ZAGAN, POLAND - JUNE 18:  A soldier of the Polish Army mans a tank as a NATO flag flies behind during the NATO Noble Jump military exercises of the VJTF forces on June 18, 2015 in Zagan, Poland. The VJTF, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, is NATO's response to Russia's annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Troops from Germany, Norway, Belgium, Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania and Holland were among those taking part today.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
What's the point of NATO?
01:23 - Source: CNN

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The Black Sea is becoming an increasingly contested space between Russia and NATO

American tanks and troops also took part in military drills in Zagan, Poland

CNN  — 

NATO members flexed their military muscle in Russia’s backyard Monday, as allied warships headed toward the Black Sea while American tank fire echoed across Polish plains.  

The naval force “Standing Maritime Group 2,” which consists of eight vessels from eight NATO member states, is going to the Black Sea to participate in an exercise off the coast of Romania known as “Sea Shield.”

The Black Sea, like the Baltics, is becoming an increasingly contested space between Russia and NATO as Moscow has militarized Crimea, according to the alliance.

“This is a demonstration of the alliance’s resolve to defend all allies against any threat, and to enhance maritime security in the region,” said a NATO official.

While “Sea Shield” is not technically a NATO exercise according to officials, it will include a number of NATO countries, including Bulgaria, Canada, Greece, Romania, Spain, the USA and Turkey.

American tanks and troops on Monday also took part in military drills in Zagan, Poland, sending a message to the Kremlin amid concerns that US President Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO allies and partners is wavering.

Trump’s statements earlier this month that NATO is obsolete and that he wants to improve relations with a Russia that has been testing the borders of post-Cold War Europe have triggered alarm on the other side of the Atlantic.

However, Trump’s newly confirmed defense secretary, retired Gen. James Mattis, a former supreme allied commander of NATO, has voiced unequivocal support for the alliance and said he had said as much to Trump.

The US forces that participated in Monday’s joint drills were part of a 4,000-soldier deployment earlier this month.

The Pentagon has said these troop rotations to Europe are intended to bolster ties with NATO allies and send a clear message to Russia.