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The aggression in the Sea of Azov had consequences: more and more NATO ships are visiting the Ukrainian coast
The president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, joined the United States special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, visited the destroyer of the United States Navy “Donald Cook” in Odessa, which last week entered the Black Sea to perform exercises sets with Ukraine and other allies.
In the last 5 years, this vessel has become an American symbol of support for the Eastern European States and a “teaser” for Russia. His first visit to the Black Sea took place in April 2014, during the height of the annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of the war between Ukraine and Russia, with the obvious objective of reminding Russia that it was far from being the queen of the seas . In recent years, “Donald Cook” has visited Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltic States, constantly marking the United States military presence near the Russian coast. But now, the context of the visit of the US warships to the northern part of the Black Sea is very different from those of 2014 and shows significant changes in the balance of forces in the Black Sea region.
The de facto capture of the Sea of Azov has intensified the maritime rivalry between Russia and the West
Before 2018, the Russian threat was mainly limited to land and, therefore, no maritime confrontation was contemplated in the ‘NATO-Russia’ format. The situation changed radically in December, after the Russian aggression in the Sea of Azov, the ‘closure’ of the Kerch Strait and the attacks on Ukrainian ships. This, in essence, although it is an unpleasant thing to hear for the Ukrainians, showed that Russia has been able to annex not only Crimea, but also the Azov Sea de facto [Ukraine does not recognize Russia’s attempt to annex the Sea of Azov and has planned to terminate the Treaty with Russia on the common use of the Sea of Azov – Ed.].
The Western powers are very intolerant of violations of the principles of freedom of navigation, so that the Russians found themselves not only with a flurry of indignation and condemnation, but also with an active and well-considered military response, namely the constant presence of US Navy ships. UU “This is an important response to the unprovoked attack and the act of aggression against Ukrainian ships, which took place on November 25 last year.” I want to emphasize that the aggression of the Kremlin affects not only the vital interests of Ukraine, but also also to the security of the EU and NATO in the Black Sea, “said the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, during a visit to” Donald Cook “on February 26, 2019.
This is an important response to the unprovoked attack and the act of aggression against Ukrainian ships, which took place on November 25 last year. “I want to emphasize that the aggression of the Kremlin affects not only the vital interests of Ukraine, but also the security of the EU and NATO in the Black Sea,” said the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, during a visit to “Donald Cook “on February 26, 2019. This is an important response to the unprovoked attack and the act of aggression against Ukrainian ships, which took place on November 25 last year. “I want to emphasize that the aggression of the Kremlin affects not only the vital interests of Ukraine, but also the security of the EU and NATO in the Black Sea,” said the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, during a visit to “Donald Cook “on February 26, 2019.
Of course, the Ukrainians would like to see the naval support from our Western partners that was not in the form of individual ships, but in that of a NATO attack squadron in the Black Sea that would not allow Russian ships to leave of its ports. But the main problem that hinders the large-scale military presence of NATO in the Black Sea, remember, are the conditions of the Montreux Convention, adopted at the International Conference on the regime for the Black Sea Straits in 1936. The fact is that, under their conditions, exclusively warships of the Black Sea countries have the right to be permanent. Other States have the right to launch only relatively small vessels at sea, and only for a limited period. Western powers can not follow Moscow’s example by ignoring international law, and, therefore, we do not have to wait for an American aircraft carrier fleet to appear near the coast of Odessa. That, however, does not mean that the Russians still have carte blanche and promising prospects.
Why is not the Turkish NATO fleet in the Black Sea enough?
First, it should be noted that, without US ships, NATO in the Black Sea has enough means to threaten Russia. The Navy of a member of NATO, which is Turkey, even without the support of the Bulgarian and Romanian forces, seriously prevails over the Black Sea fleet of the Russian Federation. Unfortunately, it is impossible to count on the full support of Turkey, given the modern Russian-Turkish relations and, therefore, NATO, formally observing the conditions of the Montreux Convention, deploys its ships in the Black Sea on the basis of the principles of rotation. Of course, in the case of serious problems from Russia, the 6th US Navy. UU is deployed nearby, in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the numerous Mediterranean squadrons of the European powers. Thus, the deployment of significant forces in the Black Sea is a matter of several days or hours. Turkey, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention, has the right to allow the passage of military vessels through the Black Sea straits at its own discretion in case of a military threat. If this threat really comes from Russia, Turkey is more likely to be on the side of its military bloc. It is obvious that the constant presence of NATO warships in the northern waters of the Black Sea is necessary to avoid a repetition of the Kerch Strait scenario. Recognizing this need, NATO constantly sends ships and patrol groups to the Black Sea. In 2017, NATO patrols were in the Black Sea for a total of 80 days, in 2018 the period increased to 120 days.
“Militias” and “humanitarian convoys” will not pass
Political and military confrontation at sea is very different from terrestrial realities. First, the factors of geography, distances and objects are quite different. You can not divide the waves of the sea with a trench line, nor can you establish a line of defense. That is why the fight at sea has a punctual character, and in most cases takes place in restricted areas near important objects: straits, ports, bases, etc. And, at such a point, the presence of at least one NATO ship is enough to significantly influence the outcome. Secondly, it is impossible to hide in the sea with “popular militia”, “fratricidal war” and other lies of the Kremlin, which Moscow tells about the war in Donbas.
As with the Kerch Strait in 2018, any Russian aggression on the sea will be open and obvious. And, since each warship is not only a weapon, but also a sovereign territory of the State to which it belongs, any attack against a US ship is an attack on the territory of the United States. Whatever the Russian propagandists say about radioactive ashes [refers to a threat from a Russian propagandist to convert to EE. UU in radioactive ash – Ed.], for example, taking into account the experience of Syria, we already know what the Russians’ end, even in the smallest military confrontation with the Americans: the next batch of “charge 200” [is refers to the coffins in which the dead Soviet soldiers were sent home].
However, no matter how determined the United States and NATO are to repel an offensive by Russia at sea, the main one should be the Ukrainian military fleet in defense of our coasts and maritime spaces. Unfortunately, in our open confrontation with the Russian naval forces, our prospects are rather sad. Therefore, it is very important that our Western allies participate in the fight against the Russian Federation in favor of the development of the Ukrainian Navy, in particular, the infrastructure and naval composition. However, even if such initiatives were very successful, it would take a few years for a strong Ukrainian fleet to form.