Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 14.07.2018
The Black Sea must never be allowed to become a Russian lake. Muscovy imperialists have always treated the Black Sea littoral as the ‘near abroad’ and as their ‘sphere of influence.’ To the Russians, neighbours are subjects to be dominated, not peers to be respected. Russia has invaded and occupied big chunks of the Black Sea littoral: Abkhazia, which belongs to Georgia; Crimea, which belongs to Ukraine; and part of Donbas on the Sea of Azov, which belongs to Ukraine. For the sake of world peace and global security, Putin must be defeated in his war to make the Black Sea a Russian lake.
Militaries from free and democratic countries are holding an exercise called “Sea Breeze 2018” to demonstrate that the Black Sea is open. Ukraine is the focus. Most of the activities of “Sea Breeze 2018” are taking place in Odesa, Ukraine and in the Black Sea offshore. Some land-based exercises are underway at Ukraine’s Shiroky Lan training range in Mykolaiv region. “Sea Breeze 2018” is a confidence-building exercise among NATO and non-NATO countries who all have an interest in collective security and in containing Russian aggression. In the words of US Navy Captain and commodore of Task Force 65 Matthew Lehman: “The exercise seeks to build combined capability and capacity to ensure regional security and foster trust among participating nations.”
The flagship of the US Sixth Fleet, the command-and-control ship USS Mount Whitney, is in Odessa, along with the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter. Besides the US Navy, ships from the Romanian and Turkish navies are participating. SEALs and special operations units from the militaries of Moldova and Georgia are participating. Navy divers from the United Kingdom and Canada are participating.
US Marines are training with Ukrainian Marines at the Shiroky Lan training range in Mykolaiv region, which is in central Ukraine. As the American military news outlet “Stars and Stripes” noted, the live-fire training is taking place only 100 miles from Russian-occupied Crimea (temporarily uncontrolled by Ukraine). The Ukrainian Marines training with the Americans have combat experience against the Russians, because they are manning the trenches that are east of Mariupol in Donetsk region. For US Marines to be training with them is a remarkable statement of the resolve of Ukraine’s partner nations to not give in to Muscovy bullying.
On the night of July 12, Ukrainian Marines conducted an airlift delivery exercise as part of “Sea Breeze 2018.” Cadets of the Military Academy in Odesa also took part. Parachute drops of equipment and personnel at nighttime are always hazardous, and it is a testament to the professionalism of the Ukrainian Marines and cadets that all of them coped successfully with the demands of the exercise. The Ukrainian military is practicing these operations with a purpose, as they are what will have to be accomplished when the time comes to liberate Crimea and Donbas from Russian occupation or if Russia launches a full-blown offensive to conquer Ukraine.
Predictably, the Russians warned that “Sea Breeze 2018” was “playing with fire” in the Black Sea. Of course, none of the participants in the exercise have invaded and occupied the territory of neighbours as Russia has, and it is only prudent to take measures to guard against further Russian aggression.
No part of Ukraine is a part of the sphere of influence of Russia. Ukraine may invite allies and partners to military exercises however it pleases, as is its sovereign right. The Black Sea is not a Russian lake. It is an open sea. Black Sea littoral and NATO countries Romania and Bulgaria and Turkey cannot be fettered by Russia. Neither can countries that by all rights should be in NATO: Ukraine and Georgia. “Sea Breeze 2018” is a tangible demonstration that Muscovy imperialism will be challenged and will not prevail. Russia’s occupation of Crimea and Donbas and Abkhazia is wholly illegitimate, and it will end.