Reaction test: Why Russia is tightening control over the Black SeaVolodymyr Ohryzko
Russia plans to impose a continuous "order monitoring" in the Black Sea region. It is for this purpose that the Russian defense ministry recently deployed drones to Crimea, to perform reconnaissance and patrol missions around the occupied peninsula. According to the Russians, this will allow establishing control of a large part of the Black Sea. Russia's tighter grip is also likely to be directly related to restrictions imposed by Russia on almost a quarter of the Black Sea area, thereby blocking shipping routes to Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, and Ukraine.
Undoubtedly, Russia is now trying to step up its presence in the Black Sea. But we need to take a wider look at these developments. After all, the Russian fleets have become more pro-active not only here but also in the Arctic, the Baltics, and the Far East... Therefore, it is not necessary to look at the Black Sea separately as a theater of any potential actions. Rather, it is an element of Russia's general system of preparation for a possible "blitz victorious war." And it must also be seen either as part of a preparatory strategy or, alternatively, as part of a strategy of intimidation and blackmail, which today has become a serious instrument of Russian foreign policy.
Undoubtedly, Russia is now trying to step up its presence in the Black Sea. But we need to take a wider look at these developments
From an economic perspective, Russia, as the American writer aptly called it, is simply a huge gas station. But, nevertheless, it does have a fairly significant deterrent tool, which is nuclear weapons. And it is with these instruments that Russia is testing its neighbors' strength.
On the other hand, Russia's actions in the Black Sea alone should be seen as provocative. After all, they consider the de-facto occupied Crimea their own, and therefore they keep building up closed areas around it. This is a test: they are testing both Ukraine and NATO to see their reaction. Russians are probably thinking so: "Here, we have closed down certain parts of the Black Sea. What are you all going to do about it? What will be the reaction? If you swallow this, we'll just move further. If you don't, we'll take this into account."
Unfortunately, we cannot respond with weapons. There is only one way for Ukraine and NATO to respond – by increasing NATO presence in the Black Sea. American, British, and Turkish warships should constantly enter the Black Sea, visit Ukrainian, Georgian ports, so that the Russians have no feeling they are feel that they practically own the region. After all, if we look at what has been happening after the capture of Crimea, it looks like Russians are trying to prove to everyone that they are in full control of the Black Sea. So this must be prevented by practical and diplomatic measures.
Volodymyr Ohryzko is a Ukrainian diplomat, former foreign minister of Ukraine, head of the Russia Research Center