Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is in Romania to reassure NATO allies America is ready to defend them. This includes a bigger US presence in the Black Sea, especially since Russia annexed Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula, from Ukraine.
Hagel took a tour of the US Navy cruiser Vella Gulf, which is “the deadliest U.S. vessel deployed to the Black Sea” since mid-March when Russia annexed Crimea. The crew showed Hagel the ship’s high-tech ballistic missile defense systems.
“The Vella Gulf is a clear representation of America’s commitment to security in the region,” he said.
The ship has been in the Black Sea for two weeks; international law only allows US ships to be in the area for 21 days.
“The U.S. has maintained a regular naval presence in the Black Sea since mid-March, with the USS Truxton, the USS Donald Cook, and the USS Taylor all conducting port calls in Romania, and we will sustain this tempo going forward,” Hagel continued. “We are also stepping up our cooperation with other partners and allies surrounding the Black Sea, including Bulgaria, Georgia, Turkey, and Ukraine.”
Romania is one of the few European Union countries that want very harsh sanctions against Moscow. Romania does not border Russia, but it does border the Black Sea in proximity to Crimea. After Russia made it known to the world it wanted Crimea, Romania engaged in more military and naval exercises with the US.
“I wanted to visit Romania to make clear that the United States appreciates Romania’s contributions to security in the region and around the world,” he said at a news conference alongside Romanian Defense Minister Mircea Dusa. “Romanian troops served with honor in Iraq. Some 1,200 remain deployed in Afghanistan… and the United States is grateful for Romania’s steadfast commitment to the NATO mission there, especially as your nation marks 10 years of NATO membership. America recognizes the sacrifices of Romanian troops – and their families – over the past decade of war.”