MAHMUDIA, Romania — Romania’s navy led multinational military drills in the Black Sea region Thursday that brought together U.S. and NATO troops as the 30-nation alliance looks to boost security on its southeastern flank amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The sea and air exercises are part of a series of drills known as Sea Shield 2023 that involve some 3,400 military personnel from 12 NATO member countries and some partner nations.

Romania’s navy said Thursday’s drills in the Mahmudia region of the Danube Delta, which flows into the Black Sea, would demonstrate how the combined forces would “neutralize an enemy air landing” in an area adjacent to such a waterway.

Servicemen walk on the deck of a warship sailing on the river Danube during a Romanian Navy led exercise outside Mahmudia, Romania, Thursday, March 30, 2023.

More than 30 naval ships, 14 aircraft and 15 “fast intervention” boats and other patrol vessels are taking part in Sea Shield 2023, which started March 20 and runs until April 2. Anti-explosive divers have participated in drills, as have chemical, biological, and nuclear defense specialists.

In response to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, NATO bolstered its presence on Europe’s eastern flank by sending additional multinational battlegroups to alliance members Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Slovakia.

Romania, which joined NATO in 2004, has played an increasingly large role in the alliance throughout the war, including hosting a NATO meeting of foreign ministers in November.

Last month, U.S. and French troops that are part of a NATO battlegroup in Romania held joint combat drills at the Black Sea training range in Capu Midia. The drills involved some 350 battlegroup troops who practiced firing live ammunition from a U.S.-made multiple rocket launcher. Ukraine’s military has used the HIMARS system in the fight against Russia.

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