The U.S. Coast Guard has made its first visit to the Black Sea since 2008.
The Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton (WMSL-753) passed through the Bosporus Strait on 27 April to participate in training operations with NATO and partners in the region.
The strategic inland sea—the world’s largest—is bordered by Turkey, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Passage of commissioned national ships is governed by the 1936 Montreux Convention, which restricts the size, armament, and types of ships belonging to non-bordering countries that can enter. The last U.S. Coast Guard cutter to operate there was the USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716), according to a statement released by U.S. Sixth Fleet.
Tensions in the region have been running high in 2021. In March, two ships from Carrier Strike Group Eight—the USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) and Monterey (CG-61)—operated there, but a planned visit by two more Navy ships in April was reportedly canceled at the last moment.
According to multiple media reports, Russia announced operating restrictions on 21 April, amid a troop buildup along its border with Ukraine. As of 12 May, The New York Times was reporting that as many as 80,000 Russian troops were still massed near the border, a situation NATO was said to be monitoring closely. Reuters reported that the Russian Black Sea Fleet guided-missile cruiser Moskva conducted live-fire drills the same day the Hamilton transited the Bosporus.
Ukrainian media report that the Hamilton’s operations in the region have been shadowed by the Russian Navy patrol vessel Pavel Derzhavin. The Hamilton has conducted routine patrols as well as worked on shipboard and aviation operations with the Turkish frigate Turgutreis and vessels belonging to the Georgian Coast Guard.