Has it started yet?
The Black Sea is once again in the focus of the world public after the incident involving U.S. drone and a Russian fighter jet.Source: index.hr
The US military announced on Tuesday, March 14 that a Russian fighter jet hit the propeller of a spy drone that then crashed into the Black Sea. Russia claimed that this was not true and that the aircraft went down due to "sharp maneuvering".
A video of the "close encounter" was also published, and in the meantime, a competition started as to who will get to the parts of the downed drone first. Russia has allegedly already reached it, CNN reported.
There is no doubt that the situation on the Black Sea suddenly became quite tense, assesses Gordan Duhaček for Index.hr, and adds that everyone is publicly trying to avoid the opening of a new front.
But, as he states, the Black Sea is an area where tensions can easily escalate to an armed conflict. It is about, as the author assesses, a "potential Ukraine" in the making, only with even more directly involved players, including some NATO members.
It reminds of the report published by the German Spiegel about the situation in the countries that have access to the Black Sea, which for decades was not on the radar of political strategists when it comes to geopolitical conflicts.
We are talking about a region that includes about 300 million people, and now it is no longer excluded that the Russian president detonates a tactical nuclear weapon in the Black Sea. The first line of defense, in any case, is Romania, which controls 30,000 square kilometers of the Black Sea.
Romanian territory, however, is within range of Russian ballistic missiles, and only 225 kilometers separate the Crimean peninsula occupied by Russia and the Danube Delta, most of which lies in Romania.
Romania therefore plans to further strengthen the defense of the Black Sea, although there is not enough money for this.
Also, northwest of the port city of Konstanza is one of the six bases to which NATO has access.
Up to 10,000 US troops will be stationed there in the coming years, and many describe it as the Romanian counterpart to the huge US base in Ramstein, Germany.
Ukraine also exits onto the Black Sea, and its most important port is Odessa, but two or three hours through the coastal hinterland east of Odessa bring us close to the front, according to Spiegel.
There is also Abkhazia, whose independence was recognized by Moscow in 2008, after a five-day war against Georgia. But even today, nothing can be done in Abkhazia without the approval of the Russian secret service. Moscow has a particularly tight grip on the border area with Georgia.
"North of Anaklia on the Black Sea coast, Russian soldiers and the special forces of NATO-partner Georgia are facing each other over the border fence, separated by only 500 meters," writes Spiegel and quotes the words of a man working in a kiosk on a Georgian beach: "I can see Russian war ships with the naked eye".
With its ports on the eastern shores of the Black Sea, Georgia could play a key role in a variety of post-war scenarios – as a way station between Europe, Central Asia and the Caspian Sea, as a trading hub for goods and energy away from more traditional Russian routes, and as a forward deployment area for NATO. However, a prerequisite for each of these scenarios would be a secure place for Georgia within the Western alliances.
However, Georgia is fragile. One fifth of its territory was occupied by Russian troops. South Ossetia also declared independence from Tbilisi and allegiance to the Kremlin.
But the bastion in that region is still Turkey, and its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been acting as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine since the beginning of the war, and also controls the entrance to the Black Sea.
Without Ankara's approval, no warship can pass the Bosphorus, no freighter loaded with Ukrainian grain can reach Africa, Spiegel writes.
The Bosphorus Strait, only 700 meters wide at its narrowest point, is a "needle" through which the fleets of the Black Sea states must pass.
However, Erdogan remained in touch with everyone, on the one hand, he allows the delivery of combat drones made by his own son-in-law to Ukraine and demands the return of all areas occupied by the Russians.
On the other hand, he continues to be in constant contact with Putin and ensures that Russia has access to much-needed supplies in exchange for cheap natural gas supplies to Turkey.
Erdogan does not support the sanctions that have been introduced against Russia, which is why he puts up with being called "Putin's dealer".
In turn, Turkish and European companies are in a vacuum caused by the sanctions. They ship goods from Anatolian ports by ferry across the Black Sea - 8,200 a month last spring and supplies also arrive in Russia overland via the Caucasus.
It should not be forgotten that the relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan also cause tension in the Black Sea region, that is, the Caucasus region. Too many incidents could easily turn the entire region into a powder keg.
In addition, the interests of Russia and Ukraine, NATO and Turkey meet on the Black Sea, which is a potentially explosive situation. Therefore, it is to be hoped that there will be no more collisions between drones and planes.