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U.S. Coast Guard Returns to Black Sea for the First Time Since 2008

coast guard
Hamilton escorted by the Turkish Coast Guard, April 27 (USCG)

Published Apr 27, 2021 6:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard national security cutter USCGC Hamilton has transited the Bosporus and entered the Black Sea to bolster the NATO presence amidst elevated tensions between Russia and Ukraine. 

Hamilton is the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter to visit the Black Sea since 2008. The last U.S. Coast Guard cutter to visit the Black Sea, USCGC Dallas, sailed to the region twice, once in 2008 and once 1995.

Hamilton followed the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Thomas Hudner, which completed a "routine patrol to maintain maritime security" alongside other NATO Allies and partners in March 2021.

Over the past month, geopolitical tensions in the Black Sea region rose to the highest levels seen since 2014. Russia deployed tens of thousands of troops to the borders of Ukraine and partially shut the Kerch Strait, the entrance to the Sea of Azov, raising concerns of an impending invasion. On April 22, Russia's defense ministry announced that it was ordering a partial drawdown of the military presence on the Ukrainian border, with plans to complete the transition by May 1. The announcement has de-escalated the standoff at the border, but elevated numbers of Russian armored units will still remain nearby after the drawdown. 

USCGC Hamilton is on a relatively unusual deployment to the Sixth Fleet area of operations, and she has also made calls in Naples and Rota. Her role in the deployment is to boost maritime domain awareness and share best practices with partner nations' navies and coast guards, according to the USCG.

Hamilton is the fourth Legend-class national security cutter and is the fifth named for the father of the U.S. Coast Guard – Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury. The class is the Coast Guard's largest, and it is an increasingly visible element of the service's newly-elevated role in American forward maritime presence.