April 16 (UPI) -- The USS Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, has been deployed to the Black Sea, where Russia's fleet is monitoring its movement.
The Ross, which began its northbound transit of the Dardanelles Strait on Sunday, according to the U.S. Navy, is the fourth U.S. ship to visit the Black Sea since the start of the year.
The USS Donald Cook went to the area in February, the second time the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer entered the region in 2019. In January, the USS Fort McHenry, an amphibious warship, entered the Black Sea.
The Ross will "conduct maritime security operations and enhance regional maritime stability, combined readiness and naval capability with NATO allies and partners in the region," according to a U.S. Navy news release Tuesday.
The United States works with NATO allies and partners in the Black Sea under Operation Atlantic Resolve.
"Our allies in the Black Sea continue to play a key role in maintaining security in the European theater," said Cmdr. Dave Coles, commanding officer of Ross. "The crew and I look forward to enhancing our interoperability in a dynamic environment as well as experiencing the rich history and culture in this region."
The Dardanelles Strait serves as a vital transportation bridge between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Black Sea ports are in Odessa, Ukraine; Novorossiysk and Tuapse, Russia; Batumi, Georgia; Varna and Burgas, Bulgarie' Constanta, Romania; and Instanbul, Turkey.
The U.S. Navy routinely operates in the Black Sea consistent with international law and with the Montreux Convention signed in 1936. According to the document, Black Sea nations can only send warships with displacements of less than 15,000 tons into the Black Sea and these ships can only stay for 21 days.
Russia, which has considered the ships' presence a threat, tracks their movements from the sea and air.
"The Black Sea Fleet forces are constantly monitoring the movement of the U.S. Navy's Ross guided-missile destroyer that entered the Black Sea on April 14, 2019," said a statement issued by the Russian National Defense Management Center, reported by the state-run TASS news agency.
This includes surveillance by the coastal radio equipment of the fleet.
A Russian Navy Vasily Bykov-class patrol vessel and Russian Navy reconnaissance ship Ivan Khurs were monitoring Ross' movements, according to TASS.
The Ross is forward-deployed at Naval Station Rota, Spain, as part of the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in Europe and Africa.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier was with its carrier air wing, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, and destroyers USS Bainbridge, USS Mason and USS Nitzey. The Alvaro de Bazan-class Spanish frigate ESPS Mendez Nunez also joined the Truman strike group.
The U.S. and Spanish vessels first will travel to Gibraltar and then pass through the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, South China Sea and Pacific Ocean.