NATO openly identifies Russia as target of impending Black Sea war games

NATO’s military arm, Supreme Headquarters Allied Command Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium (marking its 70th anniversary this year), issued a press release on the Sea Breeze war games that will begin in the Black Sea on June 28. Coming as they do immediately on the heels on what may have proven a dangerous contretemps between a British guided-missile destroyer and a Russian border vessel and attack aircraft off the coast of Crimea, this year’s Sea Breeze, the 25th iteration, is fraught with more significance and will be monitored more closely on the Russian side than its predecessors.

The NATO fact sheet repeats what has been disclosed by the co-sponsor of the exercise, the U.S. Navy Sixth Fleet, and other sources:

– That over 30 (32 by one count) nations will participate in the event, more than in any previous version

– That those nations are situated on all six populated continents

– That 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 aircraft and 18 special operations and diving units will be involved

The Ukrainian navy is the co-host of the exercise; only two months after its current and first president were openly claiming there was a danger of world war as a result of Russian military maneuvers – in Russia.

The NATO release of June 25 contains a paragraph that could not be more transparent in disclosing the geopolitical context within which the upcoming war games are to be conducted:

“Since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, NATO has increased its presence in the Black Sea. NATO supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters. NATO does not and will not recognize Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and denounces its temporary occupation.”

After the encounter between HMS Defender and a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 earlier this week, the Russian government appealed to the U.S., Ukraine and NATO to postpone if not cancel this year’s Sea Breeze. It appears that plea has fallen on deaf ears.

Though the expression has often been used in the past, the world may be ready to witness a Sarajevo moment.