The US is considering deploying warships to the Black Sea in coming weeks as Russia continues to amass forces along its border with Ukraine, according to a report published on Thursday.
The deployment would be intended as a direct message to Russia, CNN reported, citing anonymous officials.
Under terms of the Montreux Convention, the US as a non-Black Sea power is obligated to give Turkey prior notice before sending warships through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, which connect the sea with the Marmara Sea. It is unclear if Washington has already complied, according to CNN.
The US is reportedly already carrying out reconnaissance flights above the Black Sea intended to monitor Russian naval activity and surveil potential troops movements in Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine and annexed in 2014.
Russia has also been propping up separatist rebel forces in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region since that year. The ensuing fighting has seen more than 13,000 people killed in the past seven years, according to the UN.
Most recently, Russia has been amassing forces along the border at a level unseen since 2014, according to the White House.
The anonymous official told CNN the US does not currently view the buildup as a prelude for offensive action but said “if something changes we will be ready to respond.”
The developments come after US President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week that Washington unwaveringly supports “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea,” the White House said following a telephone call.