A U.S. naval vessel armed with ballistic missile defense technology sailed to Georgia on Monday to take part in training activities with nations on the Black Sea, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, June 13).
The Aegis-equipped USS Monterey was deployed to Europe under the first part of the Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach" for antimissile operations on the continent. Russia has questioned why the naval cruiser is in the Black Sea if the feared missile threat originates from the south, in the Middle East.
The Aegis warship docked at the Georgian port of Batumi in order to participate in a three-day training event with regional coast guards, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi said.
"The USS Monterey is operating in the Black Sea to conduct joint maritime training with several countries adjoining the Black Sea," the embassy stated in provided comments.
"U.S. ships have regularly deployed in the Black Sea region for many years and represent the continuing U.S. commitment to Black Sea regional stability and maritime security," the embassy said.
Moscow raised objections earlier in June to the warship's presence in the Black Sea ,where it took part in joint maritime maneuvers with Ukraine. Russia fears that U.S. missile defense infrastructure could be secretly aimed against its nuclear arsenal.
"The Russian side has repeatedly stressed that we will not let pass unnoticed the appearance of elements of U.S. strategic infrastructure in the immediate proximity to our borders and will see such steps as a threat to our security," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in released remarks.
Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze dismissed Russia's worries.
"As far as the Russian Foreign Ministry's protest is concerned, the training is aimed at improving global security in the region," Kalandadze said to journalists on Monday. "It has nothing to do with Russia" (Agence France-Presse I/Expatica.com, June 20).
The Obama plan for European missile defense involves the phased fielding of increasingly advanced sea- and land-based missile interceptors around the continent. It is to be folded into a wider NATO effort to augment and link up individual alliance members' antimissile capabilities.
Neither Georgia nor Ukraine is a member of NATO.
The Western military alliance, though is reported to have agreed to address missile defense issues during a series of 64 events this year with Ukraine, according to AFP.
The Kommersant newspaper on Tuesday described a secret document on approved NATO and Ukrainian cooperative activities for 2011 that in addition to missile defense discussions include talks on energy resources and prospects for the Russian Black Sea fleet (Agence France-Presse II/Expatica.com, June 21).
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said on Tuesday, though, his nation had no intention of participating in missile defense development for Europe, ITAR-Tass reported.
"As for missile defense, we did not, do not and, I am confident, will not plan to take part in the construction of this system," he said (ITAR-Tass, June 21).
Meanwhile, the Iranian ambassador to Romania claimed the NATO antimissile system would be aimed squarely at Russia rather than his nation, AFP reported.
"We believe the antimissile shield is not aimed against us," Bajador Aminian Jazi asserted to the website HotNews. "We don't have a nuclear program targeting any other country, our missiles are defensive only."
He continued that "you are importing Russian gas. I think that in the future, given also this antimissile system, you will have some problems with them."
Jazi said NATO plans to construct a missile defense system originated in 1984 when it was envisioned "to annihilate the Soviet Union's supremacy."
Jazi on Monday was called to the Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry to explain his assertion.
"The Romanian side stressed that such statements are not constructive. The [missile defense] system is a purely defensive one and cannot therefore be aimed against any country," according to a press release from Bucharest.
Romania has agreed to host 24 U.S. missile interceptors as part of the NATO missile defense effort (Agence France-Presse III/Spacewar.com, June 20).