Russia Sees The US Navy’s Bet And Rises One


Russian Kashin class destroyer Smetlivy returning to the Black Sea on 7 February 2014. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.


Russian Kashin class destroyer Smetlivy returning to the Black Sea on 7 February 2014. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.


Russian Kashin class destroyer Smetlivy returning to the Black Sea on 7 February 2014. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.

The show down between Russia and USA on the Black Sea is continuing and it seems that it will not end before the Olympics.

While the US Navy warships LCC-20 USS Mount Whitney and FFG-50 USS Taylor are doing circles or “doughnuts” off the coast of Sochi, the Russians have called their Kashnin class destroyer Smetlivy back from the Mediterranean.

The large anti-submarine ship Smetlivy was laid in 1966 and commissioned in 1969. She is the sole remaining Kashin class destroyer and is attached to Russian Black Sea Fleet. She was refitted from 1990 till 1996. Though she is one of the oldest vessels of the Black Sea Fleet, she is still very active and made frequent deployments to the Eastern Mediterranean.


USS Mount Whitney and USS Taylor off the coast of Sochi.

As Smetlivy belongs to the Russian Black Sea Fleet her return to the Black Sea may be just the end of her regular deployment or and counter move to the two circling US navy warships off the coast of Sochi. It depends largely to your perspective and your perception of the news.

As I have said before and again, I believe the deployment of the two US Navy warships to the Black Sea is more political rather than practical as both ships lack the necessary means to conduct a civilian evacuation operation properly. They do not have (as far as I know) any marine detachments to provide security on shore around the civilians waiting for their evacuation at the deployment site nor enough boats or helicopters to ferry the civilians to the ships.


USNS Spearhead, doing her circles in the North Aegean. Will she pass through the Turkish Straits?

Russia made it very clear that the US Navy presence is legal but not welcomed much. Well if Russians are unhappy about the US Navy ships off the coast of Sochi, I believe Russians are to blamed for this. If they have called in the multinational maritime security task force BlackSeaFor, to support them to secure the Olympics it would may prevented non Black Sea nations to mingle.

The BlackSeaFor consists of warships from Black Sea nations and the task force is activated twice a year (in April and in August). The main purpose of the BlackSeaFor was to cooperatively promote security and stability in the Black Sea maritime area and beyond. Fighting against terrorism was added when the scope of the BlackSeaFor was extended. With three NATO navies  (Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania) among the participants, the BlackSeaFor is has the capability and the means to help the Russians to secure the maritime front of the Olympics and assure other nations to help their citizens if needed.

In the mean time another US (war)ship is making her doughnuts in the North Aegean: JHSV-1 USNS Spearhead. She  is the first ship in the Spearhead class Joint High Speed Vessel (a very fancy name for ferryboat), to be operated by the Military Sealift Command and christened on 17 September 2011. Vessels similar to USNS Spearhead, from the same shipbuilder, are being used by Istanbul Fast Ferries to carry passengers and vehicles around Marmara Sea. If deployed to the Black Sea the USNS Spearhead would provide means to US Navy to mass evacuation of civilians.


4 Responses to Russia Sees The US Navy’s Bet And Rises One

  1. Kevin Brent says:

    I agree with your assessments entirely. There should have been more cooperation if there were going to be US ships near Sochi, and one of them should have been a helicopter carrying amphibious ship. There is a lot of “politics” going on right now, between Washington and Moscow, as you well know I’m sure. Some of it in the news media, some of it not in the news media.

  2. mick says:

    I can believe that these ship movements are political, but it isn’t the usual “saber rattling” at all. The Mt. Whitney is a Command & Control ship without significant armament, which was just in the Black Sea a few weeks ago, which no one thought unusual. That the US sent a lowly frigate, both obsolete and rare (There are just 13 left in commission) underscores the point. Why not send an Arleigh-Burke with a belly full of cruise missiles? That would have been more “normal” (and explainable) in every respect. It is the de facto escort ship in the US Navy. That they DID NOT is the message, which is, “Hey, we’re not armed; we’re just listening to everything you say. No big deal.”

    So, my read on this is that it is an extremely low key deployment, done so quite on purpose to avoid any hint of escalation.

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