USS Donald Cook in Black Sea shadowed by Russia

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Donald Cook passed through the Dardanelles Strait on Tuesday for a second Black Sea operation in a month, and Russia is again shadowing the ship.

The ship made a port stop last month in Batumi, Georgia, and conducted an exercise with two of that country’s coast guard vessels, while the Russian navy watched.

Moscow’s state news agency Tass reported Tuesday that the Russian Black Sea Fleet is “continuously tracking” the Donald Cook’s movements. It departed the Black Sea on Jan. 28.

This is the fourth time this year the USN has sent a warship to the Black Sea, following Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and arrest of 24 sailors in late November at the Kerch Strait. The U.S. and its allies have condemned the incident.

US Navy officials say the ship is augmenting maritime security, helping to ensure regional stability and boosting the readiness and capability of military allies.

“Each visit here affords us the unique opportunity to work with our regional maritime partners,” said Cmdr. Matthew Powel, commanding officer of the Donald Cook, in a statement.

Moscow views any U.S. warship in the region for any length of time as a provocation and the U.S. move to send a warship to the Black Sea will undoubtedly exacerbate tensions with Russia.