The authors of the report published by think tank The Heritage Foundation express this opinion.
The report calls on the United States and NATO to increase their presence in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, recommending the United States of America to expedite the transfer of US warships, being in reserve, to Ukraine. At the same time the authors of the report mention the Cyclone-class patrol ships.
These 54-meter-long warships, armed with guns and missiles, are now regarded as the most powerful ships of the US Navy.
Moscow has effectively turned the Sea of Azov into a Russian lake since the annexation of Crimea by the Russian federation in 2014. One exception is the port of Ukraine in Mariupol. If this port were neutralized, Russia would then pursue the similar outcome in the Black Sea. This is a direct threat to the security interests of the United States and NATO.
The strategic importance of the Black Sea for the United States stems primarily from two issues. The first one is contractual obligations of the USA to NATO. Three of the six Black Sea countries, namely, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, are members of NATO, and their security is guaranteed by the Alliance. Two other countries, namely, Georgia and Ukraine, participate in The Partnership for Peace, the NATO program.
Russia has always considered dominance in the Black Sea region a matter of national survival. Russian Black Sea ports, being the only warm water ports in the Russian Federation, have always served economic interests of the Russian Federation. Nowadays an oil tanker, carrying Russian or Kazakh oil, passes through the Bosphorus, also known as the Strait of Stanbul, in the Black Sea every 15 minutes.
The economic, security and political importance of the Black Sea and the region as a whole is becoming increasingly important. Security in the Sea of Azov is closely linked to security in the Black Sea. The security of the Black Sea is important not only for Allies, but also for Ukraine and Georgia because it provides them with an open door for future NATO membership. Since the Russian Federation uses the Black Sea as a place for arms for the conduct of operations in Syria and Libya, and it continues aggression against Ukraine and Georgia, the United States and the Alliance must not disregard the region.
The annexation of Crimea carried out by the Russian Federation in 2014 was an unprecedented act of foreign aggression in the 21st century. It has been the first time since 1945 when borders in Europe were changed by military force. The annexation cut coast of Ukraine in half and helped Moscow in fulfilling its long-term goal, turning the Black Sea into a lake controlled by the Russian Federation. In addition, Russia has claimed rights to underwater resources near the Crimean peninsula, which previously belonged to Ukraine.