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World Russian 'bullying' in a European hotspot stirs Cold War memories for the region's former top US Navy officer

00:21  25 september  2020
00:21  25 september  2020 Source:   businessinsider.com

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a boat is docked next to a body of water: US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter in the Black Sea with the Romanian Frigate Regina Maria, April 13, 2020. US Navy/Lt. Andrew Stopchick © US Navy/Lt. Andrew Stopchick US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter in the Black Sea with the Romanian Frigate Regina Maria, April 13, 2020. US Navy/Lt. Andrew Stopchick
  • The Black Sea has become a hotspot for military activity by the Russian and NATO militaries.
  • That increasing presence has led to close encounters between Russia and its NATO and non-NATO allies — events that are reminders of Cold War collisions, according to retired Adm. James Foggo.
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Aggressive Russian behavior in the Black Sea region is a reminder of similar actions during the Cold War, the former top Navy officer in the region, now-retired Adm. James Foggo, said this week.

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While the Black Sea has become a hotspot for military activity in recent years, there's a longer history of worrisome Russian actions, Foggo said during an event hosted by the Center for European Policy Analysis on Tuesday.

The 2008 invasion of Georgia was a surprise for US military leaders, as was the incursion in Ukraine in 2014, though "it probably shouldn't have been," Foggo said, adding that assassinations and poisonings in Europe further "indicate that Russia cannot be trusted."

"What bothers me is the recurrence of bullying that occurs in the Black Sea region," Foggo said, pointing specifically to the Sea of Azov, which is separated from the rest of the Black Sea by the Kerch Strait.

a train crossing a bridge over water: The road-and-rail bridge connecting mainland Russia with the Crimean Peninsula across the Kerch Strait, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov © REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov The road-and-rail bridge connecting mainland Russia with the Crimean Peninsula across the Kerch Strait, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov

Russia has built a bridge over that strait, which Putin inaugurated with a train ride across. It not only connects mainland Russia to Crimea but is part of an effort to cut off Ukrainian territory on the Sea of Azov from the rest of the Black Sea, Foggo said.

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"My worry is that that Sea of Azov model ... can be exported to the rest of the Black Sea," Foggo said in reference to a November 2018 incident in which Russian ships fired on and rammed Ukrainian ships sailing into the Sea of Azov.

Russia claimed the ships illegally entered its waters, but its actions were seen as a violation of both maritime law and an agreement on passage through the strait. The Ukrainian sailors were held until September 2019 — "a complete violation of Geneva Convention," Foggo said — and their ships weren't returned until November that year.

"So the Russians represent a threat," Foggo said, "and this isn't just something that happened overnight."

Foggo pointed to a February 1988 incident between US and Soviet ships as the US ships sailed through what the Soviet Union claimed as territorial waters near Crimea.

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The Russian Armed Forces doesn't accept in its ranks former convicts and people involved in For example, people defending Russia in the North get more than those serving in the Moscow region . As long as you serve in the Russian Armed Forces, you and your family will be living in a military

Russian -American relations were not always so bitter and tense as now. During the American Civil War, Russia supported the Union primarily because As for the two leading powers in Europe - Great Britain and France - their leaders were discussing the possibility of intervention on the side of the

a group of people on a boat: US Navy cruiser USS Yorktown is rammed by the Soviet frigate Bezzavetniy in the Black Sea, February 12, 1988. US Navy © US Navy US Navy cruiser USS Yorktown is rammed by the Soviet frigate Bezzavetniy in the Black Sea, February 12, 1988. US Navy

"The American ships had entered the 12-mile limit claimed by the Soviet Union as part of a Navy policy of occasionally asserting the right of passage in waters exceeding the 3-mile territorial limit recognized by the United States," The New York Times reported at the time.

Anonymous officials cited by The Times also said the operation was meant to collect intelligence on Soviet defenses.

The Soviet vessels warned the Navy ships, the cruiser Yorktown and the destroyer Caron, that they would be bumped if they didn't return to international waters, the Navy said. The US ships didn't comply, and the Soviets followed through, causing minor damage to the US ships.

"That was somewhat of a seminal event," Foggo said Tuesday. "When I saw the Sea of Azov occur again on smaller scale ... it brought back those memories."

"They really have not changed. They've not embraced international organizations, institutions, standards, and norms," Foggo said of the Russians. "I find that they are dangerous, and they need be checked."

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The future of Europe

a large ship in a body of water: Ukrainian navy ships during exercise Sea Breeze 2020 in the Black Sea, July 21, 2020. US Navy/Courtesy of Ukrainian Navy © US Navy/Courtesy of Ukrainian Navy Ukrainian navy ships during exercise Sea Breeze 2020 in the Black Sea, July 21, 2020. US Navy/Courtesy of Ukrainian Navy

Russia and Ukraine remain locked in a "frozen conflict," Foggo said, and tensions between Russia and NATO have only escalated since 2014. While there are legal limits on ships from non-Black Sea countries being in the sea, the US and NATO have made it a point to be present.

"I did everything in my power ... to put ships in the Black Sea either under a US hat with allies and partners bilaterally or, my favorite thing to do, multilaterally with NATO," said Foggo, who commanded US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command from October 2017 until mid-July 2020.

"I think it's necessary we maintain a very high presence" to "quell the tides" created by Russia there, Foggo added.

That presence hasn't slacked with Foggo's retirement. Days after he departed, Sea Breeze, a Ukrainian-US exercise with other Black Sea and NATO nations, kicked off with a number of maritime drills and training with US aircraft.

Close encounters between US and NATO aircraft and Russian fighter jets have also become common in the region, with the US often criticizing what it deems "unsafe and unprofessional" behavior by Russian pilots.

The Black Sea region's strategic importance for Russia and NATO means local developments can have geopolitical significance for the region and the continent.

"The Black Sea region is, in our assessment, the central locus of the competition between Russia and the West for the future of Europe," Stephen J. Flanagan, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, said this summer.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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