Four U.S. Navy ships entered the Barents Sea for the first time in decades as part of operations aimed at ensuring freedom of navigation in the Arctic Circle.
“Three Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), USS Porter (DDG 78), USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) are supported by fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6), and joined by the Royal Navy’s HMS Kent (F 78) to assert freedom of navigation and demonstrate seamless integration among allies,” reported the press service of the U.S. 6th Fleet.
U.S. ships, unlike submarines that regularly navigate in Arctic waters, have not entered the Barents Sea since the mid-1980s.
"In these challenging times, it is more important than ever that we maintain our steady drumbeat of operations across the European theater, while taking prudent measures to protect the health of our force," said Vice Admiral Lisa Franchetti, Commander of the Sixth Fleet.
She added that the operation was key to strengthening the basics of preparedness in the Arctic, where severe weather conditions pose a serious challenge for ships.
The Russian Ministry of Defense was notified of the visit to the Barents Sea, May 1. The notification was made in an effort to avoid misperceptions, reduce risk, and prevent inadvertent escalation
General Tod Walters, commander of U.S. European Command, speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee in February, said the situation in the Arctic remains a "serious concern" for the Alliance amid increased military activity of Russia and China in the region.
He suggested that the United States should maintain the same level of concentration in the Arctic as in the Baltic region and other regions.
NATO exercises were launched in the Arctic in March, but they were halted ahead of schedule by the Norwegian government due to the coronavirus pandemic. The maneuvers, called Cold Response 2020, were part of a larger "Defender of Europe 2020" exercise, various elements of which have been cancelled, rescheduled or modified due to COVID-19.