What the hell are they Tonkin about…?
TOM LUONGO | 28.11.2018
Trouble has been brewing in the Sea of Azov all year. It started with Ukraine’s seizing a Russian fishing boat and detaining its crew in March. The Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko canceled the Friendship Treaty with Russia. After that he has accepted surplus US naval vessels to prop up a navy that exists in name only.
This is all in response to Russia’s completing the Kerch Strait bridge which Russia can use to block access through. The Kerch strait is Russian territory and, by international law, Russia can limit access to the Sea of Azov.
So, this weekend’s incident in which a tug was rammed, ships fired upon and seized by Russia, ultimately was a proper and legal response to a clear provocation because the Ukrainian military ships refused to announce their intentions.
Let’s not beat around the bush here. This incident is meant to justify further antagonism between the West and Russia on the eve of the G-20 and the planned meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin.
It also was meant to enflame Ukrainian nationalism and drum up support for Poroshenko who is trailing badly in the polls as we approach March elections. Declaring martial law so as to potentially suspend those election, the US satrap is raising the stakes on Russia to it finally responding to these repeated provocations.
At the same time the Ukrainian Army unleashed the heaviest shelling of the Donbass contact line near Gorlovka in years.
There are a number of different angles on this incident and how it will be used to increase tensions between the West and Russia.
Russia is officially taking the position that Poroshenko is doing this to keep his Western backers happy who have dumped billions into him and his government to keep Ukraine a festering wound on Russia’s border.
It is also a desperate attempt to prop up this failing government and potentially suspend March’s elections.
While I am certainly sympathetic to that position, it is also the least interesting part of it because it is so blatantly obvious. I think the deeper gambit here has to do with Poroshenko ending the Friendship Treaty.
According to Rostislav Ishchenko ending the treaty works only in Russia’s favor as it removes the permanence of the boundary between Russia and Ukraine. In effect, it opens up the path to Russia to recognize the breakaway republics of Lugansk and Donetsk.
But, it’s more than that because it also opens up the argument that the Sea of Azov is now International Waters since the border is in dispute. This allows for legal maneuvering by Europe and the US through the UN to find Russia in violation of Ukrainian vessels’ right of passage. I’m not saying this is the case, being no legal scholar on this, but this looks the most likely tack to take to sell the world further on the evil, expansionist Russia narrative.
And that argument can hold weight because no one recognizes Crimea as part of Russia, officially.
The UN Security Council’s usual suspects – Europe and the US – backing Ukraine on this issue was wholly predictable. And the question now will be whether the US got its casus belli to try and force NATO ships into the Sea of Azov under the pretext of keeping the peace in International Waters.