11:44 GMT +327 June 2019
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    SS Ross (DDG 71), foreground, and Etman Sahaidachniy (U130) steam in formation during Sea Breeze 2014. (File)

    NATO 'Refining' Baltic, Black Sea Presence, Seeks Bigger Mediterranean Role

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    NATO is "refining" its maritime presence in both the Black and the Baltic seas and is looking into ways of enhancing its role in the Mediterranean, NATO’s Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow said Thursday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — He added that the Alliance must maintain its maritime ability to protect freedom of navigation in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

    "NATO’s maritime capabilities are essential… There is still work to be done… But we are refining our presence in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, and exploring a greater maritime role for NATO in the Mediterranean Sea – including in support of the European Union’s Operation Sophia," Vershbow said, while addressing the Portuguese parliament.

    NATO has been increasing its military presence in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea since the outbreak of the conflict in southeastern Ukraine in April 2014, in response to what it considers to be Russia's aggressive foreign policy. Moscow has repeatedly dismissed the Ukraine-related accusations leveled at it, warning that increased NATO activities near the country's borders could undermine regional and global stability.

    The Operation Sophia was launched in June 2015 in response to the migration crisis in Europe as hundreds of thousands of refugees fled from the Middle East and Northern Africa to EU member states.

    Related:

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    Former US Officials Urge NATO to Maintain Permanent Presence in E. Europe
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    NATO, Alexander Vershbow, Baltic Sea, Mediterranean Sea
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