Sea of Azov

  • Stopping Kremlin Aggression in the Sea of Azov


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  • From the Azov Sea to Washington DC: How Russophobia Became Russia’s Leading Export

    Vladimir Putin had a simple explanation for the wave of international condemnation that engulfed Moscow in the wake of Russia’s November 25 Black Sea attack on the Ukrainian Navy. According to the Kremlin leader, it was all Ukraine’s doing. “Kyiv is actively stirring up anti-Russian sentiment,” he lamented. “That’s all they have—and it works.”

    This is far from the first time Moscow officials have sought to explain away serious accusations by attributing them to conveniently vague notions of anti-Russian bias. Indeed, the formerly moribund nineteenth century concept of Russophobia has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance since 2014, becoming the Kremlin’s excuse of choice whenever faced by a new round of allegations. Whether the crime in question is the invasion of Ukraine, an attempted coup in the Balkans, chemical weapons attacks in rural England, or electoral interference across Europe and the United States, the Kremlin has clearly decided the best form of defense is to...

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  • How the West Got Martial Law in Ukraine Totally Wrong

    The past several days have been historic ones in Ukraine’s development as a sovereign and democratic nation. Moscow’s unprovoked attack on and seizure of three Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea on November 25 began this process. This attack represents a serious escalation of Kremlin aggression because it was done openly by regular Russian military forces. Moscow was not hiding its role—as in the Donbas—behind the fiction that local “separatists” were running a rebellion.

    Russian naval forces first rammed one of the Ukrainian boats and then opened fire. Ukrainian communication intercepts show that Russian commanders on shore gave their ships orders to undertake this action and noted that the situation was being monitored by senior officials in Moscow. The Kremlin was likely trying to provoke the Ukrainian ships into firing in order to justify a larger Russian military response. Moscow successfully used this tactic to start its 2008 war with Georgia, but Ukraine wisely did...

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  • How to Put Putin in His Place

    Russia’s act of aggression against Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea on Sunday should not be dismissed as an isolated incident in its four-and-a-half year old war against Ukraine. This pre-meditated attack is part of a broader effort by Moscow to take full control of the Kerch Strait—a strategic chokepoint that connects Russia to Crimea and separates the Black and Azov Seas. Control over the Kerch Strait gives the Russian navy complete dominance over the Sea of Azov, whose only direct outlet to international waters is through the strait.

    Such maritime dominance would allow Moscow to effectively blockade the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, two major commercial gateways in eastern Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely betting that by suffocating the fragile war-torn economy in eastern Ukraine, he can sow opposition to Ukraine’s central government and eventually blackmail Ukraine into some sort of accommodation.

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  • Herbst Quoted in Axios on Azov Sea Crisis


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  • Herbst Quoted in Business Insider on Sea of Azov Crisis


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  • Vershbow in Washington Post: Will Trump Let Russia Take the Azov Sea?


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  • The West Has an Opportunity, Yet Again, to Push Back Against Russia

    In August of 2008, Russia used separatist proxies in South Ossetia to attack Georgian villages near the city of Tskhinvali. The attack provoked a Georgian military response, which Moscow used as a pretext for a largescale invasion and occupation of Georgian territories.

    Russia did not embark on that military adventure simply to occupy Georgian territories. It had a more important strategic goal in mind—to prevent an eastern enlargement of NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin calculated, correctly as it turned out, that the Russian commitment to keep Georgia out of NATO was much greater than the Western commitment to Georgia’s security.

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  • Is Another Trump-Putin Meeting a Good Idea?

    US President Donald J. Trump is expected to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Buenos Aires later this week. Is that a good idea in light of Russia’s latest aggression toward Ukraine and the somewhat stymied success of past meetings between the two leaders? In an interview with The Washington Post, Trump left open the possibility that he might, after all, cancel the meeting over the incident in the Kerch Strait. “Maybe I won’t even have the meeting,” he said.

    Daniel Fried, a distinguished fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative and the Eurasia Center, said: “A meeting...

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  • Russia Openly Attacks Ukraine. Why Now?

    On November 25, Russia opened fire on three Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait and then seized them. On November 26, Kyiv imposed martial law in ten regions for thirty days as a response to the attack.

    Contrary to Russia’s previous military presence in Crimea or its military support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, both of which the Kremlin initially denied, this incident is an act of open and unmasked aggression against Ukraine.

    The question is, why now?

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