The U.S. military kicked off joint naval drills with Romania and Bulgaria in the Black Sea on Wednesday just across the water from the Crimean Peninsula.
"This time the exercise has begun as planned," said Bulgarian Lt. Col. Dimitar Titev.
The drills with Romania and Bulgaria involving a U.S. destroyer come as the U.S. military has stepped up its presence in Poland and Eastern Europe in response to the Russian aggression.
The White House said Tuesday that the military exercises in Eastern Europe help to “speak in a clear voice” to Russia.
"We obviously have provided stepped-up assistance to those countries in this case," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. "And this is part of our effort to work with our international partners and allies and to speak in a clear voice together that the actions taken by Russia to intervene militarily in contravention of international law and in violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity is something that we all oppose."