Wednesday December 01, 2021

US to challenge Russia in Black Sea

October 22, 2021

BUCHAREST: On the day that two Russian fighter jets suddenly scrambled to intercept a US bomber refuelling mid-air near Crimea, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was visiting three Black Sea states.

The high-profile trip for the normally low-key Pentagon chief demonstrated that aside from facing down military expansion in the Indo-Pacific, the administration of US President Joe Biden sees the Black Sea as a key front in challenging Russia.

And the scrambling of the Russian Sukhoi jets on Tuesday shows how the region is perhaps the riskiest flashpoint on Nato’s eastern flank and how steep the challenge is for the Pentagon in contesting Moscow’s dominance of the Black Sea.

Ausin this week visited Georgia, Romania and Ukraine, seeking to shore up Western allies from the former Soviet bloc. In Tbilisi, he and Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili initialled a plan for a new six-year military training programme. "The security and stability of the Black Sea are in the US’s national interest and critical for the security of Nato’s eastern flank," Austin said on Wednesday in Romania.

"The region is vulnerable to Russian aggression." There was no comment from Moscow on Austin’s efforts, but for the in-air challenge to the US bombers Tuesday from the Russian jets. US experts concede that so far Russia remains impervious.