U.S. policy will continue to stand with friends and allies at the Black Sea to enhance deterrence and make sure that actions such as those Russia conducted over the recent years in the region don’t go any further, U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires David Muniz told AGERPRES in an interview on Saturday, adding that the U.S. authorities work actively with the Romanian Government in advancing Romania towards the Visa Waiver Program.
The statements were made aboard the USS Mount Whitney, U.S. Sixth Fleet flagship, which arrived in the Port of Constanta for a stopover on Friday, together with destroyer USS Porter, both ships being in the Black Sea waters, according to the U.S. Navy, for standard maritime operations alongside NATO partners and allies.
“The significance of the ship visit [in Constanta] is important, signifying the excellent security relationship between our two countries,” David Muniz said.
Constanta is the third port, after Istanbul, Turkey, and Batumi, Georgia, where USS Mount Whitney stopped, after it left from Gaeta, Italy, on October 29. The ship was scheduled to leave the Port of Constanta on Sunday.
Seven military ships of the naval forces of Romania, U.S (including USS Mount Whitney and USS Porter), Turkey and Ukraine participated on Friday in an exercise carried out in the international waters of the Black Sea, off the Romanian coast, according to the National Defence Ministry.
Asked to comment Russia’s reaction according to which the U.S. is conducting aggressive activities and creating a multinational military force at the Black Sea, the U.S. diplomat said operations such as those of USS Mount Whitney are planned long in advance.
“The Russians routinely claim that everything we do is provocative, but, in fact, our transparency in planning exercises within NATO is one of the things that marks out NATO as an alliance of democratic nations that work together transparently for security and mutual defense, not for aggressive purposes,” he said.
“The Black Sea is an area of conflict, if you will, not active, military conflict, but certainly it’s an area of tension and conflict. We’ve seen the actions Russia is taking, annexing illegally pieces of Ukraine, actions in eastern Ukraine, issues with territory in Georgia. U.S. policy will continue to be to stand with our friends and allies, to increase interoperability, increase deterrence, continue to work with the navies of allies and partner nations in the Black Sea, to enhance deterrence and make sure that things [Russia’s actions, ed. note] don’t go any further,” David Muniz also said.
Present alongside the U.S. diplomat, Vice Admiral Eugene H. Black III, Commander of United States Sixth Fleet, in turn, told AGERPRES, that this operation of USS Mount Whitney, which entered the Black Sea on November 4, had been planned some time ago.
“This is how alliances and partnerships work, normal operations with allies and friends, and how Russia chooses to characterize it is Russia’s choice. I am glad to be sound with my NATO partners, I am glad to be visiting Romania,” the U.S. Vice Admiral said.
In his speech delivered to the reception organized on the ship on the occasion of the presence of USS Mount Whitney in the Port of Constanta, Vice Admiral Eugene H. Black III said that the U.S. “values the key-role that Romania plays in hosting and contributing to the Black Sea exercises, which promote maritime cooperation and interoperability.”
“Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said during his visit to Romania last month [October, ed. note] and I quote ‘Security and stability of the Black Sea are an U.S. national interest and are critical to the security of NATO’S eastern flank.’ To promote this security and stability, we are committed to working together to deepen Black Sea cooperation,” the Commander of United States Sixth Fleet also said.
Asked about the recent calls Romania and Ukraine made for an enhancement of the U.S. military presence in the Black Sea region, U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires said in the interview to AGERPRES: “We don’t have any news plans at this time, we stand close with Romania, we continue to appreciate all of that Romania does to have so many U.S. forces here.”
Furthermore, asked about what was his message to Romanians, who see that there is a strategic partnership between Bucharest and Washington, and that Romania observes its commitments about military spending, nonetheless they cannot travel to the United States without a visa, David Muniz said: “We work actively with the Romanian Government in advancing Romania towards the Visa Waiver Program, which we know is a priority for everyone here, not just for your Government, for your people.”
“I would say, having been here now for over one year, I can testify that it is not terribly difficult for a Romanian to obtain a visa if they want to. A very, very high number of Romanians get visas. The travel season we’ve had because of COVID has never been fantastic over the last couple of years, but, in general, it’s not hard to travel, and so we look forward to making it even easier in the future,” the U.S. diplomat said.
Photo: Facebook/U.S. Embassy Bucharest