The US Navy operates routinely in the Black Sea, but a deployment of warships would now send a specific message to Moscow that the US is closely monitoring, the official said.
The US is required to give 14 days notice of its intention to enter the Black Sea under a 1936 treaty that gives Turkey control of the straits to enter the sea. It is unclear whether a message has already been sent.
The defense official also said the navy will continue to fly reconnaissance aircraft in international skies over the Black Sea to monitor Russian naval activity and any troop movements in Crimea.
On Wednesday, two American B-1 bombers carried out missions over the Aegean Sea on Wednesday.
While the US does not view the build-up of Russian troops as an offensive move, the official told CNN that “if anything changes, we will be ready to respond.” Their current estimate is that the Russians are conducting training and drills and that intelligence has not issued military orders for further action, the official said, but noted that they are well aware that this could change at any time.
The Biden government and the international community have expressed concern at the mounting tensions between Ukraine and Russia. In recent weeks, President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have all spoken to their Ukrainian counterparts.
“We are concerned about the recent escalating Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine, including credible reports of Russian troop movements on the borders of Ukraine and occupied Crimea,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price said this week.
“We have asked Russia for an explanation for these provocations, but most importantly, what we have reported directly to our Ukrainian partners is a reassuring message,” he said.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said this week that it is important “that all parties respect the Minsk Agreement” and “that Russia respects the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine”.
According to a spokesman for the German government, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops to de-escalate the situation.
According to a Kremlin reading of the call, Putin accused Kiev of “provocative actions”.