Two U.S. Navy vessels, the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) entered the Batumi port on November 8.
The two vessels are ships of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa 6th Fleet, which stated the visit highlights “an important relationship between NATO allies and vital Black Sea partner Georgia.”
USS Porter is on its fourth trip to Georgia, while USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, is on its fifth. The latter was one of the vessels to carry U.S. humanitarian assistance to Georgia following the 2008 Russo-Georgian war.
According to the statement, an integrated team of the U.S. Sixth Fleet and Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO are operating onboard the USS Mount Whitney.
“The interoperability between the commands, and their presence in the region, demonstrates the U.S. and NATO’s commitment to the Black Sea and to working with allies and partners to advance peace and prosperity in the region,” the 6th Fleet stressed.
Welcome back #USSMountWhitney & #USSPORTER! Visit of 2 🇺🇸 ships is a clear manifestation of 🇺🇸🇬🇪 robust strategic partnership, demonstrates our commitment to #BlackSeaSecurity, enhances 🇬🇪's interoperability w/ #NATO & promotes regional peace & stability. @USNavyEurope @usingeo pic.twitter.com/ScftaYh4sh
— David Zalkaliani (@DZalkaliani) November 8, 2021
The two vessels entered the Black Sea on November 4 to conduct maritime operations with NATO Allies and regional partners. Before arriving in Batumi, the ships executed bilateral maneuvering drills, communication testing, and simulated exercises with vessels from the Bulgarian and Turkish navies.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said on November 7 Moscow was keeping a close eye and tracking the two U.S. warships in the Black Sea, claiming any provocations were possible.
According to Russian news agency TASS, he asserted the U.S. vessels’ Black Sea operations were part of a constant attempt to test Russia and see its preparedness and the effectiveness of its systems along the Black Sea coast and on its southern border.
“As I understand it, they are subsequently planning drills with our neighbors, drills with the Georgian and Ukrainian navies,” said the Russian Defense Minister, adding “But we also hold drills and will keep doing so.”