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Crimea’s increased defense capability may deter NATO presence in the Black Sea region

March 02, 2015, 21:31 UTC+3 Litovkin Viktor
© ITAR-TASS/Alexey Pavlishak

MOSCOW, March 2 /TASS/. The four-star US General Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, is concerned with Russian efforts to strengthen the defense capability of Russia’s Crimean peninsula. At his recent meeting with journalists, General Breedlove said that NATO had noticed significant changes in the deployment of weapons in Crimea. Russian anti-aircraft systems are controlling approximately half of the Black Sea while "surface to surface" missiles are covering its area completely. These anti-aircraft systems, Breedlove said, have turned Crimea into a strong bridgehead ensuring the projection of force in the region.

US experts see the recent military deployments in Crimea as a direct threat to the presence of NATO warships in the Black Sea that can change the balance of forces in the Black Sea region.

It is absolutely clear why the US general is so much discontented with Crimea’s return to Russia and Russia‘s efforts to strengthen the peninsula’s military security. The times of US or NATO dominance in the Black Sea are over, and US warships will no longer be able to call at Sevastopol port without permission from the Black Sea command as they used to do after the August events (in South Ossetia) in 2008 on permission from the then Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

It is noteworthy that even in the years when USS Philippine Sea guided missile cruiser and the USCGC Dallas coast guard cutter moored at the Grafskaya Pristan (Grafskaya Moorage) in Sevastopol, the city residents met them with protest rallies, the unwrapped Andreyevsky flags of the Russian Navy and black pirate banners. The "hospitable" Crimean inhabitants also met the US sailors with expressive anti-NATO slogans such as: "Fuck off NATO", "Yushchenko to NATO — coffins to mothers from military enlistment offices", "Make love not war." They did not even let them come ashore at that time let alone today when Crimea and Sevastopol have become integral parts of Russia while NATO and the Pentagon have severed all ties with the Russian military.

The flights of Russian attack planes over the US and NATO warships on the border of Russian territorial waters is just one of the means to remind the unwanted guests of who is who in the Black Sea if the words of ex-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, which have become a proverb, are to be used. The Russian aircraft are not breaking any international rules but have no intention to hide their defense capabilities. The crew of the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75), a 4th generation guided missile destroyer, still shudder when remembering how a Russian Su-24 MP aircraft flew over the vessel twelve times. It carried a Russian electronic warfare device called Khibiny, which disabled all radars, control circuits, systems, information transmission and the all-powerful Aegis system on board the US destroyer.

Now, the sailors of NATO warships are forced to closely follow the routes of movement in the Black Sea. Naturally, they are obliged to meet the conditions of the Monroe doctrine not to stay in the Black Sea basin longer than 21 days. The water displacement of NATO warships staying in the Black Sea should not exceed 45,000 tons.

Russian Admiral Igor Kasatonov, the former Black Sea commander who is now an adviser to the Russian Armed Forces chief of staff, has said that NATO’ Black Sea calls are part of the West’s reconnaissance operations directed against Russia that supplement NATO’s ground and satellite surveillance.

The United States and NATO have not only increased their Black Sea but have made them aggressive. They are strengthening military ties with Russia’s Black Sea neighbors; deploying weapons in their territories and provoking color revolutions in the Black Sea region. These actions have forced Russia to pay increased attention to building up security at its southern frontiers, including Crimea. It’s an open secret and no one is hiding that.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has openly said that the aggravation of the Ukraine crisis and growing foreign military presence off Russian borders have impelled Russia to introduce some changes in the work of the command of the Southern Military District, which comprises Crimea. That is why the deployment of a full-fledged and self-sufficient group of troops in the Crimean direction has become a priority task for the Russian military leadership. There is no official information with regards to what weapon systems and battlefield support complexes have been deployed in Crimea. Reports in the open press mentioned a full-fledged and deeply echeloned air defense systems based on the S-300PMU; Top-M2 and Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft systems. The Bastion missile systems equipped with the Yakhont supersonic guided anti-ship missiles form Crimea’s coastal defense. The Yakhont missiles are capable of controlling, as General Breedlove said, or literally "search" Russia’s territorial waters and even the areas of our economic interests.

Apart from the Black Sea ships and various Black Sea fleet units stationed in Crimea, Russia has also deployed squadrons of Russia-made Su-30 and MiG-29 aircraft; frontline bombers and Su-24 and Su-34 attack planes and even, though not officially confirmed, the long-range Tu-22M3 bombers. Six diesel-electric submarines and the same number of frigates are expected to arrive in the ports of Sevastopol and Novorossiisk where a new Black Sea naval base is being created in months and even years to come. The first diesel-electric submarine Novorossiysk (project 06363) and the Admiral Grigorovich class frigate (project 11356) are undergoing run tests and will soon join the Russian Navy. Other frigates and submarines will follow in two or three years from now.

Given that the youngest Black Sea ships like the Bora and the Samum were commissioned in the early 1990s and that modern Turkey has more warships in the Black Sea than the Russian Black Sea fleet, no one will have the heart to describe Russia’s actions as "militarization". Apparently, General Breedlove is an exception."


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