NATO is boosting its presence in the Black Sea, the organization’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmygal, TASS reports citing Izvestia. The alliance attributed this move to the allegedly growing Russian threat. Kiev and NATO plan to hold joint military drills in Odessa this year, Izvestia writes.
Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics Dmitry Suslov notes that NATO is not planning either to grant Kiev membership in the alliance in the near future or even an action plan on membership.
“Every year Ukraine hopes that it will be granted the Membership Action Plan (MAP). But even Western experts, who are unfriendly towards Russia, believe that Georgia is more likely to get the MAP than Ukraine. NATO wouldn’t dare do it since this could sharply escalate tensions and pose a threat to Ukraine’s state system. Everyone understands this,” the political scientist told the newspaper. Since the alliance can neither grant Kiev membership nor the MAP, it will compensate this by boosting its presence and ramping up drills in the Black Sea.
“Tensions and an arms race on the Russia-NATO contact line are on the rise, especially in the Black Sea. This is fraught with the risk of an unintended military confrontation in case of any incident,” according to Suslov.
In his turn, Russian International Affairs Council expert Ilya Kramnik believes that it is too early to speak about any significant increase in the military presence of the alliance in the region now.
“This is impossible given the current agreements on the regime of the Black Sea straits – the 1936 Montreux Convention. The Turks are carefully watching how this document is implemented. Besides, there is a conflict in the alliance between Turkey and some other NATO members. Ankara will hardly wish to back the North Atlantic bloc in case of its willingness to boost its naval presence there.”
In any case, Russia should not step up its military presence in the region and initiate any arms race, especially given the current challenging economic situation, the expert pointed out.