U.S., Turkey conduct joint navy drills in Black Sea, Russia protests

Turkey and the United States conducted joint naval exercises in the Black Sea on Tuesday, prompting objections from Russia.

The military drills have “further strengthened cooperation between the naval forces of the two countries and has contributed to their interoperability,” the Turkish Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

Relations between NATO allies Turkey and the United States have worsened in recent years over Turkey's purchase of S-400 air defence missiles from Russia, which Washington maintains are incompatible with the NATO alliance's defence systems. Turkey has also intervened in Syria to battle Kurdish militants allied with the United States against Islamic State (ISIS). 

Two Turkish frigates, TCG TURGUTREİS and TCG ORUÇREİS and two U.S. destroyers, USS PORTER and USS DONALD COOK, participated in the maritime drills, alongside two Turkish F-16 jets and one U.S. maritime patrol aircraft, the Turkish Defence Ministry said.

Russia, which has large navy bases in the Black Sea, criticised the presence of the U.S. navy in the region, labelling it as “sabre rattling”, TASS news agency reported. The United States should “mind their business in waters of the United States”, the Russian embassy in Washington D.C. said.

David Satterfield, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, said that Ankara and Washington share a commitment to peace and stability in Europe and the Middle East as two NATO allies, the U.S. European Command reported on Wednesday.

“Joint exercises build confidence, improve communications and reinforce our already strong security partnership in the Black Sea and the wider region,” he said.

“Turkey is a highly valued ally and NATO maritime partner,” said Vice Admiral Eugene Black, the commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

The United States halted the delivery of 100 F-35 stealth fighter jets to Turkey after the Turkish government took delivery of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems in 2019. Washington imposed sanctions against officials of Turkey’s defence procurement agency in December.

Turkish and U.S. naval forces conducted joint exercises in August last year, in the Mediterranean.