The North-Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) plans to take steps to ensure that Ukrainian ships have safe passage through the Kerch Strait, US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison told foreign reporters on Tuesday 2 April.
Hutchison confirmed that a corresponding package of measures should be approved during a two-day conference in Washington starting on Wednesday.
“The package will step up aerial surveillance, and will involve sending more NATO ships to the Black Sea in order to guarantee the safe passage of Ukrainian ships through the Kerch Strait and the Azov sea,” she said.
The US representative commented that at present “more attention is needed to guarantee that these waters are liberated” and that the countries in the region are “free from Russian interference”.
“Russia has been deploying defensive weapons in Crimea, but Crimea is part of Ukraine,” Hutchison remarked.
“It is very important that the inhabitants of Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Georgia feel at home in the Black Sea zone, both in the water and on land,” she said, adding that the package of measures is a response to November’s Kerch Strait incident.
“It is unacceptable that Ukrainian sailors are being held in prison in Moscow. We must ensure that we have the ability to restrain Russia’s aggression,” she remarked.
“We will discuss Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which resulted in the US being forced to withdraw from it. We now have to be capable of adjusting our [military] potential to restrain those who violate the missile treaty,” Hutchison continued.
She noted that the alliance will also discuss counterterrorism. “We must ensure that there are no terrorist networks in Afghanistan that could spread their influence to our country or any other alliance country.”