Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 31.08.2018
The US State Department has condemned Russia's harassment of international shipping transiting the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov. As part of its war against Ukraine, which has been raging for four and a half years, Russia has imposed an effective maritime blockade of the Ukrainian ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. Given that this an overt act of war by the Putin regime, the US statement condemning Russia’s ’harassment’ is very mild diplomatic language.
Here is the US State Department communiqué, issued on August 30:
"The United States condemns Russia’s harassment of international shipping in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. Russia has delayed hundreds of commercial vessels since April and in recent weeks has stopped at least 16 commercial ships attempting to reach Ukrainian ports.
Russia’s actions to impede maritime transit are further examples of its ongoing campaign to undermine and destabilize Ukraine, as well as its disregard for international norms.
The United States supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters.
We call on Russia to cease its harassment of international shipping in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait."
This is a welcome step by the United States. The US has always upheld the strategic objective of freedom of navigation in international waters. This applies to the South China Sea which is under threat from imperialist China and it applies to the Sea of Azov which is under threat from imperialist Russia.
Ukraine needs the support of fellow Western democracies against the aggression of autocratic Muscovy, particularly in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The Armed Forces of Ukraine can adequately defend the homeland in Donbas, which Russia invaded in April 2014. But on the Black Sea and in the Sea of Azov Ukraine is decidedly overmatched by the invaders from Muscovy. Putin’s pirates stole most of the ships of the Ukrainian navy when they invaded Ukraine in Crimea. The Muscovites also stole Ukrainians airbases, ports, and offshore drilling platforms, and thus are able to project power across the north of the Black Sea: from Romania to Odesa to Crimea to the Kerch Strait to the Sea of Azov. Putin’s war aim is to cut off Ukraine from the sea, to leave it land-locked.
The US has issued a statement condemning Russia for what its maritime blockade of Ukrainian ports. Where is the statement of condemnation from the great European powers? What word from Germany, France and the United Kingdom? From old Europe there is only silence. 73 years after the end of the Second World War, western European powers are incapable of taking the lead on matters of war and peace in Europe. Ukraine and the United States are the bulwark of European security against Russian aggression – not Germany, France or the UK.
Ukraine is the largest country that lies wholly within Europe. A Eurasian country, Russia, is invading Ukraine. Russia illegally occupies Ukraine’s territory of Crimea and part of Ukraine’s territory of Donbas. Russia illegally restricts maritime passage through an international strait, the Kerch Strait. Russia has imposed a maritime blockade of the Ukrainian ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.
Russia is at war with Ukraine, which means it is at war with Europe, which means it is at war with Western civilization. The US State Department condemnation of Russian ‘harassment’ of shipping is the mildest possible diplomatic language. The rules-based international order will collapse for good if reality is not faced. A state of war exists between attacker Russia and defender Ukraine. Putin’s War should be declared to be the international war that it truly is.