On February 19th, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) entered the Black Sea for the second time in 2019.
The warship is to “conduct maritime security operations and enhance regional maritime stability, combined readiness, and naval capability with our NATO allies and partners in the region.” This is part of NATO’s on-going Operation Atlantic Resolve.
“Each visit here affords us the unique opportunity to work with our regional maritime partners,” said Cmdr. Matthew Powel, commanding officer of Donald Cook. “The crew and I look forward to experiencing the rich history and culture in this region.”
Donald Cook is forward deployed to Rota, Spain, and has made several trips to the Black Sea through the years, as part of the Navy’s continual effort demonstrating a commitment to partnering with NATO allies locating on the Black Sea.
It is likely that a Russian Navy warship is shadowing the movement of the US destroyer.
USS Donald Cook visited the Black Sea in January and visited Batumi, Georgia and conducted an exercise with two Georgian Coast Guard ships. According to TASS the destroyer left the region on January 28th.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet’s guard ship Pytlivy tracked the US vessel’s movements at the time.
This most recent by the USS Donald Cook marks the fourth time the US Navy has sent a warship in the Black Sea in 2019, following the Ukrainian provocation south of the Kerch Strait on November 25th, in which Russian Coast Guard vessels seized Ukrainian gunboats and arrested 24 sailors.
In 2016, the USS Donald Cook was “buzzed” by Russian fighter jets while it was in the Baltic Sea.
The US criticized the maneuvers, labelling them “simulated attack profiles” and saying the Russian aircraft didn’t respond to repeated safety advisories in English and Russian.
At one point, a sailor is heard saying “Oh my God” as the jets pass by. The US Navy said in a statement at the time:
“We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight maneuvers. These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death.”
Back then, Russia’s Defense Ministry, said the criticism was “not consistent with reality” and that its aircraft had “performed strictly in accordance with the international regulations on the use of airspace.”
Earlier, in 2014, a Russian Su-24 Fencer flew at a low altitude above the USS Donald Cook, while it was operating in the Black Sea.
Back then the warship was shadowed by a Russian Navy frigate.
There are also numerous other reports of Russian jets flying low above US warships in the Baltic, Pacific and others. This is not an uncommon practice. The uncreased US naval activity, which tiggers a response from the Russians, is another sign of the growing tensions between the sides.