The U.S. Navy has sent a third warship into the Black Sea as it steps up its presence in the strategic region.
The destroyer USS Porter entered the Black Sea on a routine patrol on January 28, joining destroyer USS Donald Cook and replenishment oiler USNS Laramie, the U.S. Navy said in a statement.
It is the largest U.S. Navy presence in the Black Sea in three years, according to Breaking Defense, and comes days after President Joe Biden spoke for the first time with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Porter's entrance demonstrates "our continued commitment to security and stability in the region with our NATO allies and partners," Commander Thomas Ralston said in the statement.
The Black Sea has taken on greater strategic importance for the United States and NATO after Russia illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, giving Moscow a larger presence in the region.
NATO allies Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria border the Black Sea as do Ukraine and Georgia, which have both expressed interest in joining the Western military alliance.
Russia quickly responded to the increased U.S. presence in the Black Sea, activating its mobile coastal-defense anti-ship system in Crimea.