The number of NATO ships in the waters of the Black Sea today is larger than it was during the days of the Soviet Union. Even during the war with Georgia in 2008, the Alliance and the U.S. did not send so many cruisers, frigates, patrol and reconnaissance vessels to the Black Sea. Today, there are nine of them, but Russian defense officials say that there is nothing to fear. In case of aggression against the Russian Federation, nine NATO ships will be able to stay afloat for a few minutes only.
"In the Black Sea basin, there is Vella Gulf cruiser of the U.S. Navy, French frigate Surcouf, two reconnaissance boats of France and Italy, Dupuy de Lome, and reconnaissance boat of the Italian Navy Elettra," a source said. In addition, an Italian patrol ship, Italian and Turkish minesweepers and a British anti-mine defense ship take part in NATO exercises as well.
In accordance with the Montreux Convention from 1936, warships of non-Black Sea countries may stay in the waters of the Black Sea for 21 days. Noteworthy, during Maidan riots in Ukraine and after the closing of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, diplomats and military officials noted that the U.S. and NATO violated the convention in terms of tonnage and the time of presence of warships in the waters of the Black Sea.
Interestingly enough, the Black Sea Fleet of Russia completed the deployment of vessels in the Black Sea for naval exercises as well. It was said that the drills would take place on the territory of the entire Black Sea. Warships fire missiles, and aircraft practice massive target bombings; the units of coastal missile and artillery troops operate as well to practice the destruction of enemy fleets and landings from mainland.
Officials with the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation said that the goal of the drills is to "defend sea communications and deployment areas," including, missile launches, launches of cruise missiles, bombardment of complex target positions and missile launches by coastal defense systems.
NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow has recently stated that in light of the Ukrainian crisis, NATO declared Russia an adversary, rather than a partner. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen acknowledged recently that Russia "fights smarter and faster than NATO." He added that even in case of peacekeeping or military intervention of Russia in Ukraine, NATO will not fight with Russia.
"The NATO navy poses no real threat. This is a form of pressure on the Russian Federation, a way to support Ukraine and comfort ... junior partners of NATO," a senior officer of the Russian defense ministry told politonline.ru. "The vessels that are now staying in the waters of the Black Sea, would not be able to cause significant damage either to Russia's Black Sea Fleet, or to the territory of Russia, even if they wanted to. In case of aggression against Russia, they would live for five or ten minutes, but no one needs a nuclear strike that may follow," the officer said.
The official also said that the imitation of the attack of the Russian bomber Su-24 on USS Donald Cook produced a "demoralizing effect" on the crew. Foreign media reported that "27 sailors of the U.S. Navy destroyer Donald Cook wrote reports of resignation, while military psychologists had to work with others who stayed."
It was also reported that "Russian sailors involved in large-scale maneuvers in the Black Sea, will monitor the activities of NATO ships.
Presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, who was accredited for the press conference by Vladimir Putin from Dozhd (Rain) television channel, asked Putin about competition at the coming election
On December 14, President Putin holds his annual Q&A session with Russian and foreign journalists. This conference is considered to be the beginning of his presidential campaign