Alp Sevimlisoy Yatırım

Why Putin’s Returning to Black Sea After Significant Losses

  • Russia has recently positioned additional military vessels in the Black Sea, according to Ukraine’s military.
  • The Russian ships can reportedly carry up to 40 Kalibr missiles and pose a threat of missile attack.
  • The increased presence in the sea comes after Russia suffered several notable defeats there, including the sinking of the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

Ukraine reported this week that Russia recently deployed additional military vessels to the Black Sea to bring its flotilla total there to 15 ships.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to position more forces in the Black Sea may surprise some since it follows his navy enduring several notable defeats on the waters. After those high-profile losses, Russia has seemingly relied lesson the Black Sea as a strategic point for the war that Putin launched in February 2022.

In a Tuesday Facebook post, Operational Command South—a formation of Ukrainian Ground Forces—wrote that Russia had placed six new missile carriers and two submarines in the Black Sea. The post noted that the additional ships can carry up to 40 Kalibr missiles and said the threat of missile attacks from the vessels is “extremely high.”

“The Russian move may be to increase pressure on Ukrainian forces as they prepare for assaults against Russian positions,” Northwestern University political science professor William Reno told Newsweek.

Reno said Russia’s Kalibr missiles are designed for naval warfare and can “accelerate to supersonic speeds as they approach targets.”
“That’s supposed to make it harder for air defenses to detect in time, though some [Kalibrs] fired at Ukraine since the start of the intensified invasion have been intercepted,” he said.

As for why the waters haven’t been more of a factor in Putin’s recent war planning, Reno said “[t]he limited role of naval activity in the Black Sea may reflect Russian awareness of vulnerability.”

Putin’s Black Sea Setbacks
Putin’s setbacks on the sea stretch back to the early weeks of the conflict. After Russian forces took control of the sea’s Snake Island soon after the start of the war, the island became a pivotal launching site for the Russians. However, Ukraine reclaimed the island, and its liberation rallied the nation.

Naval drone attacks have also struck the Moscow-controlled Crimean port city Sevastopol, and an explosive set off in October severely damaged the Kerch Strait Bridge that connects Russia and the Crimean Peninsula. (Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the drone attacks or bridge explosion.)

Perhaps the most significant loss on the Black Sea came when Ukraine sank the Moskva. The flagship of Putin’s Black Sea fleet, the Moskva being destroyed at the hands of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces on April 14, 2022, was both a tremendous military defeat for Putin as well as a symbolic one.

Reno called the sinking of the $750 million Moskva “a reminder that ships are expensive assets that are vulnerable to Ukrainian defenses.” He also said intelligence provided by the United States has likely played “an important role in boosting Ukrainian capabilities” on the sea.

Why Would Putin Return to the Black Sea?
If more costly losses in the Black Sea remain a risk for Russia, then why would Putin return there?
“Tactically, they need warships in that area in case there is a push by Ukraine to try to take back Crimea,” Guy McCardle, managing editor of Special Operations Forces Report (SOFREP), told Newsweek.

Though McCardle doesn’t think reclaiming Crimea is a major objective for Zelensky at this time, he said Putin “may be putting more missiles in the Black Sea region in case of a preemptive strike” on the peninsula.

Another reason could be that NATO troops (including U.S. soldiers) participated in military drills in the Black Sea off of Romania in late March.
“When we do this, Russia tends to counter with a show of force,” McCardle said.

John Spencer, a retired U.S. Army major and chair of Urban Warfare Studies at the Madison Policy Forum, told Newsweek that even though Putin’s navy has been dealt blows in the Black Sea, the region “has and will continue to be vital for Russia.”

“Russia has launched cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea from day one of the war. Ukraine was able to bolster their shoreline defenses, but the ships outside of their range are still one of the major sources of bombings across Ukraine,” Spencer said, adding that it “makes sense they are increasing that capability since they have had zero ground success in over 8 months.”

No matter the reason for the expansion of forces in the region, geopolitical strategist Alp Sevimlisoy told Newsweek that NATO should take action.
“Our commitment to safeguard member states and allies as per the NATO alliance involves a complete strategic emphasis on the Black Sea as well as the Eastern Mediterranean, countering both the build up of the Russian fleet as well as outmaneuvering any missile strike capacity by the Kremlin,” Sevimlisoy, who is a fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank and a CEO of an Istanbul-based private asset management corporation, said.

Sevimlisoy said NATO can establish superiority of the waters from “the placement of hypersonic missile capability in NATO countries such as the Turkish Republic, the deployment of the [guided missile destroyer] USS Zumwalt into the Black Sea, as well as the continued deployment of Turkey’s Type-214 submarine class diesel-electric submarines into the regions…”

Reno, meanwhile, said it doesn’t make sense for Russia to commit much to a naval strategy when it hasn’t been able to establish air superiority.

“If I were a Russian planner, I’d prefer land-based missiles, because they can be launched from Russian territory that Ukraine’s western backers insist Ukraine cannot attack, and land-based missiles are more easily concealed and defended prior to launch.”
Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via email for comment.


Alp Sevimlisoy originally featured as per: Newsweek