Russia Practices Various Scenarios in the Black Sea Region

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This week is rich with headline-making events of military-political nature, which are of particular interest in terms of forecasting possible influence on processes in the Northern Black Sea Region. In recent years, the Black Sea area is increasingly being considered through the prism of a strategic confrontation between leading geopolitical actors, whose behavior often approaches the ‘red lines’. There are many reasons, first of all, weakening of international relations, lack of clear rules of the game, military force as the dominant factor, etc. Unscheduled demonstrative military exercises in various sectors of the sea area involving naval vessels of the United States Navy or the Russian Federation Navy, as well as the actions of Ukraine create constant tension and actualize security issues throughout the regional space. Thus I consider it extremely interesting to understand another plot line, which has unfolded during the period from 12 to 16 August in the north-western part of the Black Sea. So, on August 12, the Russian media once again alarmed that one more vessel of the American Navy, namely the guided-missile destroyer USS Carney entered the Black Sea. According to Americans, the main purpose of the visit is to carry out sea security operations, as well as to improve the possibilities of interaction with allies and partners in the region. Russian experts accompanied the newsletter with traditional allegations against the American flotilla, which, in their opinion, poses constant threats and tensions in the Black Sea water area. What did Washington want to show again? In my opinion, the answer is quite obvious; the Black Sea is part of the US responsibility, especially the south-western part of the sea – territorial waters of the NATO member states – Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. Thus, the American naval forces clearly signal to Moscow that military vessels will definitely go in the Black Sea basin. Another (already chronic) irritation of the Russian general staff on this occasion is not really compelling to force the United States to stop fulfilling its military tasks. The US actions in the Black Sea demonstrate Washington’s intention to significantly expand the zone of its strategic influence in the water area. First of all, it is planned to be done through the territorial waters of Georgia, which purposefully moves on the way of gaining membership in NATO, and of course Ukraine, which is ready for the very close military-political cooperation with the USA in all forms and positions. This causes frequent visits of the US Navy to the port of Odesa, as well as construction of the operational center of the Ukrainian Navy in Ochakiv (Odesa region) supported by engineering and construction parts of the US Navy. By the way, construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. Military experts agree that in the future the US plans to use this base for their tactical purposes. First of all, for reconnaissance activities, all the more it happens near the 73rd Naval Center for Special Operations of the Ukrainian Naval Forces (fighting swimmers), which in addition to submarine mining (mine clearance) specialize in sabotage and intelligence. Experts also assume that American builders can already develop special methods and means of conducting ground combat operations by US Navy that is Navy Seals. Let’s return to the recent happenings on the Black Sea. In response to the demonstrative behavior of the American destroyer, the Russian military conducted a series of tactical-special practices both on the sea and on land. On August 15, the north-western sector of the Black Sea from the westernmost point of the Crimea (Cape Tarkhankut) and to the delta of the Danube fell into the zone of action of naval exercises of the Russian Navy and was actually blocked. Such measures caused an unprecedented panic in the Ukrainian media and the local expert community. The general meaning of the comments came down to the idea that the Russian military almost blocked the access of sea vessels to the Ukraine’s seashore and thereby Moscow is working out another phase of the military offensive on Ukraine from the sea. By the end of the day, the Ukrainian media sphere began to gradually move away from self-frightening, which, as it seems to be understood in Kyiv, plays into the hands of Moscow. Panic comments were replaced by skeptical assessments as applied to the potential of the Russian grouping in the Black Sea. Nevertheless, there is reason to believe that the necessary military-political and moral-psychological effect has been achieved, since the remaining naval specialists in Ukraine clearly caught the tactical move of the Russian Navy and began to actively signal the problem and potential threats to the Ukrainian state. Later, on August 16, the Russian military made the next targeted maneuver, having carried out the first successful launch of a Kalibr high-precision rocket from the Russian Navy vessel over a water target in the Black Sea. It seems that the main addressee of the Russian signal in the form of a missile test was precisely an American military vessel. At the same time, the whole chain of happenings should include also the events that took place on land in parallel. While the US and Ukrainian military are completing operations at the Ochakiv base, and NATO topographers are putting it on the relevant maps, on August 14 and 15, an operational group of Russian troops conducted tactical exercises in Transnistria near the Odesa region with the crossing of a water obstacle. It cannot be ruled out that such demonstration events have a certain connection with the events in the Black Sea and are nothing more than shakeup and refinement of coordinated actions by various military groups of the Russian Federation to solve problems on the relevant regional track. It is hardly a secret for anyone that Transnistria is integrated into the military-defense system of the Russian Federation following the example of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. According to a number of Ukrainian and Moldovan experts, any military-tactical steps of the Russian Federation in the north-western sector of the Black Sea water area are by default connected with modeling situations around this unrecognized republic, sandwiched between Russia’s unfriendly Moldova and Ukraine. From a military point of view, to consider the peacekeeping contingent stationed in Transnistria and the Russian Operational Group as a functionally closed combat structure separated from the main armed forces of the Russian Federation is extremely presumptuous. As the above situation shows, in the case of severe scenarios in any of the local points of the Black Sea area, one should expect tectonic movements along the entire Black Sea area. It seems that all the participants involved noted these very specific signals of Russia.