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NATO to Stay in Black Sea Despite Tensions With Russia - Former Commander

Sputnik News

20:15 16.03.2015(updated 20:30 16.03.2015)

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis said the alliance will continue to operate in the Black Sea despite tensions with Russia.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The NATO alliance will continue its operations in the Black Sea even though tensions with Russia may be heightened as a result of its activities, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis told Sputnik.

"NATO will continue to operate freely in the Black Sea which is international waters," Stavridis said. "I doubt there will be open conflict between NATO and Russia in that region but it may come to resemble Cold War maneuvering, surveillance and moments of tension."

Since Crimea reunified with the Russian Federation last year, both NATO and Russia have increased their military presence in the Black Sea.

"No one wants to stumble backward into a new Cold War," Admiral Stavridis noted when asked about the growing military presence in the Black Sea. "Hopefully diplomacy will prevail."

Stavridis commented further that he believes the conflict in Ukraine, which has engulfed the West and Russia, is headed towards a "frozen conflict" with "continued sanctions and unfortunately more tension."

In a testimony to the US Congress in late February, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Philip Breedlove referred to the Alliance's exercises currently underway, saying that the Alliance is maintaining "an almost constant presence in Black Sea."

Breedlove further raised concerns about Russian deployments of anti-ship and anti-aircraft systems from the military base in Crimea.

Russian officials have said the presence of US military vessels in the Black Sea goes against claims by Washington of its commitment to a peaceful resolution for the Ukrainian conflict.

Increased military presence close to a regional conflict zone is a very dangerous maneuver that could lead to different unpleasant consequences, according to the officials.

NATO has been increasing its military presence close to the Russian border since Crimea reunified with Russia in March 2014. In January, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced plans to boost the bloc's military presence in Eastern Europe, also increasing the number of warships in the Black Sea.


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