NATO Experts on Kerch Strait “First Russian Aggression under its Own Flag”

On December 7, Romania hosted the conference 'Securing NATO’s Eastern Frontier and its Neighboring Regions' in Bucharest. The main purpose was to discuss publicly the security stakes that NATO, Ukraine, The Republic of Moldova and Romania are facing regarding Russian destabilization in the region. In that way, the conference tried to bring about trans-Atlantic cooperation by gathering public officials from these countries.

The discussion has been much-awaited, all the more since two weeks ago Russia violated once again international laws. On November 25, the Russian Federation fired at three Ukrainian ships sailing to Odessa via the Kerch Strait. Six sailors were injured and 24 were detained. The Russian Court of Justice jailed some of them for two months. Ukraine has been under the shadow of Russia since the 2014 civil war in Donbass and Luhansk backed by Moscow led to the annexation of Crimea.

However, Russia has never directly or officialy attacked Kiev. The recent case was a step further in Russian aggression as Moscow’s officials recognized and justify the attack. For the first time in this conflict, a unit under the Russian flag fired another under the Ukrainian flag, which is official aggression according to Hryhory Perepelytsia, Researcher from the Diplomatic Academy of Kiev and author of many reports on Ukraine’s foreign policy.

Russia seems each day more of a threat to Ukraine. Oleksandr Bankov, Ukrainian Ambassador in Romania, reminded the audience that Russia had mobilized several military units in the eastern border of Ukraine, and raised the question of Transnistria as another threat. "Moldova must be blamed for allowing the Russian soldiers and special forces to reach Transnistria by the Chișinău airport," he said. Therefore, among the regions under martial state are the areas bordering Russia, Crimea and Moldova.

The Ukrainian official highlighted the economic consequences of the Russian deeds. The annexation of Crimea and the building of the Crimean bridge led to economic losses for Ukraine. First, because the bridge is too low and deters ships from reaching the Port of Odessa, the largest in Ukraine. Then, because Russia also took control of at least three off-shore platforms.

Finally, according to one of the speakers, Russia tries to renegotiate the post-cold war situation, advocating for an outdated understanding of geopolitics, fighting against cooperation promoted by the EU.

Russia these days, is looking at how the international community and NATO react. Yet, once more, NATO spoke up loudly against the Russian aggression, but hardly took any significant actions.

This was the 3rd conference on this theme organized by Asociația “Ține de Noi”, Fundația Hanns Seidel and Center for Conflict Prevention and Early Warning.

By Antoine Dewaest

08 December 2018 16:24