October 12, 2015

The Crimea as the Main Component of Russia's Geopolitical Plans Regarding the Black Sea-Mediterranean Region

The international community's attention to the settling of the armed conflict in the East of Ukraine has actually pushed to the sideline the issue of Russia's annexation of the Crimea that is increasingly going beyond the urgent international problems. In fact, this is what Putin's regime counts on, hoping that the Crimean Peninsula will be somehow forgotten, and will soon completely disappear from the sight of the Western world.

However, despite the reduction in the severity of the situation around the Crimea, allegedly not threatening the interests of other states directly, it is Moscow's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula that has led to qualitative changes in the Black Sea Region, and, largely, in the Mediterranean region, including the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe.

Thus, controlling the Crimea, Moscow is qualitatively strengthening its positions in these regions and receives fundamentally new opportunities in the implementation of the Kremlin's neo-imperialist and expansionist policy. This has been the main driving force of the actions of the Russian Federation on the implementation of territorial claims to Ukraine in the Crimean Peninsula since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

To this end, Russia had been taking active and consistent measures to strengthen separatism in the Crimea among both, higher and local authorities, and ordinary people of the Peninsula, involving in this matter the Russian Federation's state bodies and public organizations, as well as the Command of the Black Sea Fleet, which until 1997 had formally been in the Russian-Ukrainian subordination, but in fact was exclusively Moscow's subject.

The consequence of this was the adoption by the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea in May 1992, of “the Constitution of the Republic of the Crimea”, which actually defined the Peninsula as “an independent state”. In its turn, the State Duma of the Russian Federation recognized the “illegitimacy” of the decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR of February 5, 1954, on the transfer of the Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR and, in fact, proclaimed the “Russian status” of the Crimean Peninsula.

Thanks to consistent and balanced actions of Ukraine, and with the support of the international community, the Crimea was saved as a part of the Ukrainian state. At this, Russia did not dare to use force, and limited to only provocative actions with the participation of the Russian Federation's Black Sea Fleet. At the same time, Moscow had stepped up activities for spreading separatism in the Crimea.

In this way, Russia strengthened the positions of pro-Russian forces in the government of the Crimea, in particular, ensured the election to the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC of representatives of public organizations “Russian Community of the Crimea” and “Russian Block”. Besides, the pro-Russian forces united under the so-called all-Crimean movement “Russian Unity.” Against this background, Russia in the Crimean direction turned from individual provocation to use of force during the organized by Moscow conflict over Tuzla Island in autumn 2003.

Later, after the victory of the 2005's “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine, the situation with the Crimea worsened due to the significant intensification of Russia's actions to destabilize the situation in our country. Moscow allowed itself to threaten openly to take over the Crimea if it comes to a real prospect of Ukraine's joining NATO. At the same time, Russia again did not dare to use military force for the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Especially because V. Yanukovych's turning up in the Presidential chair opened new opportunities for Russia's “creeping occupation” of Ukraine. This was evidenced by the so-called “Kharkiv Agreements” signed in 2010. They allowed Russia to increase its influence on Ukraine considerably and to actually take control of the situation in the Crimea.

Вторгнення на Кримський півострів. Російські сили і їх пересування

The invasion of the Crimean peninsula. Russian forces and their movement

In 2013, with the start of the “Revolution of Dignity” in Ukraine, Russia started preparations for the annexation of the Crimea using the methods of “hybrid warfare”. The main stages and components of such actions include: the collapse of the Ukrainian army and other security agencies in the days of V. Yanukovych; consolidation of pro-Russian forces in the Crimea; creation of illegal armed formations on the territory of the Crimean Peninsula (with the direct assistance of the Command of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation); locking the power structures of Ukraine and seizure of power in the Crimea; conducting a pseudo-referendum for “independence” of the Crimea and its “accession” to the Russian Federation.

The key factor in this matter, which “unbound Russia's hands” in the annexation of the Crimea, was the lack of strong reaction on the part of the USA and EU to Moscow's openly aggressive policy (military aggression against Georgia in 2008 and the subsequent “gas war” against Ukraine and the EU) that Putin's regime perceived as a weakness of the West and its willingness to bow to the Kremlin.

Having captured the Crimea, Moscow received a strong base to strengthen Russian positions in the Black Sea and Caucasus Region and to realize its greater geopolitical plans.

Such Russia's plans include prevention of Ukraine's joining NATO on the ground of Ukraine's having territorial disputes with neighboring countries. Constantly putting pressure on Ukraine, Russia will try to use all opportunities to capture the southern part of it. In this way Russia will be able to create a land corridor to the Crimea and Trans-Dniester and, in fact, to fully restore its positions in the Black Sea region, which it had in the days of the former Soviet Union (except the Georgian-controlled territory, the capture of which may be Moscow's next aim).

Control over the Crimea (and even more so — over the south of Ukraine) will give Russia a much greater opportunity to deter NATO on its southern flank and to oppose the Alliance in general. At this, taking into consideration the Russian Federation's military advantage over the Black Sea NATO countries — Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria — Russia will be able to resume its dominant position in the Black Sea Region and significantly limit NATO's freedom of action there.

Having annexed the Crimea, Russia received additional resources to implement its plans in a more distant zone — the Mediterranean, the Middle East, North Africa and in a specific way, in Southern Europe. Having captured Ukrainian bases, warships and shipbuilding and repair yards, the Russians have considerably expanded operational capabilities of the Black Sea Fleet for operations outside the Black Sea Region.

Інфраструктура Криму і військові бази Чорноморського флоту Росії

The infrastructure of the Crimea and Russia's Black Sea Fleet military bases 

Due to its bases in the Crimea, Russia has increased its military presence in the Mediterranean, now on a permanent basis. Later, having built up the power of the Black Sea Fleet, all this will allow Russia to create a counterweight to the US Navy and NATO, which will mean the transfer of the southern center of the confrontation between Russia and the West from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Region.

Moreover, it is the annexation of the Crimea that helped Russia to “feel its strength” and proceed with stepping up of its expansion within the framework of direct intervention into the armed conflict in Syria. At the same time, the Russian Black Sea Fleet based in the Crimea, provides the bulk of the supply of weapons, ammunition and logistical resources for the benefit of Russian troops on the Syrian territory and B. Assad's government forces. Besides, the grouping of the RF Armed Forces in Syria includes marine units of the BSF responsible for the protection of the Logistics Naval Center of the Russia in the port of Tartus.

Actively using the experience of the former Soviet Union, the forces of the Russian Black Sea Fleet will also interfere into events in the Middle East and Africa, where the Russian and Western interests will intercross. Like in Soviet times, thanks to such conflicts, Moscow will influence its Western opponents trying to achieve important political goals, which can now be observed in Syria.

To implement such plans, V. Putin's regime is building up the grouping of Russian troops in the Crimean Peninsula. Since the beginning of the annexation of the Crimea in March 2014, Russia has already deployed on its territory a combined arms powerful grouping of troops, which includes the land, sea and air components.

Today, the above-mentioned group consists of about 23,000 military servicemen, more than 600 tanks and armored vehicles, 200 artillery systems, 180 combat aircrafts and helicopters, 20 anti-ship coastal missile systems, 26 warships of different classes and three submarines. In the long term, by the years of 2020-2025, Russian troops in the Crimea plan to nearly double. If Russia captures the whole South of Ukraine, the Russian military presence in the Black Sea region can quantitatively and qualitatively exceed even the forces of the Black Sea Fleet, as well as Odessa and North Caucasus Military Districts of the former USSR.

The grouping of Russian troops in the Crimea as a priority gets new, first of all striking samples of weapons and military equipment, including Su-34 fighter-bombers, multiple rocket launcher “Tornado-G”, anti-missile complexes “Bastion-P”, “Bal”, “Klab-K”, as well as missile ships and submarines. Besides, there are plans for deployment in the Crimean Peninsula of Tu-22M3 long-range bombers and new tactical missile systems “Iskander”.

At this, some of the promising weapon systems that are already in the Crimea can be used as carriers of nuclear weapons. In particular, such carriers are the missile cruiser “Moskva” and other missile ships, Su-24 bombers, Su-34 fighter-bombers and Tu-22M3 long-range bombers.

All this allows the RF Armed Forces to make missile attacks against Russia's opponents' objects (including ships, military bases, administrative and economic centers, positions of the troops, etc.) virtually in the whole of the Black Sea, the southern part of Ukraine, as well as in coastal areas of Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Besides, the deployment in the Crimea of Tu-22M3 long-range bombers will significantly increase the RF's capabilities and efficiency of actions in strikes on Missile Defense of the US/NATO in Romania, blocking the Black Sea straits, as well as in striking the US and NATO facilities in the countries of South-Eastern Europe.

In turn, the build-up of the RF Armed Forces in the Black Sea region to the level of the Soviet potential will restore Moscow's capabilities for local, tactical and strategic operations in the South-West strategic direction. The purpose of these operations can be to restore Russia's spheres of dominant influence over Romania and Bulgaria, to establish a direct corridor to the Balkan Peninsula (Serbia), as well as to achieve Moscow's historic goal — to establish control over the Black Sea straits.

In general, these Russia's actions increase instability in the Black Sea and Mediterranean Regions, creating a threat of local, regional and greater wars, including with use of nuclear weapons. At the same time, the above-mentioned wars and armed conflicts can get involved both, the Black Sea countries and the countries of the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe.

At the same time, against the background of the large-scale militarization of the Crimea, Russia virtually ignores the increasingly growing social and economic problems of the Crimean population. The rising prices for food and basic commodities, goods of priority consumption and for communal services, have already led to practical leveling of increasing wages and pensions to the Russian level set after the Russia's annexation of the Crimea. Besides, in the Peninsula, as well as in Russia, their indexing has been frozen.

As a result of sanctions imposed by the West, broken ties with Ukraine, as well as another failure of the holiday season, the Crimean economy, small and medium businesses suffer significant losses. This has reduced revenues to local budgets of all levels, and increased unemployment.

As a result, there emerged and increased anti-Russian sentiments in the Crimea, which is recognized by the occupying authorities of the Peninsula. Thus, according to sociological studies, which are confirmed by the so-called “Government of the Crimean Peninsula” and the leaders of the Communist anti-Ukrainian Party of the Crimea, about 50 % of the Crimean people recognize that their standard of living because of the occupation of the Crimea by Russia has declined, and they would not mind the Peninsula's returning to Ukraine. However, instead of solving social and economic problems of the Crimea, Putin's government increases a police regime there.

It is obvious that Moscow's true goal regarding the Crimea — is to equip a military base on the Black Sea, not to protect the interests of the Crimean population against the encroachments of the so-called “Kyiv junta.” At this, deliberately is being hushed up the fact that playing the role of a base for conducting Russian aggression, the Crimea itself will be subject to strikes (including nuclear) in case if the Kremlin dares to unleash a war against the USA and NATO.

 

So, all the above-said demands from the international community, not to stop the system pressure on Russia (including the preservation of political and economic sanctions) in order to return the Crimea to Ukraine, even in case of stabilization of the situation in the Donbas.

This question is particularly relevant in connection with the unpredictable and adventurous nature of the policies of V. Putin's regime, which does not hesitate to use armed force to achieve its goals. This is evidenced by the Russia's military intervention into the Syrian conflict and its intention to participate also in the conflict in Iraq.