12/30/2021, 15.44
RUSSIA – UKRAINE
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NATO ships challenge Russia in the Black Sea

by Vladimir Rozanskij

NATO responds to Russia’s military escalation on the border with Ukraine. Kyiv would like a permanent NATO fleet in the area. Expert warns that the Kremlin’s negative reaction is inevitable; meanwhile, the risk of clashes in the sea, even accidental, increases.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Due to tensions between Russia and Ukraine, NATO warships have increased their presence and exercises in the Black Sea, including member states that have no coastline in the sea. In 2021, NATO ships spent 226 days in Black Sea.

Ukrainian experts see NATO as the only possible defence against Russian aggression, the Krym.Realii (Crimean Realities) website reports.

They believe that a NATO Black Sea fleet is needed to guard the maritime space all year round, based in Constanța (Romania), open to non-NATO members like Ukraine and Georgia.

The French Navy deployed the D654 FS Auvergne, a FREMM-class frigate, in the Black Sea a couple of weeks ago, the 31st NATO warship to visit in 2021.

Its presence sparked a strong reaction from Russia, whose National Defence Control Centre announced that the Russian Black Sea fleet was tracking the movements of the French ship.

The Kremlin’s reaction to the arrival of new Western ships is now routine, not only because they keep coming, but also because they are staying longer.

Andriy Klymenko, director of Ukraine’s Black Sea Institute for Strategic Studies and editor-in-chief of Black Sea News, the Kremlin’s reaction should not raise too many concerns.

At this point in time, it is understandable. “This is an immediate response to the pressure from Russia on Ukraine,” a pattern that has been going on for more than seven years now.

Four of the last five ships to enter the sea are US; the other is French; they arrived in all probability due to the escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

“It is very good that both ships and financial resources have been found, because this is not cheap,” Klymenko notes.

Indeed, there is great concern over possible Russian military actions at the start of the new year, and NATO visits could at least delay these threats.

US Arleigh Burke class destroyers each carry more than 90 missiles, and it is clear that the Russian response to their presence is very negative.

Russia’s nervous reaction is based on a clear calculation that an escalation of the conflict, planned or accidental, would be unsustainable for Russian forces.

If the Russians managed to hit a NATO ship with anti-missile ships, this would be a direct attack on NATO, and would trigger a defence mechanism by all the countries of the Alliance.

Still, Ukrainian analysts fear a possible Russian blitz during the Christmas and New Year holidays; for them the arrival of the French frigate is extremely important.

In December, Russia intensified its maritime exercises in the area, hindering civil and commercial navigation. Its ships moved ever closer to the Ukrainian coast, ports and maritime sources of natural gas, but also Georgian waters and the Bosporus.

This increases the likelihood of an armed clash – even accidental – in the Black Sea and the Sea of  Azov.

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