The United States military confirmed on Tuesday that a guided missile cruiser is en route to the Black Sea as worries persist about the ongoing crisis between Ukraine and Russia.
"I can confirm the Vella Gulf, a Navy cruiser, will be going in to the Black Sea probably later this week," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told the press on Tuesday, AFP reported.
Earlier this week, RT reported that a military source had told Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency that the US Department of Defense was expected to deploy a ship towards the Black Sea this week as part of what Moscow is considering a wide build-up of NATO forces in the region. Now the Pentagon has confirmed that the Vella Guld will replace the USS Taylor, a frigate that was stationed in the Black Sea until May 12 and preceded by the presence of the USS Donald Cook.
An US-authorized treaty, the Montreux Conventions of 1936, bars outside countries from keeping warships in the body of war for more than 21 days. Instead of retiring America’s naval presence from the region altogether, though, the DOD is again exchanging one ship for another in the midst of the growing tensions between Ukraine’s interim government and those wanting a stronger alliance with neighboring Russia.
As RT reported previously, the Vella Gulf is 172 meters long, 16 meters wide and can carry two multipurpose helicopters. It is also equipped with an Aegis air and ballistic missile defensive system, Tomahawk cruise missiles, antisubmarine missiles and surface-to-air missiles.
Ahead of this week’s deployment, the Vella Gulf was expected to participate in a semi-annual, UK-led training exercise in the Mediterranean Sea “designed to provide NATO and allied forces a unique multi-warfare environment in which to prepare for global operations,” according to the ship’s newsletter.
According to AFP, the Pentagon plans to maintain a military presence in Eastern Europe through the end of the years as the standoff between Moscow and Kiev continues.