The ITAR-TASS news agency reported that a Russian naval base will be constructed this year in the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia.  An Abkhaz official said that the base will not succeed Sevastopol (the Crimean port whose lease Kyiv does not intend to renew in 2017) as the new Black Sea Fleet headquarters.

Reuters: “Russia’s ITAR-TASS news agency quoted an unnamed official at Russian naval headquarters as saying commanders planned to station vessels at the Abkhaz port of Ochamchire.  Russia’s navy could not immediately be reached for comment.”  Abkhazia’s deputy foreign minister Maxim Gunjia added, “There is a plan to make such a base, but not as an alternative to Sevastapol.  It is likely to be an infrastructure base for Russian military boats.”

The news threatens to strain relations between Moscow and the West that only recently have begun to warm.  Ironically, the ITAR-TASS report comes on the same day that NATO announced plans to resume official meetings of the NATO-Russia Council, which was suspended in August after Russia’s invasion of Georgia.  Perfect timing.

Peter Cassata is associate editor of the Atlantic Council.