From June 19 to July 1, Ukraine hosted the largest exercise ever conducted by NATO forces in a post-Soviet country. The naval, air and amphibious exercise Cooperative Partner-2000, in the framework of NATO’s Enhanced Partnership for Peace program, brought together forces from ten NATO member nations–including the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Turkey–and from six Partner countries, among them Georgia and Azerbaijan. Overall, some fifty naval ships–including those from the Standing Naval Force Mediterranean (STANAVFORMED) and from NATO’s recently activated Maritime Mine Countermeasures Force Mediterranean (MCMFORMED)–as well as thirty aircraft, forty armored vehicles and 5,500 personnel, 900 Ukrainian marine infantry [marines] among them, exercised in Ukrainian waters of the northwestern Black Sea and on land near Odesa.
The exercise unfolded under the direction of U.S. Admiral James Ellis, commander-in-chief Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH). Commander Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe (COMNAVSOUTH) Vice-Admiral Luigi Lillo, Commander Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe (COMSTRIKFOR) Vice-Admiral Daniel Murphy, the Ukrainian navy’s commander Vice-Admiral Mikhaylo Yezhel, and Ukraine’s first deputy defense minister, General Ivan Bizhan, supervised key phases and forces in this exercise, which was designed to (1) achieve a common understanding of NATO Peace Support Operations doctrine and training, (2) practice the planning of operations by multinational staffs of allied and partner countries, (3) assimilate command, control and communications procedures; and (4) advance toward interoperability between maritime and amphibious forces of NATO allies, of Ukraine and of other partner countries
The phase at sea featured convoy movements in both daytime and nighttime, transshipment of cargoes between vessels moving at full speed, artillery and missile firings on surface targets and air targets, and helicopter landings on and takeoffs from friendly ships, with Ukrainian helicopters using the deck of the landing ship USS Trenton. In an unscheduled episode, a Ukrainian tugboat rescued a Georgian cutter which had issued a distress call in neutral waters while en route to the exercise area from its base in Poti. The land phase of the exercise, at the Chobanka training range near Odesa, brought together marines from nine allied and partner countries. They practiced creating and protecting a safety zone in a hostile environment, de-mining operations, setting up and operating a field hospital, and delivering humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in a conflict zone. Russia registered displeasure with the exercise by declining NATO’s and Ukraine’s invitations to participate.