The U.S.-Ukraine Sea Breeze naval exercises, explained

Helicopters taking part in the Sea Breeze military exercises in the Mykolayiv region of Ukraine on June 30. (Sergey Smolentsev/Reuters)
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The Sea Breeze military exercises, hosted by the United States and Ukraine and including 32 nations from as far away as Australia, are underway in the Black Sea and nearby areas, an increasing friction point between NATO and Russia.

Those tensions were on display last month when the British destroyer HMS Defender crossed briefly through Black Sea waters that are considered internationally as Ukrainian but are claimed by Russia after its 2014 annexation of Crimea. Russian planes buzzed the vessel. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it also unleashed warning shots and bombs, but Britain denies any such actions took place.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday called it a provocation by Britain and the United States, saying that he could have sunk the ship and it would not have provoked a world war, “because the other side knows they cannot win.”

Here’s what you need to know about Sea Breeze 2021: