Russia risks triggering a direct war with NATO by intercepting ships in the international waters of the Black Sea and trying to muzzle Ukraine economically, former Supreme Commander of NATO Forces in Europe (SACEUR), US Navy Admiral James Stavridis, warns Politico. He assessed that Moscow’s actions “are tantamount to piracy.”
James Stavridis commanded the Alliance’s forces on the continent between 2009 and 2013. In his opinion, the escalation at sea, including the seizure by Moscow of a Palau-flagged ship by Moscow on Sunday, could force Kiev’s partners to intervene to prevent economic paralysis Ukraine.
“Actions Russia in the international waters of the Black Sea pose a real risk of escalating into a naval war between FOR THIS and the Russian Federation,” Stavridis said in an article published on Wednesday evening. NATO “will not transfer equipment and money to Ukraine just to watch Russia stifle its economy through an illegal blockade,” the military added.
Russia’s defense ministry said on Sunday that the Russian patrol vessel Vasily Bykov fired warning shots at the Palau-flagged merchant ship Sukru Okan bound for Ukraine after its captain failed to respond to a call to stop for an inspection. Then Russian soldiers boarded the unit from Ka-29 helicopters. The Ukrainian defense ministry identified the ship as Turkish.
According to Stavridis, Russia’s tactics are “tantamount to piracy.” “If Russia starts to seize ships or try to scare them away, I think it’s likely that NATO will respond by supporting the shipping humanitarian corridor,” commented the former SACEUR commander. The alliance could protect ships entering and leaving the Ukrainian port of Odessa “with NATO warplanes in the air and possibly NATO warships as escorts,” the source told Politico.
Tensions in the Black Sea
Tensions in the Black Sea have escalated dramatically since Russia unilaterally withdrew in July from a grain deal that had previously ensured the safe transportation of food from Ukraine across the Black Sea, and warned that ships bound for Ukrainian ports could be seen as military targets. Until Russia withdrew from the grain agreement, 32.9 million tons of grain were safely shipped from Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea. In response to Russia’s move, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg accused Moscow of “dangerous and escalating actions in the Black Sea”, adding that the Alliance “intensifies surveillance and reconnaissance in the Black Sea region”.
According to Stavridis, possible support from NATO countries lying on the Black Sea – Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria – would mean that “the Russian Black Sea fleet would be militarily dominated.”
After withdrawing from the grain deal, Moscow attacked Ukrainian grain depots along the Black Sea coast, reportedly destroying 60,000. tons of food. Russia has also repeatedly attacked the Ukrainian ports on the Danube Reni and Izmail, located only a few hundred meters from the border with Romania. The Russian defense ministry warned that “all ships sailing in the Black Sea waters towards Ukrainian ports will be perceived as potential carriers of military cargo.” Despite this, Kiev announced the creation of a “temporary corridor” for sea traffic, allowing ships to enter international waters. On Wednesday, Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said that the first Hong Kong-flagged container ship went to sea despite the threat from Moscow.
Main photo source: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images