Russia blasts appearance of US cruiser Monterey in Black Sea

Ukraine, Odessa: Sailor of US Navy destroyer Mcfaul smokes after USA-Ukrainian Navy exercises. (AFP Photo/ Sergey Supinsky)
Moscow sees the entry of the US Monterey guided missile cruiser into the Black Sea as a step in the development of the US unilateral missile defense shield.

­US guided missile cruiser Monterey, carrying Aegis missile systems, has entered the Black Sea for naval maneuvers with Ukraine called Sea Breeze 2011.

The move has aroused concerns in Russia as it sees the appearance of any US strategic infrastructure elements close to its borders poses a threat to its security. This particular move was a part of Washington’s “adaptive approach to the formation of the European segment of the global missile shield,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The first stage in this program envisions the deployment of an American naval force in the Adriatic, Aegean and Mediterranean seas, the ministry explained. The main task of the US force is to defend the Southern European countries “from hypothetical missile threats.”  

Moscow and Washington are currently discussing possible co-operation in missile defense area, and Russia has said no progress has been achieved so far. If the US and NATO choose to start building the missile defense shield for Europe without Russia’s participation, this could start a new arms race, Moscow warned. Russia is concerned that the new Western missile defense shield may pose a threat to its strategic nuclear arsenal and needs a guarantee that this is not the case.

Russia was especially outraged by the fact that a warship carrying Aegis missile systems was chosen to be sent to European waters for an anti-pirate operation exercised during Sea Breeze 2011. But earlier concerns about the emergence of elements of the US strategic infrastructure in the direct vicinity of Russia’s borders have been “demonstratively” disregarded, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the US State Department again brushed aside Russia’s warnings. It responded on Monday by saying that Russia “decries” the whole Sea Breeze 2011 exercises, which Washington considers a sign of its “close co-operation with Ukraine.” The spokesman Mark Toner said that the Russians “are entitled to their opinion.” The exercises take place in keeping with partnership with Kiev, he noted.

But the emergence of US cruiser Monterey in the Black Sea only strengthened Russia’s demands of guarantees from the US and NATO. The warship, in carrying Aegis missile systems, and its entry to the sea shared by Russia and Ukraine, is a clear defiance of the current talks and logic of the reset of the Russian-US relations, believes Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs. The cruiser’s presence seems to be “excessive and undesirable, and in some ways provoking emotions and undermining climate of trust between Russia and the US,” he said.    

The US is trying to move the naval part of its missile defense system to Russia’s borders, a source on the Russian General Staff told Komsomolskaya Pravda daily. But such maneuvers could cancel out talks on the mutual European missile defense, which already facing difficulties, he said.

If such warships like Monterey “hang about” near Russian borders, in the case of escalation of the situation, they could considerably undermine Russia’s missile arsenal in the region, the source stressed. “Who will like that?” he asked. “The Americans are behaving in a strange way: they speak about the reset, but hinder it at the same time.”