Russia’s Dive into the Mediterranean Makes a Splash

In late June, Russia said its air force fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of the British destroyer HMS Defenderthat was cruising close to Crimea in the Black Sea. Officials in London said it didn’t really happen, but no matter.

Ever ready with the macho rejoinder, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that if the British NATO ship strayed into the waters again and the Russian navy sank it, the Western alliance wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. “It put the world on the brink of World War III,” he said. “They can’t emerge as winners in that war.”

Looking at the event in isolation, we can see that Putin seemed upset that a NATO naval vessel was operating near territory he had wrested from Ukraine in 2014 – a display that likely stoked his fear that Russia’s Slavic neighbor will join the Atlantic alliance someday.

And NATO had sent a message to Moscow that although Russia annexed Crimea, Ukraine is still sovereign and can cozy up to NATO if it wants and that Russia doesn’t own the Black Sea.

The militarized message-sending spat highlights a naval chess game underway between Russia and NATO. After a post-Cold War absence, Russia has returned in force to the waters off Europe’s southeastern flank and wants everyone to know it.

Daniel Williams

Published by Daniel Williams

I am a former correspondent who, for more than 30 years, did time in China, Southeast Asia, Central America, Mexico, the Middle East, Europe and Africa and covered wars that went from episodic to non-stop. My book, "Forsaken," about Christian persecution in the Middle East came out January, 2016. NextWarNotes is a news and analysis blog designed to fill gaps, provide background and think about what’s next. The name of the site comes from a 1935 article by Ernest Hemingway in Esquire Magazine called “Notes on the Next War,” in which he predicted the coming conflagration in Europe, told why it would happen and warned Americans to stay out.

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