The United States has suspended all military exercises with Russia in response to the invasion of the eastern region of Crimea as the standoff in Ukraine continues to escalate.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby released a statement to reporters late Monday detailing the suspension of military exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences between the two militaries.
“Although the Department of Defense finds value in the military-to-military relationship with the Russian Federation we have developed over the past few years to increase transparency, build understanding, and reduce the risk of military miscalculation we have, in light of recent events in Ukraine, put on hold all military-to-military engagements between the United States and Russia,” Kirby said. “This includes exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences.”
“The Defense Department is closely monitoring the situation and remains in close contact with the State Department and interagency, along with our Allies, Partners and NATO. We call on Russia to deescalate the crisis in Ukraine and for Russian forces in Crimea to return to their bases, as required under the agreements governing the Russia Black Sea Fleet,” the statement said.
An April 13 planning conference for the biannual Northern Eagle exercise between the U.S., Norway and Russia is expected to be canceled, according to Stars & Stripes.
As many as 16,000 Russian troops have entered Crimea. “So far, Ukrainian armed forces have exercised restraint and refrained from active resistance to the aggression, but they are in full operational readiness,” Ukrainian Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev said, CNN reported.
Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to Kiev to mediate a resolution to the escalating conflict. He urged a “diplomatic and economic” solution. “Russia has major investment and trade needs and desires. I think there’s a unified view by all of the foreign ministers I talked with yesterday, all of the G-8 and more, that they’re simply going to isolate Russia, that they’re not going to engage with Russia in a normal, business as usual manner, that Russia is inviting opprobrium on the international stage,” Kerry said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Pentagon officials said there has been “no change to our military posture in Europe or the Mediterranean.” There were two U.S. Navy ships in the Black Sea during the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. One ship, the USS Taylor, ran aground and its commander was replaced. A Navy official told Defense One that the Taylor is in port in Samsun, Turkey. The USS Mount Whitney is reportedly on a port visit to Istanbul.
“Our Navy units continue to conduct routine, previously planned operations and exercises with allies and partners in the region,” Kirby said.