American missiles capable of striking Crimea fired into Black Sea as risk of confrontation on Russia’s borders continues to grow
The US military has conducted rocket-launch tests as part of NATO exercises, firing from Romania into the strategically vital Black Sea, amid rising tension on Russia’s borders.
Russian media reported on Wednesday that more than 130 soldiers and 30 units of military hardware were involved in the exercises, which saw two advanced weapons systems fire salvos at targets in the water. The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket (HIMARS) launchers were airlifted from US bases in Germany specifically for the drills.
Forbes covered the operation closely and noted that “it’s just 250 miles (440km) across the Black Sea from the Romanian coast to Crimea.” It went on to speculate about the rationale behind Washington’s decision to trial the weapons systems in such close proximity to Russia, saying that “Army HIMARS flying in and out of Romania pose a serious, and unpredictable, threat to Russian forces in the region.” The range of the launchers is around 300km, signaling that US forces might be able to use them to strike installations on the Crimean Peninsula, which reintegrated with Russia in 2014.Also on rt.com Are you invading, or just lost? Russian navy threatens to ram US warship ‘John McCain’ after it crosses border near Vladivostok
On Wednesday, the deputy head of the Public Chamber of Crimea, Alexander Formanchuk, warned reporters that Russian armed forces had deployed advanced hardware on the peninsula, which would neutralize any “surprise missile attack.” He argued that the exercises fit within a wider pattern of escalation, saying that “provocations against Crimea have become more frequent. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a further exacerbation of international relations and the international situation. And the topic of Crimea is a convenient reason for escalating such provocations.”
The news comes amid a worsening diplomatic row between the two countries, after Russia reported on Tuesday that the US Navy destroyer ‘John McCain’ was intercepted two kilometres inside Russian territorial waters, near Vladivostock in the Far East. The Udaloy-class destroyer, Admiral Vinogradov, had been tailing the American vessel and warned that it could be rammed if it did not leave the disputed Peter the Great Gulf.
The US Navy has rejected Moscow’s criticism of the perceived incursion, claiming that its warship had been on a so-called Freedom of Navigation Operation, and US officials challenged “Russia's excessive maritime claims [to the territory].”
Washington’s decision to unilaterally pull out of a number of agreements and arms-control deals has also fueled tensions with Russia. In 2019, the White House announced that it would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which had outlawed the testing and development of a number of rocket types, accusing Moscow of violating its terms. Russia strongly denies the US allegations.
Earlier this month, America terminated its membership of the Cold War-era Treaty on Open Skies, which had allowed for mutual aerial surveillance flights and was aimed at dispelling fears about the movement of military hardware and nuclear weapons. Again, the US State Department pointed the finger at Russia for the failure of the pact, although full details of any alleged violations have not yet been made public.
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