The warmonger in US President Joe Biden is playing with fire. He is constantly nudging and provoking Russia over contentious issues. And now, the US President seems likely to cross swords with Russia in the Black Sea region. Despite Russia’s warning to bomb British vessels in case of any aggressive moves off the coast of Russia-annexed Crimea that was also intended to warn the US, Biden is sending the US Navy to the Black Sea in a major show of strength
Recently, things went berserk in the Black Sea region, when Russian fighter jets and ships reportedly fired off warning shots at the British Navy. The latter had violated Russia’s maritime border near the Crimea coast. Russia then issued a statement, which suggested that it will not tolerate any attempt to undermine its position in the Black Sea region, but Biden seems eager to rub Moscow the wrong way.
On June 21, the US sixth fleet announced that it would participate in the Sea Breeze exercise in the Black Sea, scheduled to take place between June 28 and July 10.
Biden has made the exercise, co-hosted by the US and Ukraine, a grand affair on purpose. The US says that “this year’s iteration has the largest number of participating nations in the exercise’s history with 32 countries from six continents providing 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 aircraft, and 18 special operations and dive teams scheduled to participate.”
The countries participating in the Sea Breeze exercise include Turkey and the United Kingdom, which is bound to rile up Moscow about attempts to undermine Russian influence in the region. The US is deliberately instigating countries like Ukraine, Turkey and the UK against Russia.
The announcement regarding the Sea Breeze exercise, therefore, continues the ongoing tailspin in US-Russia relations. After the Putin-Biden summit in Geneva earlier this month, there were indications of better bilateral ties between the two nations. But subsequent developments have once again put Moscow and Washington at the crossroads.
The ongoing round of escalation in military tensions between Russia and the US has gripped different parts of the world. First, there were reports of Russia carrying out a big military manoeuvre merely 35 miles away from the US state of Hawaii, then the US announced a new package of sanctions against Russia and finally, there were reports of Russian naval drills near the Kuril Islands, which are disputed between Moscow and Tokyo.
However, the Black Sea region is one such sensitive issues, which can easily spiral out of control. There are way too many factors at play here. The US has been provoking its NATO allies and other partners in the region. The UK has already locked horns with Moscow. Turkey, another NATO member, has been looking to build the Istanbul Canal through the Bosporus Strait which would hinder Russia’s ease of navigation between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
Most importantly, the Black Sea region becomes very sensitive because Biden tends to use Ukraine as a pawn in this part of the world. The Biden administration has constantly abetted Kyiv to take on Russia, apart from reigniting tensions over the Crimea annexation that took place in 2014.
On its part, Russia will never let the US and NATO snatch Crimea from it nor will it allow Biden to undermine it in the Black Sea. For Moscow, Crimea holds way too much importance. The naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea is Russia’s only warm-water naval base. Located on the Southwestern tip of Crimea, the Sevastopol naval base allows Russia to access the Black Sea, apart from reaching out into the Mediterranean.
In fact, Russia had also used the Sevastopol port to supply aid to the Bashar al-Assad regime throughout the Syrian civil war. However, Sevastopol has declined as a commercial port after the Crimea annexation in 2014, mainly on account of the pressure exerted by international sanctions.
Under the terms of international sanctions, Sevastopol and other ports in Crimea stand closed to international shipping. If any Captain docks his ship at the Sevastopol port in violation of such sanctions, he could face fines or even imprisonment. This is why shippers tend to avoid Sevastopol, despite its enormous potential. Yet, Russia understands that once it gets rid of such sanctions, international trade would pick up through the Sevastopol port.
Make no mistake, Moscow will do just about anything to secure its position in the Black Sea. This maritime region has always been the biggest driver of Russian exports. During World War I, 50 per cent of all Russian exports, and 90 per cent of its agricultural exports, passed through the Bosporus Strait out of the Black Sea. Even today, an oil tanker is shipped out of Russia, every 15 minutes, through the same route.
The Black Sea is the lifeline of Russia’s trade interests. And Moscow is ready to put a high value on its influence in the region. Biden will therefore be making a mistake if he creates a battleground in this part of the world.