This reality is almost certainly one of the reasons why Navy destroyers based in Spain have been equipped with specialized electronic warfare systems that are, at least in part, designed to defend against anti-ship missiles. You can read more about the AN/SLQ-62 Transportable Electronic Warfare Module-Speed To Fleet (TEWM-STF) system here. These ships have other special modifications, as well, including the SeaRAM point defense systems.
It’s also interesting to note that 15 days ago, when Turkey said the U.S. government formally notified it of its latest plans to send warships into the Black Sea, would be March 25, two days after the conclusion of a major Russian military exercise in the southwestern portion of the country. Significant numbers of troops that had taken part in those drills then stayed in the area afterward, reportedly drawing the attention and concern of U.S. officials.
In addition, On March 26, four Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a recent spike in fighting between that country’s military and separatists who occupy areas in the eastern portion of the country that is known collectively as the Donbass. Those groups, who have been fighting the government in Kyiv since 2014, have significant ties to Russian intelligence agencies and receive direct support from actual elements of the Russian military.
By March 27, there were clear indications that Russia was conducting a major military buildup along its borders with Ukraine. Russian authorities have since confirmed these deployments, which are still ongoing, though they claim they are part of series of readiness drills across the country.
On March 30, The New York Times reported that U.S. European Command (EUCOM) had raised an internal alert level regarding the security situation in Ukraine from “possible crisis” to “potential imminent crisis.” The latter level was reported to be the most serious on the watch list’s scale.
“The fact that they [the Russians] haven’t been transparent is only causing more instability, more insecurity” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said today. “We’re watching this very very carefully.”
“It is a big build-up… the biggest one that we’ve seen since 2014,” he continued. “We don’t think that the Russian have been totally transparent about what they’re doing.”
What exactly might be driving the current Russian military buildup near Ukraine remains murky, whether or not an actual escalation in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is indeed in the offing. A water crisis in Crimea, as well as domestic political issues in Russia, especially surrounding the imprisonment and worryingly poor health of Alexei Navalny, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and anti-corruption activist, appear to be among the factors.
The impending arrival of U.S. Navy warships in the Black Sea is all but certain to draw a response of some kind from the Russian government. Russian officials have already begun to blame NATO, as well as Ukraine, for the spike in tensions in the region. This kind of rhetoric reflects misinformation and disinformation tactics the Kremlin has regularly employed in the past to deflect and distract from its own malign activities.
How all of this might impact the continued evolution of the situation on the Ukraine-Russia border remains to be seen.
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