The Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says that under no circumstances Russia is ready for a full-scale confrontation with NATO in the Black Sea. Speaking to the news source Liga, the Ukrainian FM said that he doesn’t see a suicidal tendency in Russia by a major escalation with NATO.
“Russia, of course, is ready for an armed escalation. In particular in the Black Sea. But I do not see signs of suicide, suicide syndrome in Russia. Under no circumstances are they ready for a full-scale confrontation with NATO. They will pinch, provoke. However, they understand that in the confrontation with the Alliance in general, they have no chance of success,” he said.
In the past week, Russia has fired warning shots at the British Destroyer HMS Defender and harassed the Dutch frigate, HNLMS Evertsen, in the Black Sea. Today the Russian Ministry of Defence said it was tracking Virginio Fasan (F 591), a Carlo Bergamini-class frigate of the Italian Navy that is currently deployed in the Black Sea.
Speaking on the HMS Defender incident, the minister said, “Because when you say you fired at another warship, it’s almost an act of aggression. Accordingly, the other party must somehow respond to this. And the British reacted: they played beautifully and elegantly to lower the stakes.”
“This is a litmus test of what has been happening in the Black Sea for the last eight years. Russia, constantly increasing its military power, is destroying naval law and forcibly establishing new borders and new rules for the use of the Black Sea. And NATO has not even been able to formulate a strategy for behavior in the Black Sea region – there is neither a NATO command in the Black Sea nor permanent naval units,” the FM said.
“We are already very straightforward, literally telling NATO that if everything in the Black Sea remains as it is, Russia will simply establish control and push the limits of its influence. Expand control over trade routes and will create a constant danger in the region. We see that NATO is responding. Gradually, but there are elements of policy for the Black Sea. Unfortunately, there is an English saying, too little too late. Too little and too late,” he added.
Ukraine, NATO, Crimea, and the Sea of Azov
Speaking about the Ukrainian efforts to convenience NATO over the Crimea issue, the FM said “That is why we are constantly “pedaling” the Black Sea in conversations with the Allies. And in the region – with Romania, Turkey, Bulgaria – and at NATO headquarters. Because now Russia really has a strategically advantageous position in occupied Crimea. And it is very important to us that the Black Sea does not repeat the fate of Azov.”
The Sea of Azov is a shallow small body of water surrounded by Russia and Ukraine connected to the Black Sea by the Kerch Strait. The sea is important for Russia for the control of Crimea, for chocking economic activity of Ukraine from the sea, and control of the Volga–Don Canal which links the Caspian Sea with the Sea of Azov. Russia also plans to create a Eurasia Canal, that would transform the Kuma–Manych Canal, which is currently an irrigation canal, into a shipping canal that would link the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Ukraine still controls the checkpoints on the Isthmus of Perekop and Chonhar peninsula, and hence controlling all land traffic between Crimea and continental Ukraine.