Guns at the ready, Mariupol at stake

Author : German radio station Deutschlandfunk

For many, NATO means No Action, Talking Only. The Ukrainians are still counting on NATO’s more active participation in terms of Russian aggression and Azov crisis in particular
14:20, 14 December 2018

Open source

The harbor waters of Mariupol resemble gray dust. The edge of the pier is soiled with gulls. Yellow-blue cranes, the arrows of which are directed towards the sea, are not moving. If it goes on like this, a volatile situation might arise in the society, says Olexandr Olinyk. Even before the recent incident, 140 Ukrainian ships, which so far regularly came to Mariupol, could not reach the port due to a new Crimean bridge at the “entrance” to the Sea of Azov.

“Cargo transshipment is now carried out in the southern Ukrainian ports – Odesa and Chornomorsk, in the “Yuzhny” port. This mainly concerns iron ore. We lost a million tons of ore in the “Yuzhny” port. It negatively affects the peaceful coexistence of people, - Volodymyr Omelyan, Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure, complains.- Many people employed in the ports will lose their jobs, they definitely don’t like it, and they will blame everyone for it. First, Ukraine for not being able to defend their jobs and the right to earn a living. And they will be 100% right."

Related: Adoption of “Azov sanctions package” should become next step against Russian aggression, - Poroshenko

Mariupol and "Russian invasion"

Mariupol is a front-line city, battles for it took place in 2014. And even today, checkpoints and anti-tank barriers could be found on the access roads to the city. Officials assure that Mariupol is militarily prepared for a new aggravation of the conflict.

Accurate numbers cannot be achieved. Experts believe that Russia has more than 60 naval vessels in the Sea of Azov, among which are also landing craft intended for transporting soldiers to the other, Ukrainian side of the sea. According to Ukraine, apart from a handful of small Soviet-made warships, it has nothing to oppose the Russian naval forces.

The conflict on land is developing under the supervision of the OSCE - the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This organization does not have the mandate to monitor events in the Sea of Azov. Until recently Alexander Hug headed the OSCE mission. He avoids answering a question of expanding the observation mission to the sea conflict region.

Related: Ukrainian Navy delegation goes to Washington to discuss Russian naval aggression in Kerch Strait

"The weapon is ready for battle. The political situation in Ukraine and around it is also unstable. And therefore we consider it important to closely monitor every step. As soon as signs of escalation emerge, we will take measures aimed at easing the tension."

Such incidents as the one that occurred on November 25, when Russia blocked the passage under the Crimean Bridge, detained three Ukrainian vessels and arrested 24 seamen, were long awaited. For example, this case justified the expectations of Andriy Klymenko, chief editor of the Ukrainian Black Sea News portal. He has long condemned NATO for providing the Black Sea to Russia. Ukraine was virtually unarmed and passed into the hands of its armed neighbor, Klymenko is sure.

"I want your listeners in Germany to understand: if there are no NATO ships in the Black Sea, this will open up plenty of opportunities for Putin to aggression against Ukraine from the sea."

Russia and Georgia: what history teaches us?

Let us go back to the past: August 2008, Georgia is at war with Russia, and the Georgian Navy is buried at the bottom in Georgian Poti port on the Black Sea: in a few minutes, eight ships were flooded as a result of the bombing by Russian fighters. Russian soldiers marched in the direction of the city on land, simultaneously committing a robbery and setting up checkpoints. At that time, the American destroyer stood 70 kilometers to the south in the Georgian port city of Batumi.

Related: Ukrainian sailor captured in Kerch Strait shares cell with ex-minister of unnamed Caucasian republic

The captain of the floating crane pulls the plaid shirt over the naked torso. The hair on his chest turned gray. His people in the port of Batumi spent the whole day unloading humanitarian aid from an American destroyer.

“You know, we are a very small country. Big states do what they want with us. I don’t want to seem rude, because I have a lot of friends in Russia, but it was wrong for the Russians to use their power in this way.”

Ten years ago, workers in a floating crane assumed that the Black Sea fleet of Russia would not attack a US military vessel. They were right. At that time, the USA even announced that they would send two more warships with humanitarian aid to Georgia. In addition, at that time there were German and Spanish ships in the Black Sea.

There the matter dropped. The Georgians, like the Ukrainians, were still counting on NATO’s more active participation, mainly on drawing up a compulsory plan of action for the earliest possible entry of countries into the Western military alliance. In the spring of 2008, before the Georgian war, NATO members refused to Ukraine and Georgia to draw up such a plan and adhered to this decision after the war.

Related: NATO concerned by increased Russia-Ukraine tensions, - Stoltenberg

Ukrainians: NATO means No Action, Talking only

Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine Volodymyr Omelyan is preparing for a long conflict with Russia.

“Churchill once said: “Peace will come when we win the war.” We need to win the war, and then there will be peace. Ukraine has never invaded Russia. Ukraine did not occupy Moscow. Russia seized Crimea and the eastern part of Ukraine. It did it the same with Georgia in 2008 and noticed that Western countries reacted very cautiously. Nothing special, we can occupy Georgia, Ukraine, and maybe the Baltic States. No one will react."

For many, NATO means No Action, Talking Only. Loose talk only. Indeed, less than a year after the war in Georgia, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, symbolically pressed the reset button of Russian-American relations.

The indecision of the West in relation to Russia served as a pretext for military preparations for the inhabitants of the Baltic states. Residents of the border areas with Russia are building bunkers for them and their families. They can expect anything from the Russian government. At the same time, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are members of NATO.

Related: Putin, Merkel discuss situation in Kerch Strait

They fear what others are worried about: Putin’s government can test NATO’s readiness for defense on the borders of the Baltic states through a relatively minor attack. During which, Russia, for example, will shift the border by a couple of hundred meters.

Russia threatens Western security

The question is, would NATO declare the right to collective self-defense in this case? If so, will it lead to escalation, if not, then NATO will be a "paper tiger."

On this occasion, Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk expresses alarm:

"It seems to me that neither NATO nor the EU realizes that Russia represents a threat to their national security. Look, the agents of the Russian special services of the GRU began to launch attacks on the military and national security structure of the EU and the free world. Look what happened in Salisbury. Look what happened to the MH 17 passenger plane. It's not just about Ukraine. It is about the security of the EU and NATO."

After the escalation of tension in the Azov Sea on November 25, the question whether sanctions are able to restrain Russia's aggression becomes topical again. Sanctions against Russia are designed for the long-term; according to Tatyana Mitrova, one of the leading Russian experts in the energy markets and, they are about Russian revenues associated with the oil and gas industry. Mitrova conducts research at the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo.

Related: Parliament could consider draft amendment to Constitution on Ukraine’s NATO aspirations

"The sanctions make themselves felt primarily due to capital expenditures. Earlier, Russian companies had the opportunity to quickly and easily take loans abroad, banks lined up for loans, and interest rates were low - 3-4%. Now they have grown up to 13-14%, and convincing banks and funds that lending is not risky in this case is a serious problem."

According to Mitrova, sanctions have not yet had a significant impact on everyday transactions.

"Because of this, Russian enterprises and the political leadership of the country seem to be under the impression that sanctions are not working. But visibility is deceptive. Sanctions are working. Not in the short term, but in the long term. They narrow the prospects for the oil and gas sector, step by step."

Sanctions are like "Anaconda"

First of all, it concerns the production of shale oil in the Arctic since 2025.

"This is like the stifling attack of the anaconda, this technique was also used against the Soviet Union when sanctions were imposed in the 1970s. Russia is currently gaining a similar experience."

The Soviet Union, in the end, collapsed because there were not enough technological means, the state spent all the money on armaments. Therefore, it is not surprising that Ukrainian politicians, such as former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, formulate clear demands: “Sanctions must continue. Undoubtedly. it is very important that the EU demonstrate unity.”

Related: NATO to ensure security in Sea of Azov, - Poroshenko

However, Germany is hindering the unity of the EU with the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. At present, part of Russian gas is still flowing through the old pipeline through Ukraine to the West. The country, exhausted by corruption, collapse, war, and oligarchs, is in dire need of transit duties. The role of a transit country for Ukraine is in some way even a guarantee of security.

Russia is still dependent on Ukraine in terms of the gas transit. If there is no transit, Ukraine will finally become virtually defenseless. Not only Ukrainians are afraid of it. The politicians of all factions of the Baltic States and Poland warn of the threat posed by the Nord Stream 2. They do not believe the blurred promises of Putin to continue to supply part of the gas through Ukraine. Too often, Putin broke his promises. Volodymyr Omelyan, Minister of Infrastructure: "There is a firm opinion that Putin’s minimum plan is to occupy Ukraine along the Dnieper and reach the left bank of the river. Until now, he hasn’t been able to do that."

Thomas Franke

Read the original text at Deutschlandfunk

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Franco DeCelis

Member since: 06.08.2017

Messages: 2

16 December 2018, 10:25
I understand that the Ukrainian President, the Prime Minister and most of the even more powerful oligarchs are not even Ukrainians. How can Ukraine rid itself of corruption when the chiefs are not even Ukrainian?
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