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Russian President Vladimir Putin has closed off access to the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait, which connects Crimea to Russia. On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced their intention to send two warships through the strait in response to the Russian military buildup on its border with Ukraine. But Russia warned the U.S. to stay away from the area “for their own good.”
Biden caved and announced today that the U.S. warships have turned around.
New York Post:
The Biden administration pulled back the two destroyers from steaming into the Black Sea after fighting intensified between Ukrainian and Russian-backed separatist forces in an effort to de-escalate the situation, Politico reported.
“We have no desire to be in an escalating war with Russia,” the Daily Mail quoted a senior administration official as saying, who added that the White House doesn’t want things “spinning out of control.”
“We do not seek a downward spiral. We can and think we can avoid that,” the official said.
The point of sending the two warships into the Black Sea was to put pressure on Putin not to take the incursion of Russian-backed rebels too far. The “rebels” are actually regular Russian conscripts who remove the insignia and any identification from their uniforms to maintain the fiction that Russia is not involved in the Ukraine civil war.
We wouldn’t have been in an “escalating war with Russia.” The administration is in the midst of another reset with Russia and doesn’t want Putin to get angry with them.
Meanwhile, Ukraine should have unfettered access to the Black Sea since much of its coastline is on that body of water. But Putin has all but blockaded Ukraine with this latest move.
Russia is able to control access between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov with a recently built bridge that straddles the Kerch Strait. Tensions escalated there in 2018-19 after Russia parked a giant cargo ship under the bridge and captured three Ukrainian naval ships, wounding several sailors.
Also on Thursday, Ukraine’s military accused Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) boats of attempting to block its vessels.
“Russian FSB boats once again attempted to obstruct the legitimate actions of the Ukrainian Navy’s boat group on combat duty tonight,” it said.
“Despite the Russians’ provocations and the targeted actions, the Ukrainian Navy submarine tactical group continued to perform its tasks.”
Why does this matter to the United States? There are vital principles of freedom of the seas at stake, not to mention the independence of Ukraine. Russian domination of Ukraine would increase Putin’s prestige and bring him one step closer to realizing his dream of reconstituting the old Soviet Union.
Ukraine isn’t worth going to war over, but any effort to confront Vladimir Putin and keep him from conducting a shadow war against a much smaller, weaker country should be made.