Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt
This weekend, it was great to be back in Odesa and to welcome so many of our friends and partners aboard the USS Porter. A visit by a U.S. Navy ship is hugely symbolic, and this year, Ukraine has welcomed not one, but two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers: the USS Donald Cook and the USS Porter.
The USS Porter’s commanding officer, Commander Blair Guy, put it best when he said visits like these give the ship’s crew – 300 best friends at sea for weeks at a time – the chance to stretch their legs and experience local culture. I was glad to see our sailors out in the city, shopping, enjoying lunch on Deribasivska and taking in the sites. All of them commented on the warm reception they received from the people of Odesa.
But these visits are much more than that. They offer unique opportunities for joint training and military exercises, strengthening the bonds between our maritime forces, and helping improve interoperability. They also give us to the chance to share the best of the U.S. Navy with a broad cross-section of government officials, military leaders, activists, journalists, and representatives of civil society – people like Governor Saakashvili, Deputy Prosecutor General David Sakvarelidze, Members of the Rada including Oleksiy Honcharenko, Deputy Ministers from across government, our friends from the Odesa Impact Hub – even the Kyiv Dynamo football veterans. And I am particularly grateful to Admiral Hajduk for his strong leadership and his partnership.
It is no coincidence that both the brave men and women of the USS Porter and the committed reformers who joined us on-board embody the ship’s motto: Freedom’s Champion. And as I said to the group that gathered Saturday night, the Porter’s port call in Odesa is unlike any other the ship will perform in the course of this cruise, because unlike the other allies and partners the USS Porter will visit, Ukraine is a country at war. And as President Obama recently reaffirmed, the United States will continue to stand with you in your fight to protect and defend your sovereign territory and your right to determine your political and democratic future.
There is no greater symbol of the United States’ commitment to global engagement and global presence than the U.S. Navy. As U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said, “Presence is what we do. It is who we are. We reassure our partners that we are there, and remind those who may wish our country and allies harm that we’re never far away.” The USS Porter’s presence in Ukraine is yet another example of our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to maritime security and stability across the Black Sea region.
More photos on Flickr