in reality it is only the US military's full participation in Sea Breeze that was suspended - not the entirety of the exercise itself.

Prior Sea Breeze 2021 maneuvers, via AP

The Navy had previously called the war games "essential" during last year's drills involving 32 warships, including a large US missile destroyer. Ironically the US Navy cast last year's drill as crucial for deterring potential Russian aggression against Ukraine. 

But at the time Moscow had cited as part of its war justification NATO's military infrastructure expansion into Ukraine. It offered as evidence the increase in military exercises involving Ukraine's navy and its more powerful Western allies.

While Washington clearly suspended its participation out of concern that it could create a scenario of inadvertent hostile military exchange with Russia, the Sea Breeze 2022 drills are actually still happening but in smaller, scaled-down form, and also geographically further away from Ukraine's coast.

Identifying the Bulgarian Black Sea port cities of Varna and Burgas as playing host to the games, Newsweek describes:

The drills will include 24 vessels, five planes, and two helicopters, according to the Bulgarian News Agency. Breeze 2022 is the first large-scale NATO exercise since Russia's latest invasion of Ukraine began.

No U.S. ships will be involved; though U.S. personnel and aircraft will. Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance planes from Task Force 67 based in Sicily, Italy, and personnel from Task Force 68 in Spain, will take part, the 6th Fleet said last week.

Breeze will involve 1,390 personnel from 10 NATO nations—including Albania, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Turkey.

So while having officially pulled out of the drills that it typically leads, the US is still giving reconnaissance support from a base in Italy during what Newsweek called "a slimmed-down alternative" of the drills.

Meanwhile, another source of tension between Russia and the aforementioned Western military allies remains transit into the Black Sea, after during the opening months of the war Turkey warned against the West or any country sending military vessels through the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits, citing that it would enforce the Montreux Convention of 1936.

Last week, a shaky deal was finalized that will theoretically allow Ukraine to export its blocked grain exports; however, it's unclear how soon or even if it will materialize. Some NATO countries have mulled putting in place an international naval coalition to open up a 'humanitarian' shipping corridor on the Black Sea - a plan which has thus far been shelved as it would likely ensure head-on conflict with Russia.