Sea of Azov: The Hot Backwater of New Cold War

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Sea of Azov: The Hot Backwater of New Cold War

Source: crimea.ria.ru

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

The Crimean thorn in Ukraine’s side

Contrary to all the predictions made by Ukrainian “experts”, a group which, alas, included otherwise intelligent and educated individuals who should have known better, the Crimea Bridge formally opened in May 2018 and, by mid-July 2018, had already carried a million motor vehicles into and from Crimea. This remarkable infrastructure project de-facto lifted Ukraine’s overland blockade of the peninsula, to which maritime supply routes were only a partial and weather-dependent solution.

Being a major tangible and public relations victory for Russia, the Crimea Bridge naturally “triggered” all manner of Russia’s foes who made it plain they view it as an attractive target. A prominent US newspaper columnist and a retired British Army colonel visiting Ukraine both “advised” the government of Ukraine that it should attack and destroy the structure. Ukrainian social media are full of exhortations and even promises by a variety of semi-official “volunteer battalion” actors to stage acts of sabotage.

If the past few years have taught Moscow anything, it’s that unofficial “thinking out-loud” can very quickly become not only official policy but a fait accompli. Thus the completion of the Crimea Bridge was accompanied by a range of security measures, though the structure does benefit from the ongoing of strengthening of Russia’s defense posture in the Black Sea region which includes strengthening Russia’s aero-naval warfare potential based in Crimea Peninsula. The Black Sea Fleet and the associated Caspian Sea Flotilla have been noticeably reinforced in recent years with modern submarines, frigates, and corvettes, with all three types of vessels capable of carrying multirole Kalibr cruise missile. Moreover, since the two seas are linked by a network of rivers and canals, Caspian Sea missile corvettes have been sent to Black Sea in the past, either to reinforce the peninsula’s defenses or in preparation for a sortie to the Tartus naval base in Syria. Russia’s Naval Aviation currently boasts some 22 Su-30SM multirole fighters which demonstrated their anti-ship capabilities both in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, where they sunk a retired Syrian Navy frigate using Kh-35 Uran anti-ship missiles, with Crimea’s Belbek airbase steadily increasing its contingent of these fighters.

The Bridge itself is the focus of a number of thus far not overly publicized security measures aimed at preventing an attack or an act of sabotage coming from both land and sea directions. The FSB strongly implied, in response to the noises emanating from Ukraine, that any attempt at sabotage would be met with lethal force, which thus far has been sufficient to dissuade Ukrainian blowhards. So even though Ukrainian saboteurs have been captured in Crimea, no concrete plots against the Crimea Bridge have been discovered. Moreover, it is abundantly clear that an attack on the Bridge by a clearly identified state actor, be it in the form of special operations or an air/naval strike, would be an act of war against the Russian Federation which would naturally provoke a retaliation.

Heating up the Azov

Ukraine is clearly not in a position to risk this kind of an escalation, and even NATO, which already demonstrated in Syria that it is not interested in a shooting war with Russia, has kept clear of the Crimea Bridge and the Sea of Azov. Remarkably, NATO naval forces have thus far refrained from venturing into the Sea of Azov in order to exercise its “freedom of navigation” rights in the way the US Navy has done with the PRC-claimed islands in the South China Sea, even though US freighters have entered and exited the area with cargoes of grain and iron from Ukrainian ports. The 2018 iteration of the annual NATO-Ukraine “Sea Breeze” naval exercise was, as before, centered on Odessa and did not schedule any events for the Sea of Azov.

So instead the confrontation shifted into the realm of “hybrid warfare”, though it is not clear by what process that escalation was engineered. If the past is any guide, the mere exhortations to attack the Crimean bridge by Western unofficial sources could be sufficient in persuading Poroshenko the West has its back, as it had in virtually every other escalation to date. On the other possible, it is at least equally possible the pattern here is the same as in the case of the abortive “blockades” of Crimea and Donbass which originated at lower levels in order to extract tribute for the participating Ukraine government agencies and their ministers. The first “shot” of this hybrid clash was the seizure of the Nord fishing boat and of its crew for a prolonged period of time, an act which was followed by similar actions against other Russian shipping in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea in general.

Russian reaction followed the pattern established in earlier conflict episodes in Ukraine and Syria. While not immediate, it was well thought out and thorough.Even though Ukraine declared a “live fire zone” in the international waters off Mariupol and Berdyansk, Ukrainian civilian vessels heading to and from these two ports found themselves facing an array of Russian maritime Border Guard cutters which on average board several Ukrainian vessels a day (thus far the daily record is seven ships) and carry out detailed inspections accompanied by questioning of the crew members. Ukrainian social media posted reports of individuals who underwent this treatment, which consisted of making copies of international Interestingly, the questioning of the crew members included inquiries concerning their military service, relatives in the Russian Federation, participation in the Donbass war including whether one fired weapons at the “separatists”, participation in and attitude toward the “volunteer battalions”, Right Sector, and Azov Regiment, and even one’s attitudes toward the “separatists”. At least two Ukrainian ships were placed under arrest for illegal fishing activities and sent to Russian ports. By mid-July 2018, the total number of Ukrainian ships thus affected reached nearly 150, demonstrating Ukraine’s capabilities at this kind of harassment are clearly inferior to Russia’s.

Next step: false flag?

By mid-July, even Kiev had to acknowledge the Nord provocation had backfired, as the Russian maritime inspections on the Sea of Azov have been effective at disrupting Ukrainian shipping and are causing dissatisfaction among the ship-owners. That does not necessarily mean the conflict is about to end. As the experience of the Donbass demonstrates, Ukraine will use a tactic until it is shown to be ineffective—and then it will seek to invent a new one. Therefore one should expect new methods of interfering with the operation of the Crimea bridge and seeking to establish control over the Sea of Azov.

However, given the disparity in forces and NATO’s evident unwillingness to become embroiled in Russia-Ukraine quarrels on the Sea of Azov, the attack could not leave Ukrainian fingerprints. The weapon that could be used for such an attack is the Neptun anti-ship missile currently under development in Ukraine, which represents a clone of the Russian Kh-35 Uran. A land-launched Neptun, which presumably likewise uses a combination of inertial and active radar-guidance, could be effective at targeting the more radar-reflective parts of the bridge. If the attack took place at the same time as a live-fire Russian naval exercise on the Black Sea, Ukrainian, Western, and even Russian opposition media would waste no time labeling it a “Russian missile”, just as the Buk which brought down  MH-17 was a “Russian missile”. If Ukraine could still rely on Western information warfare support, it would make Russian retaliation far more difficult to contemplate, which could make this form of attack attractive for Kiev.

Kiev in the aftermath of Helsinki Summit

The Sea of Azov and the Crimea Bridge are merely focal points of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, which in turn is a component of the broader West-Russia one. Therefore the outermost layer of the Crimea Bridge and Sea of Azov security is Russian diplomacy which seeks to remove threats to its interests and sovereignty before they have to be dealt with military force. Ukraine clearly was on the agenda at Helsinki and, judging by the nervous reactions in Ukraine, it did not go as Kiev would have hoped. The hysterical reactions in the neocon-dominated media to the remarkably non-confrontational joint appearance of Putin and Trump raises the danger of attempts to sabotage the early “green shoots” of US-Russia détente. To date, the preferred theater for staging such provocations has been Syria, but given the emergence of diplomatic consensus among Syria’s neighbors, the nearing end of the civil war, and the effectiveness with which Russia countered the Douma false flag, that country is losing its attractiveness. Therefore the choice of escalation might fall on Ukraine and seas which border it.

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  • David Parker

    Why is “Coast Guard” painted on the side of the boat with the Russian Federation paint scheme in the picture?

    • John Mason

      Universal language, ever seen Russian writing then you will appreciate the English.

    • goingbrokes

      So US ships can identify them correctly! Lol!

  • Rodney Loder

    It’s as obvious as hell Trump is being mind controlled by Christian Talmudists, nobody could be such a bad actor all on his own, you think that’s OK Trump is on the way out great, but don’t forget Crimea then becomes target priority no. 1.

    Although Iran is probably off the hook, Jerusalem is shunted back to where it was before Trump and Syria can begin the political process in Idlib, think again, an irrational moron is about to be replaced by a diabolical well thought meticulous plan out implemented highly proficient Democrat Neoconservative harnessed and in lock step with Libertarians many of which operate from RT, their objective is a Christian Crusade to be the greatest of all time.

    Only Brother Erdogan can thwart these evil judens, al-Assad can’t influence the Region but Erdogan and Qatar can be the new broom to sweep the Saudies and UAE into the drain leading to the cesspit of Creation which is hell.

    • Promitheas Apollonious

      you watch too much hollyshit and have missed all the main facts of the whole equation. You also seem not to understand what Trump been doing since he took office or have any notion as to who put him in office who is not other than the real deep state and not some trash politicians who are owned and believed, they could over step the boundaries their masters who put them there, drawn for them.

      They failed to do what they been asked to achieve so they have been discarded. Yes they make some noise but Trump already change everything in the economic game and not only. Taking him out now means an instant collapse, of the economy of west not only US. Your comments show how little any of you understand reality and what is happening and all thinking as the net teach you to think so they have clicks.

      As for erdogan…… is a convenient idiot who plays all sides or try to. watch and learn and try to stay in touch with reality and not the illusions you have in your mind.

      • Rodney Loder

        Clueless rubbish straigh from captions derived from synoptic compositions that is the Ghospels to save you working it out, many things like that which we didn’t know before are right under your nose if yon hadn’t cut it off already to spite your face.

        It might interest you to know that a tin foil hat is mandatory in the USA Trump wears two to protect his congenital lobotomy which saved him from being one of them, a telepathic expert, who are born with satanic instincts depicting a brain, although because Trump is an empty head he can pass as an American expert, it’s better not to have one if you see what I mean.

        US Citizens can agree on only two things they hate Muslims and Commies, I am a Stalinist Salafist but the Americans love me, due to the fact that Jesus Christ only comes twice, naturally then resurrection won’t happen again that would make It thrice, Americans believe me when I tell them that, because they can’t count either.

        Now,!!! Get lost if you don’t want to post serious why post at all, it’s rhetorical.

        • Stephan Williams

          “I am a Stalinist Salafist but the Americans love me, due to the fact that Jesus Christ only comes twice, naturally then resurrection won’t happen again that would make It thrice,”

          What this slice of your comment suggests to me is that you have to be on some kind of heavy medication.

          Pull yourself together, Rodney.

          • Rodney Loder

            Thank God for a sensible comment, it flew over the Cuckoo’s nest probably it was scared away by self pitiy, I concur entirely.

            Don’t you know medication is salvation ?, and to denounce medical science is the act of a philistine, culture and art come from health which in turn is a capacity greatly enhanced by medication created by lettered medical practitioners, I’ll just go to my medical box and see what I have available, this is an honest exercise, hermits have no reason to lie.

            Here we are, Seroquel XL 200 mg.
            EXP. 03 2013.
            I must have forgot to take em.
            Goddam the pusher man.
            Second though, they was free anyway double second guess, and the reason I was on the Godalmighty pension.

          • Concrete Mike

            I was wondering where you were hiding at. Glad to see your ok.

          • Rodney Loder

            I’m not hiding I live in Kangaroo valley NSW , who said I was hiding anyway? . I’ve always published my address on Quora (Terry Loder on Quora Terry is my second name) that’s the point of my posting to tell my story, actually I might be giving up on it soon, I getting incredibly good at motor cycle riding, in fact I wore out my back tyre on my almost brand new DR Suzuki 650 (sports bike) in 3.4 k kilometers, as soon as I get enough saved up I’m buying a second bike to begin MX racing next year, I have a car and traitor so my new bike won’t have to be registered.Thank you for your interest in my location and I hope I having extrapolated the communication to an unwarranted extent.

          • Concrete Mike

            LOL no hiding is a figure of speech us canadian hillbillies use to say havent seen you in a while.

            Good stuff with the biking. Keep it up, no better way to see the country.

            I prefer a harder compound for rear tyres. Then again they last longer when you dont do brakestands LOL

          • Rodney Loder

            Bike in the trailer ride around when you get places, Canada cool, Robert Inlakesh is over in Canada now, he’s the only non Stalinist non Salafist I support now on Patreon, I would do something overseas I got a passport but motorcycling is sooo good.

          • Charlie rad

            You sound more like you’re on an Acid trip or Shrooms.
            Easy there buckwheat.

          • Rodney Loder

            Want to make a small wager on your ability in the cage.
            ? I got 6 k Australian says you can’t fight, only stipulation is you come here Nowra NSW bush venue figh
            with anything you like
            Xcept illegal weapons that leaves only sticks or fists.
            The worst thing that could happen to you, would be if you won.

        • Promitheas Apollonious

          thank you for proving my point, as far your mental state goes. And what you are is a brainless idiot who dont know where his ass from second base is.

          • Rodney Loder

            I see that you ar otally delusional probably knowingly so.
            I commanded you to get lost, you didn’t do that.
            And so now, that has allowed me to recalibrate you emphasis on Southfront what I now refer to designer dislocation, think of yourself the owner of futile intellectual content bringing it to a reputable market, sealed it in wax from your ears preventing sound and light from getting through to cerebral cortex but futility prevents your shallow understanding of why.

            Maybe it’s verily because you remind me of myself before I became a Sporting Gentleman, I not sure why but I’m going to give you the alibi you need for reinvention as the doomsday clock is unlikely to malfunction.

            Claim to be Born with Alzheimer’s disease.

          • Charlie rad

            LOL, you couldn’t command your own turd in the toilet. LOL. Lay off the Heavy stuff Loader.

        • Charlie rad

          You had a couple good points but you’re WAY off on most of it. YOU HATE Trump & Love Erdogan. You’re a Turk & /or Muslim. Or want to be Like EX Jesuit & Ex communist Brennan . A Muslim convert. Trump is a Bright guy. You confuse smooth talking with intelligence. OBAMA is an Idiot. He reads well from Teleprompters period. All Press conference questions were submitted prior to & Press could not stray. Trump answers off the cuff. And is “A people’s President”. So he keeps his vocabulary in the Middle. So all people can understand him. You have much to learn. Trump & the HUGE PATRIOT coalition supporting him against the NWO-DEEPSTATE-MSM have been planning this since JFK & RK were murdered. The Next 4-5 months will be explosive. Enjoy the Show.

          • Rodney Loder

            MSM in Australia is saying in headlines there expecting him to strike Iran any minute now, he’s off the air might be cuff, totally delusional, clueless, certainly the Establishment want to throw him out as a prerequisite to herald in a new era of Rationalism in The World Order and he has got a Huge following but if it turns bad it will change in a heartbeat.

            When Mussolini invaded Greece, Libya and Ethiopia then called Abyssinia, I have studied the news reels watching the reaction of Italians to his pompous and bombastic speeches announcing his attacks on defenceless people, there is almost hysterical cheering, but when he announced his intention to side with Hitler against Britain and France, that was the “Pact of Steel” 1939 there was no cheer from the loyal supporters, it was weirdly quiet Mussolini was shaken.

            Much worse in-store for Trump if he does anything rash.

            I support Trump on One Political Plaza (RT friend) because it’s a choice between the Libertarian Democrats Same Sex Marriage or Trump’s irrational behaviour which doesn’t hurt anyone if he just doesn’t do anything.

  • VeeNarian (Yerevan)

    There is only one way for the Crimean bridge and civilian lives to be protected by RF. No more warm and woolly words. It must be made crystal clear in secret communication with the US/EU/NATO gangster countries that those ordering the action against that magnificent bridge (or any other RF structure) will be held PERSONALLY responsible.
    I hope this has already been done.

  • DenLilleAbe

    Great project and an immense boon to the people in Crimea. Importing stuff they cant make themselves becomes far more easy.
    I do not believe any one would be so foolish to attack a critical infra structure project, it is complete rubbish, I live and use the Öresund Bridge another great bridge and certainly were have never considered that Russia would attack it.
    However now that Kiev is going full scale Nazi , who knows! We need a new Maidan! A reverse one.

  • joevid

    It looks like this situation was built to facilitate a false flag operation.

  • joevid

    The Israeli Mossad agents are all over Ukraine and are the number suspects to create a false flag to advance an Israeli agenda. The Zionists are furious that Russia and Ukraine interfered with their project to overthrow President Assad, empty Syria and Lebanon of Christians and to enthrone their Islamic puppets in a balkanized Syria. Israel hates the Orthodox Christian people of Russia and they also hate the idea that the Christians of Lebanon and Syria were supporters of President Assad.

  • Igor Dano

    Assymetric response would be to shut down St. Gotthard tunnel, the bridge between Denmark and Sweeden, the channel tunnel, shutdown (maybe with A249) of cdg, orly heathrow, frankfurt amsterdam airports, haifa and tel aviv.