Press Conference at Sea Breeze 2019 in Odesa, Ukraine
Sunday, July 7, 2019
It’s great to be with you in beautiful Odesa, on this very special Navy Day.
And it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to return to Ukraine after several years. In 2012, I visited Kyiv and Sevastopol, while I was serving as the Military Assistant to our Secretary of the Navy.
I want to thank Admiral Voronchenko and the Ukrainian Navy for allowing me to be part of their exceptional Navy Day celebrations earlier today. I was truly impressed by the sailors’ pride and professionalism. At the same time, seeing the sailors participating in today’s Navy Day was a solemn reminder of the 24 Ukrainian sailors being held unjustly by Russia.
The United States stands firmly with Ukraine in support of its sovereignty and territorial integrity and condemns Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine. Russia’s aggressive actions to impede maritime transit in the Sea of Azov ignore international norms and destabilize the region.
The exercise I’m here to commemorate today is Exercise Sea Breeze. And it’s a testament to our longstanding partnership. It is a true pleasure for members of the United States Navy to have the opportunity to work alongside Ukrainian sailors, and friends from NATO and other partner nations.
This is the 19th year that the United States and Ukraine have co-hosted this exercise. Coincidentally, 19 nations are participating in this 19th iteration. There are 33 ships, 26 aircraft, and over 3,000 personnel taking [part] in Sea Breeze 2019.
This year, we are jointly focusing on surface operations, air defense, infrastructure protection, and maritime interdiction operations. I am encouraged by reports that the at-sea portion of the exercise has gone well thus far, and I am confident this will continue with the next at-sea period next week.
Exercise Sea Breeze features a multitude of unique training opportunities that illustrate the deep level of collaboration between the United States, Ukraine, and regional allies and partners. By coming together and practicing our craft, we improve our collective readiness and send a strong message of alliance, commitment, and cohesion to those who are watching.
The Black Sea region is incredibly dynamic and complex, and U.S. naval forces work alongside Ukraine and our Black Sea partners on a routine and consistent basis.
USS Carney’s transit here from the Mediterranean is the fifth such transit by a U.S. ship during 2019, and it reaffirms our commitment to this vital region and our valuable partners. In this dynamic security environment, our naval forces remain steadfast in the Black Sea and throughout Europe as we work collectively to ensure regional stability and security. Only by working together can we collectively deter those who threaten the sovereignty of our Black Sea partners and seek to undermine international norms.
No single nation can combat global threats alone, and the U.S. 6th Fleet will continue to stand with our regional allies and partners in defense of the values that we all hold dear.
The combined efforts at Sea Breeze of our 19 nations are important. By coming together with this shared purpose in mind, we will collectively improve our mission readiness to achieve the lasting effects we all seek. And with this, we can maintain a free and prosperous maritime environment. Thank you very much. It’s now my great honor to introduce to you the Chief of the Ukrainian Navy, Admiral Voronchenko.