Russia has kicked off a significant deliberate naval drill within the Black Sea, dubbed the Ocean Shield-2023 naval workouts, coming after a sequence of shut encounters with NATO within the type of latest aerial intercepts over each the Baltic and Black Seas.
Russia’s considerably common drills in these waters are sometimes in response to NATO workouts within the area, in tit-for-tat muscle flexing. Some EU coverage wonks have of late begun to name the Baltic “NATO’s lake” in a direct problem to Moscow.
“The Ocean Shield-2023 naval exercises have begun in the Baltic Sea,” Russia’s Defense Ministry (MoD) confirmed in an announcement, detailing that in whole some 6,000 personnel are participating, working 30 warships and boats, together with 20 help vessels.
“During the drill, measures will be worked out to protect sea lanes, transport troops and military cargo, as well as to defend the sea coast, the statement added. “In whole, it’s deliberate to carry out greater than 200 fight workouts, together with with the sensible use of weapons.”
The Baltic Sea coastline is also very important to Russia as its strategic Kaliningrad exclave sits on it, sandwiched between two NATO members, Poland and Lithuania.
The timing of the new drills is additionally important lest Brussels begins to see the Baltic as “NATO’s lake”—as Politico recently referred to it, echoing policy thinkers in Europe:
A resurgent NATO is set to tighten its grip on the Baltic Sea, complicating a vital transit route for Vladimir Putin’s navy in Russia’s backyard…
“[Sweden and Finland] make NATO much more geographically coherent. The Baltic Sea becomes a NATO lake, which is generally useful, also because of the Arctic’s increased importance,” said Ulrike Franke, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Despite Western pundits often insisting, contra Mearsheimer, that Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine had nothing to do with NATO expansion to Russia’s doorstep, just a brief look at the dramatically shifting geopolitical situation and influence around the Baltic Sea since the end of the Cold War says otherwise…
“NATO has steadily elevated its management of the Baltic Sea — a vital maritime gateway for the Russian fleet which has bases close to St. Petersburg and within the closely militarized Kaliningrad exclave,” wrote Politico. “During the Cold War, solely Denmark and Germany on the far western fringe of the Baltic have been within the alliance. Poland becoming a member of NATO in 1999 and the three Baltic republics in 2004 put many of the sea’s southern shore below alliance management.