Exercise Sea Breeze 2022 has been cancelled according to a senior U.S. Navy spokesperson who spoke to Newsweek today . Sea Breeze has been hosted in the Black Sea since 1997 and was an essential tool used by NATO to counter Russian aggression in the region.
The decision to cancel the exercise was apparently made in March of 2022, a month after the Russian invasion began. Several planning meetings for the exercise had already taken place in Odessa, as close to the Russian invasion as January. However, U.S. planners and NATO opted not to hold further planning conferences or proceed with the exercise involving Ukraine after the February 24th invasion.
In its place, Exercise Breeze kicked off three days ago taking place away from the Russia-Ukraine fighting near Bulgarian Black Sea port cities of Varna and Burgas. The drills will include 24 vessels, five planes, and two helicopters, according to the Bulgarian News Agency. Breeze 2022 is the first large-scale NATO exercise since Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine began and will involve no U.S. ships. However, U.S. Marines and Sailors will participate onboard NATO ships.
This is just one example of how NATO planners are approaching the current conflict with caution in order to not exacerbate an already radical departure from international norms by President Putin. The rhetoric the Russian President has used with regards to the use of nuclear weapons and war with the West has NATO planners preparing for the worst by bolstering forces on its Eastern flank, but being careful not to deploy the large exercise near operational Russian ships during wartime.