Week of Monday, June 28, 2021
Alejandro Esparza and Ethan Wacaster, Weapons/Tactics (W/T) Team
Satellite Picture of Crimea
Date: Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Location: The Black Sea
Parties involved: Britain; Russia; Ukraine; and NATO forces
The event: According to reports identified on Wednesday, June 23, Russia stated that one of its ships fired warning shots on Tuesday at the British HMS Defender, followed by a Russian jet reportedly dropping bombs in the path of the British warship. Moscow claims that this maneuver intimidated the HMS Defender as it had sailed off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula, a disputed territory that Russia seized and annexed from Ukraine in 2014. The British government rejected the claims of Russia and argued that no warning shots were fired, nor had a jet dropped bombs, and that Russia had previously warned nearby ships that it would conduct weapon training that day.
Despite the conflicting accounts, it demonstrates the deteriorating relationship Russia has with Britain and its Western allies. Russia’s claims demonstrate the boldness and possible disinformation it is willing to disseminate to the international community. If they are found to be inaccurate, it will likely exacerbate the already strained relationship Russia has with the West. This will also signify to the West, particularly NATO forces, that Russia still poses a considerable threat to global security. Therefore, possibly prompting additional sanctions, an expanded NATO presence in Eastern Europe, and a higher level of concern when it comes to safeguarding Ukraine.
This also exhibits the lack of cohesion between Russia and the West. Due to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia laid claims to surrounding waters. Western countries have rejected these claims and recognize Crimea as part of Ukraine; this would allow the British HMS Defender to sail through what it believes to be international waters. The convoluted ideas surrounding disputed Crimea will likely invite similar happenings in the future.
Additionally, this sheds light on how vulnerable to conflict the Crimea peninsula truly is. In the international arena, it is evident that the annexed territory is still a highly contested region. Although Russia has established a sound regional presence, there is growing international concern that Russian expansion will begin to spread throughout Ukraine. This concern has been answered by various NATO forces pledging to protect and defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Though these efforts would strengthen Ukraine on a variety of fronts, it would also pose a strategic challenge to NATO allies as it is likely that these alliances would provoke auxiliary Russian aggression. Therefore, in theory, increasing the likelihood of an armed confrontation between the West and Russia.
It is very possible that in the near future Russia would attempt to incur into a NATO country’s waters. This would be an attempt to draw a reaction from NATO forces, as well as provoke them. It is also likely that NATO forces may try to navigate the waters just off of the Crimean Peninsula, or other Russian territories. This would most likely attract similar attention to that given to the HMS Defender. If the reaction is the same by Russia, it would most likely cause international condemnation.
Date: Tuesday, June 29, 2021
Location: The Black Sea
Parties involved: US; Britain; Russia; Ukraine; and NATO
The event: On the night of June 29, it appeared as though the USS Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was within a few miles of the Crimean Peninsula. The ship was supposedly joined by a Ukrainian patrol boat; however, the location of the ships in question was spoofed and the ships never left port.
If events similar to this continue, it could raise tensions between NATO and Russia. Potentially increasing the chances of action being taken in Crimean waters. The spoofing of the location of the ships could also be an attempt to get a reaction from Russia in order to see what assets the Russian military would send if ships crossed into their waters.
Additional reports suggest that the Black Sea is becoming of more global concern. The establishment of military infrastructure in Crimea points to Russia acquiring a sound foothold in the Black Sea, this also demonstrates Russia’s disregard to international law as internationally Crimea is still recognized as a part of Ukraine. Lastly, the testing of air defense systems signals to NATO forces that Russia is prepared and well equipped in the event of a hypothetical conflict.
The increase of naval presence in the Black Sea indicates this region is of critical concern and serves as a sensitive point of contention between Moscow and NATO forces. It also appears that Russia is intensely invested in its own image-making as it relates to geopolitics, via various military drills Russia is aiming to intimidate both NATO and regional states. It is likely that these simmering tensions will continue to escalate in the next coming weeks and months.
 Russia warns Britain it will bomb ships next time, Reuters, June 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/britain-says-dont-get-carried-away-by-warship-spat-with-russia-2021-06-24/
 U.S. Destroyer Shows Up Right Off Crimea On Vessel Tracking Sites But It Never Left Port, The Drive, June 2021, https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/41349/u-s-destroyer-shows-up-right-off-crimea-on-vessel-tracking-sites-but-it-never-left-port