November 28, 2018

Russia Raises the Stakes

The incident in the Kerch Strait as a manifestation of Moscow's policy in the region


The actions to which Russia has been able to resort to in the Black Sea-Azov region since the beginning of this year indicate that it has moved to a new stage in the implementation of its geopolitical plans, including within the framework of its armed aggression against Ukraine. In fact, it seeks to militarize the region in a large scale in order to achieve several strategic and operational goals through active provocations in the Black and Azov Seas:

  • firstly, to qualitatively strengthen its position in the region, which plays a special role in its geopolitical and trade-economic plans. Yes, it is in the Black Sea region that Russia borders directly on NATO and the EU, which makes this area one of the main objects of rivalry. At the same time, through the Black Sea-Azov region are Russia's most convenient naval communications to other regions, including the Middle East, Africa and the Atlantic Ocean;
  • secondly, to transfer to itself transport flows in the region and to actually establish a sea blockade of Ukraine. Having achieved this, Moscow will create more favorable conditions for the Russian economy and, at the same time, will significantly slow down Ukraine's economic development;
  • thirdly, to guarantee the safety of the new transport and energy corridor that will connect Russia with Southern Europe bypassing the territory of Ukraine. To date, the main element of such a corridor is the “Turkish Stream” pipeline, which Russia is laying on the bottom of the Black Sea in order to replace the southern route of the Ukrainian gas transport system;
  • fourthly, to increase the ability of the RF Armed Forces to carry out an offensive operation against Ukraine in the Coastal direction in order to create a land corridor to the Crimea and Trans- Dniester. In particular, this will allow sea-born landings on the Azov and Black Sea coast of Ukraine.


In the Azov Sea, the Kremlin is purposefully creating another area of tension for Ukraine
In the Azov Sea, the Kremlin is purposefully creating another area of tension for Ukraine

As a result of the attack on Ukraine, such plans have already largely been implemented in the Azov part of the region. Now it is trying to consolidate the achievements to implement these plans to the full.

In the first place, Russia tries to use the new situation that has de facto emerged in the region after the Russian occupation of the Crimea and allows it to control most of the Azov waters. This way it actually turned those waters into Russia's “inland sea”.

At the same time, Russia seeks to solve another important task for itself, namely to block the work of Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk. On the one hand, they are the “sea gate” of the Ukrainian metallurgy, as the leading branch of the Ukrainian economy, and on the other hand — the main competitors of Russian ports on the Azov Sea. This issue is of particular importance to Russia in connection with the implementation of the Taman Port development project on the Azov coast of the Krasnodar Territory in the area of the Cape Iron Horn. According to Moscow's plans, this port should become the main transshipment base of commodity flows in the Azov Sea.

Besides, in the Azov Sea, the Kremlin is purposefully creating another area of tension for Ukraine to disperse its attention, efforts and resources, to put moral and psychological pressure on Ukraine's leadership and population, to frighten off investors and to create an additional burden on the Ukrainian economy. According to Russia's plans, all this should affect the results of the presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine in 2019.

Exactly for this purpose, at the beginning of this year, Russia began increasing its military presence in the Sea of Azov. In particular, according to different estimates, today in the Azov waters are concentrated 40 to 60 warships and boats of the Russian Navy and the Border Guard Service of the FSB. Besides, the build-up of land and sea components of the RF Armed Forces in the occupied Crimea and on the territory of Rostov region and the Krasnodar Territory of the Russian Federation does not stop.

The concentration of such forces enabled Moscow to intensify its provocations against Ukraine in the Azov Sea, including the massive detention of Ukrainian and foreign ships that are passing through the Kerch Strait. At the same time, the build-up of the Russian troops in the Azov Sea region has significantly increased the possibility of Russia's combat actions against Ukraine on the Coastal direction.


This situation became critical in nature after the beginning of Ukraine's active efforts to defend its interests in the region. This is evidenced by the armed struggle in the Kerch Strait on 25th November 2018. In fact, it was for the first time since the beginning of Russia's military aggression, that the RF openly used military force against Ukraine, which makes the incident significant.

Thus, with the help of deliberate military actions in the Kerch Strait, which are sanctioned at the highest level, Russia has clearly demonstrated the immutability of intentions in pursuit of its strategic interests, despite the fact of external pressure. At the same time, it showed its readiness to further sharpen the confrontation with Ukraine and its western partners.

In fact, it was for the first time since the beginning of Russia's military aggression in 2014,
that the RF openly used military force against Ukraine

In this way Moscow has raised the stakes in its geopolitical “game” for a place in the modern multi-polar world. All this was confirmed by the statements of the Russian leadership regarding the incident in the Kerch Strait, which can be considered a logical extension of Moscow's course of military struggle against the West. This course was proclaimed by V. Putin in March of this year. In his message to the Federal Assembly of Russia and in his inaugural speech in May of this year. And now this course is being implemented in practice.


At the same time, another manifestation of the aggression of V. Putin's regime against Ukraine, which also became an open challenge to the West, has led to a fully expected actualization of the entire complex of problems associated with Russia's actions, which once again became the focus of the world community. At this, the condemnation of such actions by most Western countries and international organizations brought to naught all Moscow's attempts to establish relations with the United States and the EU.

And so Russia has lost all possibilities to lift Western sanctions. And even more so, the United States and the EU now have grounds for both prolonging such sanctions against Russia and for introducing new restrictions. To date, this issue has already been discussed in the European Union. In turn, the incident in the Kerch Strait forces the US Congress to adopt a new package of sanctions against Russia over other issues as well, in particular, the use of chemical weapons against a former officer of the Russian GRU, S. Skripal, in the British city of Salisbury, which took place in March 2018. In this regard, quite revealing was US President D. Trump's statement about his possible cancelling a meeting with V. Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina (November 30 – December 1, 2018).

…Putin's regime is not able to predict the consequences of violation of the norms of international law and the system of international peace and security that was formed after the Second World War…

At the same time, Russia's moving to open hostilities against Ukraine is a catalyst for deepening cooperation between our state and the US and NATO in the military sphere. Thus, a number of influential members of the US Congress have already called for the need to increase the volume of military assistance to Ukraine. The work of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, which until then had been blocked by Hungary, has also been restored.


On the whole, the above-mentioned circumstances testify to the difficult situation in which Putin's regime has found itself today. On the one hand, it tries to strengthen Russia's position in the world by increasing the aggressiveness of its policies, and on the other, it is not able to predict the consequences of such steps in violation of the norms of international law and the system of international peace and security that was formed after the Second World War. At this, each of these steps only worsens the RF's situation and provokes its leadership to new aggressive actions. And it will do so as long as the international community lets it. This is what is today the main danger for Ukraine as well as for the whole civilized world.