Russian military concerned by larger NATO presence in Black Sea
MOSCOW, August 25 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has to be concerned that NATO is continuing to get a stronger foothold in the Black Sea, the deputy chief of General Staff said Monday.
"NATO's naval deployments in the Black Sea, where nine foreign vessels have already been sent, cannot but provoke concern," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said.
According to a Russian military intelligence source, the NATO warships that have entered the Black Sea carry over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles between them.
NATO has so far deployed the USS McFaul and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas, the Polish frigate General Pulaski, the German frigate FGS Lubeck, and the Spanish navy ship Admiral Juan de Borbon.
"NATO is actually deploying a surface strike group in the Black Sea," the unidentified source said Monday.
The McFaul unloaded 55 tons of humanitarian aid in the Georgian port of Batumi on Sunday, with two more U.S. Navy ships due in port later this week. The Polish, Spanish and German ships also entered the Black Sea on Friday.
Nogovitsyn said Russian peacekeepers, who continue to be deployed in Georgia after the country's war with breakaway South Ossetia, would not carry out checks of foreign ships entering Georgian Black Sea ports.
But he said peacekeepers at a checkpoint near the Poti port would conduct patrols in the area. "Patrols are a civilized form of control," he said.
The senior military official put it more colorfully on Saturday: "Poti is outside of the security zone, but that does not mean we will sit behind a fence watching them riding around in Hummers."
Nogovitsyn promised that Russia would not exceed the numbers defined by international agreements, including a 1992 pact, when sending peacekeepers to South Ossetia.
But he warned that Georgia was planning to deploy troops in the towns of Gori and Senaki.
"The Georgian Armed Forces command is continuing to conduct acts aimed at restoring the combat readiness of its army directed at South Ossetia," he said. "Communication systems are being restored, units are planned for deployment in the military towns of Gori and Senaki."
Georgia is also planning acts of sabotage on infrastructure and transportation facilities, Nogovitsyn said.
"Georgian reconnaissance and sabotage groups are reinvigorating their efforts... and are preparing military actions along the routes of Russian armored columns, as well as acts of sabotage on transportation infrastructure," he said.