The National Defence Management Centre (NDMC) said the NATO fleet included the US guided missile destroyer USS Gravely, the Polish frigate ORP General Kazimierz Pulaski, the Turkish frigate Gokova and the Spanish frigate Almirante Juan de Borbon. An NDMC spokesman said: “In order to work out a prompt response in case of potential incidents or accidents in the waters of the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea Fleet forces are tracking the NATO ships. Ship strike groups, the Bal and Bastion coastal defence missile systems, as well as navy jets are on duty in the designated regions”
Moscow said the Baltic Sea Fleet forces had carried out similar operations on a number of occasions following NATO incursions into the Baltic Sea this year.
The spokesman said the USS Gravely along with the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Porter sailed into the Baltic Sea on January 21 and were tracked by Russian fleet’s corvettes Boikiy and Soobrazitelnyy. USS Gravely entered the Baltic Sea again on February 26.
The NATO warships, part of the six-vessel Standing NATO Maritime Group 1, have recently been taking part in “challenging” Exercise Joint Warrior drills in the North Sea.
SNMG1 Commander Rear Admiral Edward Cashman of the US Navy said: “It was an extremely challenging exercise involving air forces, land forces and maritime, so we get all the interaction between the different component forces in a very challenging scenario and gives us the chance to exercise the full capabilities of maritime security and protection of shipping to high-end maritime combat situations.
“Our primary function is as the maritime component of the NATO high-readiness joint task force.
“My whole mission is to be ready in case we are activated to respond to any crisis.”
Tensions between Russia and NATO forces are running high after Britain deployed five apache attack helicopters in a move Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson warned is to fight off a “very credible threat” from Russia.
The aircraft have been sent to Estonia and will be supported by Wildcat battlefield reconnaissance helicopters.
They will become part of the NATO-enhanced forward presence (EFP), which was set up to fend off potential military aggression from Moscow.
The Apaches will be stationed in Estonia, which borders Russia to the east and Latvia to the south, for three months.
Mr Williamson said: “It’s a very credible threat that we see from Russia and part of the reason that we’re deploying five Apache attack helicopters is making sure that we’re constantly adapting to a changing situation.”