On Wednesday, the deployment of two warships to the Black Sea has canceled by the United States according to Turkish diplomatic concerns about Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders.

The US Navy routinely operates in the Black Sea, but the deployment of warships now would send a specific message to Moscow that the US is closely watching, the official said.

The US is required to give 14 days’ notice of its intention to enter the Black Sea under a 1936 treaty giving Turkey control of the straits to enter the sea. It is unclear if a notice has yet been sent.

The Defense official also said the Navy is continuing to fly reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace over the Black Sea to monitor Russian naval activity and any troops movements in Crimea.

Two US B-1 bombers conducted missions over the Aegean Sea on Wednesday, although the US does not see the amassing of Russian forces as posturing for 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.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara had notified Turkey’s foreign ministry of the move, the sources said but did not provide a reason. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency later reported that no new notices had been conveyed to Ankara for potential deployments at later dates.

U.S. officials said that Turkey may have misunderstood the initial notification and the deployment was never confirmed.

They said the United States frequently notifies Turkey for potential access to the Black Sea. But a request does not necessarily mean its ships will pass through, but rather ensures that if they choose to, they already have the required approval.

Russia, which warned Washington to stay far away from Crimea and its Black Sea coast, says the build-up is a three-week snap military drill to test combat readiness in response to what it calls threatening behaviour from NATO. It has said the exercise is due to wrap up within two weeks.

Ahead of the notification about U.S. warships, Russia’s navy on Wednesday began a drill in the Black Sea that rehearsed firing at surface and air targets. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Moscow on Tuesday to end its troop build-up.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has called for the “worrying” developments in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region to come to an end.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Russia to pull back troops from Ukrainian borders.

Biden proposed a summit of the estranged leaders to tackle disputes and told Moscow to reduce tensions over Ukraine, the White House said, on Tuesday in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia has amassed 80,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, and it is beginning to look serious. Joe Biden had planned to send two warships into the Black Sea but he chickened out at the last second.

Russia took advantage and blocked access to Kerch Strait, which serves as a key access point to the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said:

“Such actions of the Russian Federation are yet another attempt, in violation of the norms and principles of international law, to usurp the sovereign rights of Ukraine as a coastal state, since it is Ukraine that has the right to regulate shipping in these waters of the Black Sea. Also, this step is a gross violation of the right to freedom of navigation, guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. According to the Convention, the Russian Federation should not impede or interfere with transit passage through the international strait to ports in the Sea of Azov.”

Just a few days ago, Biden warned Russia to stay out of Ukraine and for China to stay out of Taiwan. Well, we have seen how embarrassingly unafraid Russia was and since the warnings, China has flown a record number of warplanes over the island of Taiwan.

Biden announced new sanctions with Russia and Putin responded vowing retaliation saying, “A price will be paid.”

Russia vowed to retaliate for a wave of new sanctions President Joe Biden announced against the country on Thursday, saying “Washington must realize that a price will be paid for bilateral relations’ degradation.”
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it summoned U.S. Ambassador to Russian John Sullivan shortly after the Thursday sanctions announcement. The Russian Foreign Ministry said, “The Ambassador was told that a series of retaliatory measures would follow shortly.”

Russia commented on Biden administration’s sanctions, saying they are “contrary to the declared intention to ‘build pragmatic relations with Russia.’”

Watch it here: Al Jazeera English/Youtube


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