SIMFEROPOL, October 31. /TASS/. NATO’s greater presence in the Black Sea, should it become a reality, will not affect the security of Crimea, because Russia has enough forces to control its borders and guarantee the security of coastal regions, polled politicians and military experts have told TASS.
Speaking at a news briefing in Odessa on Wednesday NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Black Sea region was of strategic importance to NATO and the alliance was stepping up its presence there.
"It goes without saying that Russia will react to this [NATO’s growing military presence]," said the speaker of Crimea’s State Council, Vladimir Konstantinov. "For the Crimeans everything is absolutely safe. [Before the reunification of Crimea with Russia in 2014] we existed in a far worse environment. We were totally undefended. Now we are under firm protection."
The State Duma’s member from Crimea Andrei Kozenko said that NATO’s actions were fraught with "rather moral risks."
"Any visit by NATO forces is always accompanied by corresponding information from the European offical agencies. Ukrainian politicians, too, are fond of offering comments sounding like ‘something is cooking’. But one should be aware that not a single country in the world will dare provoke Russia here. Otherwise this will be fraught with consequences. Everybody understands this. As for muscle flexing - yes, NATO never misses the chance," Kozenko said.
He recalled that there had existed a real threat of NATO gaining a foothold in Crimea before 2014, when the peninsula was still part of Ukraine. After its reunification with Russia this fear is gone. Kozenko is certain that NATO should be kept at a distance and the awareness retained of what is happening to know the intentions and be one step ahead."
The chairman of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee Konstantin Kosachyov told TASS in an interview that "the Black Sea should remain a zone of peace and easing of international tensions."
Security guarantees and border control
As a member of the Federation Council from Sevastopol Valery Kulikov (up to 2017 the commander of the Black Sea Fleet) said that NATO "is most probably unable to reconcile itself with the thought its infrastructure is not deployed in Sevastopol and Crimea."
"The peninsula is of strategic importance and the conditions for a naval base in Sevastopol are the best in the region," he said.
"NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg offered an amazingly frank explanation of many processes that began to unfold around Russia starting from 2014. His remark to the effect the situation in the Black Sea was of strategic importance to NATO is the clue to understanding the real reasons why the West was so annoyed over the way the people of Crimea expressed their will in a referendum," Kulikov told TASS.
Russia is capable of curbing NATO’s ambitions to control the whole Black Sea, the interviewed analysts told TASS.
"In any situation our armed forces will maintain the security of Crimea and Russia’s southern borders. Nobody should feel any doubts about that," said the first deputy speaker of Crimea’s State Council, chairman of the statehood and local self-government committee Yefim Fiks.
The chairman of the senior officers’ (generals and admirals) union of the city of Sevastopol, Major-General Vasily Kazachenko, said that "Russia has never been indifferent to what is afoot around its borders."
"The presence of NATO’s ships in the Black Sea is their business, of course. We shall be always prepared to provide an adequate response to the behavior of any naval group. The response will be a worthy one and in the interests of Russia’s security. We have enough forces and means to safeguard our interests in the Back Sea," Kazachenko said.
Senator from Crimea Sergei Tsekov added that there was only one way of responding to an increase in the strength of NATO’s group - measures to strengthen Russian defenses. For instance, he recalled plans for stationing a new air division on the peninsula.
"The Crimeans should be certain they are well protected. They should know the risks, but at the same time feel no worries," he added.