Russia is more than ready for NATO's plan to increase naval and air presence in the Black Sea region
Russia's growing presence in the Black Sea is a military and geopolitical reality that NATO refuses to accept.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced yesterday that NATO will "strengthen its air and maritime presence" in the Black Sea region, triggering an immediate rebuke from Russia's NATO envoy Aleksandr Grushko:
“All these decisions will be subject of thorough analysis… And, undoubtedly, we will take all necessary measures to properly safeguard Russia’s national interests in this region,” Grushko said.
In addition to the Black Sea buildup, the Russian envoy also warned that the agreed increase of contributions to NATO's budget might lead to a new arms race.
Right now, the envoy warned, NATO is in danger of being stuck in a “vicious circle” of an arms buildup “from which it will be very difficult to get out.”
The threat is already very real. Some of Russia's most advanced military hardware is already stationed in Crimea:
Today, Crimea is one of the most modernly equipped bases of Russia’s armed forces. Besides surface and underwater ships, naval air forces, and coastal units, several installations of the latest “Bal” coastal missile systems are also deployed in Crimea. What’s more, “Bastion”, the newest word in coastal defense, was adopted by the armed forces in 2014 and has a missile range of over 600 km. As experts from the fleet’s officers affirmed to me during interviews, the deployment of “Bal’s” and “Bastion’s” renders the presence of NATO ships in the Russian part of the Black Sea largely futile and even fatally dangerous for themselves.A report by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine published on July 29th noted that Russia has established a self-sufficient grouping of forces in Crimea. New combat aircraft, S-400 anti-aircraft systems, “Varshavyanka project” submarines, and small missile ships equipped with “Calibre” missile systems will also all be transferred to the peninsula.
When Stoltenberg claimed, "Our deployments are defensive and measured. We will not match Russia soldier for soldier, tank for tank, or plane for plane. Our aim is to prevent conflict, not to provoke it," what he really meant to say was that NATO is incapable of matching Russia's firepower in the Black Sea region.
Heck, Moscow has already hinted that it has plans to place nuclear weapons in Crimea.
NATO is playing a dangerous game of "chicken" with Russia's Black Sea Fleet. But prancing around the Black Sea with a few extra destroyers won't scare Moscow. Sorry?