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USS Monterey's Black Sea arrival raises Russia's hackles

The USS Monterey is participating in war games aimed at improving antipiracy operations. Russia, however, sees the antimissile cruiser as a veiled threat.

By Correspondent / June 14, 2011

A Romanian worker speaks on the phone back dropped by the USS Monterey in the Black Sea port of Constanta, Romania, on June 7. The USS Monterey, a war ship equipped with Aegis antimissile weaponry, is being sent to the Black Sea for war games with other nations.

Vadim Ghirda/AP

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Moscow

It's not quite the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it has some Russians recalling that grim cold war episode.

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Moscow claims the US is violating a strategic understanding, and potentially threatening Russia's nuclear deterrent, by sending the antimissile cruiser USS Monterey to participate in Black Sea war games with a dozen other nations.

Russia, which objects to any US military incursion into the Black Sea, was bound to disapprove of this week's Sea Breeze 2011 international naval exercises, cosponsored by the US and Ukraine, whose theme this year is antipiracy operations.

But the decision to send the Monterey, equipped with advanced Aegis antimissile weaponry, has Moscow unusually agitated and apparently fearful that the US is trying bypass ongoing – and deeply troubled – talks over European missile defense and slip a strategic threat into Russia's own back yard under the cover of peaceful exercises.

"If a routine 'visit' to this extremely sensitive region is the issue, why was a warship with this particular type of weaponry chosen?," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a sharp statement Sunday.

"We have to state that our concerns continue to be ignored and under the guise of talks on European missile shield cooperation, efforts are under way to build the missile shield configuration whose consequences are dangerous and about which we have numerously informed our US and NATO partners," it added.

The foreign ministry statement suggested Russia has received US assurances that the planned missile defense shield, designed to protect the West from rogue attacks, would mainly focus on ship-based Aegis deployments in the Mediterranean Sea, to defend southern Europe. They would only be sent to the Black Sea if the situation "deteriorated" in the region, it said.

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