By Finian Cunningham
With the US, EU and NATO all bolstering claims of “Russian aggression” – in face of contrary evidence – the real danger is that the Kiev regime will be emboldened to carry out more reckless provocations leading to all-out war.
It seems indisputable that the three Ukrainian Navy vessels were dispatched last Sunday in order to instigate a security response from Russian maritime border forces. In contrast to normal procedures for passage clearance through the Kerch Strait, the Ukrainian warships refused to communicate with Russian controls and acted menacingly inside Russia’s Black Sea territorial limits.
At a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting on Monday, the US, Britain and France pointedly refused to take on board Russia’s legal argument for why it felt obliged to detain the Ukrainian boats and 24 crew. The Western powers automatically sided with the version of events claimed by President Petro Poroshenko – that the Ukrainian Navy was attacked unlawfully by Russia.
The US, EU and NATO denounced Russia’s “aggression” and demanded that the Ukrainian vessels and crew be repatriated immediately, even though under Russian law there is a case for prosecution.
It is the West’s refusal to acknowledge facts that is part of the problem. Russia is continually accused of “annexing” Crimea in 2014 instead of the Western powers recognizing that the Black Sea peninsula voted in a constitutionally held referendum to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Crimea was prompted to take that historic step because the US, EU and NATO had only the month before backed an illegal coup in Kiev against the elected Ukrainian government. That coup brought to power the present Kiev regime led by Poroshenko and a parliament dominated by neo-Nazi parties.
So, the problem here is a refusal by Western supporters of the dubious Kiev regime to accept the legal, historic reality that Crimea is part of Russia’s territory. Ships passing through the Kerch Strait between Russia’s mainland and Crimea are obliged to notify Russian maritime controls of passage. Russia has since reopened the strait to civilian cargo transport following the naval skirmish at the weekend.
When the Ukrainian Navy vessels violated legal procedures and entered Russian territorial limits, their action was aggressive, not Russia’s response.
Furthermore, there are already emerging signs that the Ukrainian naval transport was orchestrated for the purpose of inciting an incident.
Some of the detained crew members have admitted carrying out orders which they knew would be seen by Russia as provocative.
It has also been reported by US government-owned Radio Free Europe that the Ukrainian secret services (SBU) have confirmed that its officers were among the crew on the boats. The vessels were also armed. If the transfer was an innocent passage, why were secret services involved?
Recall that Ukrainian secret services have previously been caught staging sabotage operations in Crimea.
Another major background factor is the increasing NATO military buildup in eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin officially opened the 19km bridge linking Russia’s mainland with Crimea in May earlier this year, there were calls in US and Ukrainian media for the structure to be sabotaged. Moscow has understandably stepped up security controls around the vital infrastructure, which cost $3.7 billion and is the longest bridge in Europe.
In recent months, the US and Britain have ordered increasing military deployment to the region under the guise of “training” and “assistance” to the Kiev regime forces.
Earlier this year, in July, the NATO alliance held naval drills, Sea Breeze, along with Ukrainian forces in the Black Sea. That’s in spite of the fact that Ukraine is not a member of NATO, although it is aspiring to join the 29-member US-led bloc at some time in the future.
It was the following month, in August, that Russia began stepping up its controls and searches of vessels through the Kerch Strait linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. The latter leads to ports under the control of the Kiev regime such as Mariupol, which is adjacent to the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic. The DPR and Luhansk People’s Republic broke away following the coup in Kiev in 2014 and have been under military attack for the past four years despite the so-called Minsk peace treaties. These are more facts that the Western backers of the Kiev regime refuse to deal with.
More NATO buildup continued in September with the supply of two gunboats by the US to the Ukrainian Navy for deployment in the Sea of Azov. Pentagon-linked publication Defense One described that supply as part of efforts by Washington and Kiev to develop a “mosquito navy” in order to skirmish with Russian forces.
Only four days before the latest naval clash, Britain’s Defense Minister Gavin Williamson announced the Royal Navy was to send HMS ‘Echo’ to patrol with Ukrainian special forces to “defend freedom and democracy.” Williamson said: “As long as Ukraine faces Russian hostilities, the United Kingdom will be a steadfast partner.”
This is background to the simmering tensions in the Black Sea between Ukraine and Russia. The situation has arisen because of Western interference in Ukraine – primarily the coup in Kiev in February 2014. Yet, in all discussions about events since then, the Western powers are in denial of facts and their culpability. The recent militarization of the Black Sea by the NATO alliance is a stark provocation to Russia’s national security, but again the Western powers bury their collective heads in the sand.
Given the reckless indulgence by the US, Europe and NATO of the Kiev regime amid its ongoing violations against the populace in eastern Ukraine, its refusal to abide by the Minsk agreements, and its continual inflammatory and unhinged rhetoric against Russia, it should not be surprising if this same regime feels emboldened to provoke an armed confrontation with Moscow.
Arguably, the Kiev regime and its adulation of World War II Nazi collaborators never had any legitimacy in the first place. It continues to demonstrate its lack of legitimacy from the immense social problems in Ukraine of poverty, corruption, human rights violations, neo-Nazi paramilitaries running amok, and now martial law being imposed.
It remains to be seen if the recent naval provocation was carried out with the tacit approval of Washington and other NATO powers as a pretext for further militarization against Russia. The initial misplaced condemnations of Russia have subsided to more measured calls from US President Donald Trump and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for “restraint” and “dialogue.”
That might suggest Kiev’s failing President Poroshenko and his security services acted alone to order the naval confrontation as a desperate throw of the dice to escalate NATO and EU support for his shaky regime against Russia.
Trump’s comments hoping that Kiev and Russia would “straighten things out” sound like Washington is not behind the provocation and has no desire for a wider conflict. Just as well, because such a development is a gateway to all-out war.
Nevertheless, such a catastrophe is always a serious risk when Western powers indulge this unhinged Kiev regime.