The US Navy operates regularly in the Black Sea, but the deployment of warships will now send a specific message to Moscow, which the US is closely monitoring, the official said.
The United States must give 14 days’ notice of its intention to enter the Black Sea under a 1936 treaty that gave Turkey control over the straits. It is unclear whether the notice has yet been sent.
The defense official also said that the Navy continues to fly reconnaissance planes in international airspace over the Black Sea to monitor Russian naval activity and any movements of troops in Crimea.
On Wednesday, two US B-1 bombers conducted missions over the Aegean Sea.
Although the United States does not see the build-up of Russian forces as posing for an offensive, the official told CNN that “if anything changes, we will be ready to respond.”
The Biden administration and the international community have expressed concern about growing tensions between Ukraine and Russia. In recent weeks, President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Millie and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have spoken to their Ukrainian counterparts.
“We are concerned about the recent escalating Russian aggressions in eastern Ukraine, including credible reports about Russian troops moving along Ukraine’s borders and occupied Crimea,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said this week.
“We have asked Russia for an explanation for these provocations, but the most important thing is that what we are signaling directly to our Ukrainian partners is a message of reassurance,” he said.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said this week that it was “important that all parties comply with the Minsk Agreement” and that “Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty be respected by Russia.”
On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops to de-escalate the situation, according to a spokesman for the German government.
According to a reading of the Kremlin call, Putin accused Kiev of “provocative actions”.