WW3 Alert: The Real Reason the U.S. Keeps Meddling in Russia’s Backdoor in the Black Sea
The Black Sea region is very rich in resources, fertile land (Mainly Crimea and Ukraine) and from a military strategy standpoint. In 2008, during the Western-made Georgian standoff with Russia, Jeff Martin wrote “The Strategic Importance of the Black Sea” on WhatsWrongWithTheaworld.net. His excellent writing still holds true, now that Russia has successfully annexed Crimea due to an overwhelming show of support from Crimeans. Here’s an excerpt that tells you exactly why the West, mostly America thousands of miles away, is stirring things up in the Black Sea region with Russia as the main target:
The Black Sea is essential to any attempt at force projection in the region because the Carpathian Mountains in Romania and the Caucasus Mountains constrain any land-based moves against Russia from the south. The Black Sea is therefore the only path through which a potential enemy could threaten Russia’s core without, of course, driving across Poland and the North European plain straight to Moscow — a path Napoleon and Hitler found was not so direct after all. Because the Black Sea is close to the Caucasus and directly below Russia’s oil-producing regions of Tatarstan and Bashkorostan, it also affords any Russian enemy a direct line toward the energy lifeline of the Russian military.
For Europe, the Black Sea has never been a major military route of invasion and has often in fact acted as a buffer against land-based armies. But many invaders have managed to go around the Black Sea. These included the Ottomans, who found it easier to march across the Balkans to Vienna then to take the Black Sea route to Ukraine. The Ottomans did hold the Crimean Peninsula from 1441 to 1783, but only nominally, affording the local Crimean Tatars considerable autonomy — more than was customary even for the Ottoman Empire — until the Russian Empire usurped Turkish overlordship.
As a trade route, by contrast, the Black Sea is vital for the Europeans. During the Cold War, Black Sea shipping was minimal, as the lower Danube River fell into the Soviet sphere. But with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the cessation of hostilities in former Yugoslavia, the Danube has returned as a key transportation route, particularly for Germany. Now, Central European manufacturing exports can be floated down the river to the Black Sea, which is much cheaper than transporting them to the Baltic Sea by land. Any renewed closure of this transportation route would certainly be a big problem for Europe.
For Ukraine, the Black Sea is both economically and militarily vital. Ukraine is perhaps the only former Soviet Union state with useful rivers, the Dniepr and the Dniester. Both are navigable and drain in the Black Sea, which does not freeze in the winter, unlike the seas Russia’s rivers drain into. It is no wonder that the first powerful Russian/Ukrainian state, the Kievan Rus, emerged in this economically viable and fertile region in the 9th century.
But the blessing of having rivers that drain into the Black Sea is also a curse for Ukraine. This is in large part because the Crimean Peninsula, populated and controlled by Russians, sits where the rivers enter the sea. The Crimea is essentially a giant, immovable military fortress at the mouth of some of the most vital transportation routes for Ukraine. Whoever controls this “fort” controls Ukraine. Russia can interdict the Ukrainian links to the Black Sea easily from its Black Sea naval headquarters in Sevastopol, and its control over the peninsula is secure because the population of Crimea is heavily ethnically Russian and pro-Russian.
The Black Sea is similarly vital for Georgia, whose only access to Europe is via the sea, due to the rugged terrain of the Caucasus and through Russian hostility.
For Russia, the key strategic value of the Black Sea lies in controlling the energy resources in the Caucasus and around the Caspian Sea. Russia’s population in the region is concentrated on the coasts of the Black Sea, both on the Russian side of the coast and in Ukrainian-controlled Crimea. There is very little population along the shore of the Caspian Sea, which is the eastern portion of the land bridge between the two seas. Therefore, if a naval operation were to project power from the Black Sea toward the Don River corridor between Rostov-on-Don and Volgograd (better known by its former name, Stalingrad), Moscow would be cut off from the Russian Caucasus and the region’s immense energy resources.
French and British expeditionary forces tried to do just that during the Crimean War, first invading Crimea and taking Sevastopol and then trying to get to Rostov-on-Don through the Sea of Azov. In the nuclear age, a similar land invasion of Russia would of course be out of the question, but the trajectory of possible power projections still stands: through the Black Sea to Crimea and into the Rostov-on-Don/Volgograd Don River corridor. By attacking Moscow’s control over the Don River corridor, an enemy essentially would cut off the Caucasus from the Kremlin, setting the stage for further force projection inland.
For Turkey, the Black Sea is really all about the Dardanelles. Turkey’s population is sparse on its Black Sea coast due to the rugged Pontic Mountains, so trade links are not as vital as those that flow into the Mediterranean. Control of maritime access to the Black Sea gives Turkey leverage over countries that need to use the Black Sea to access the rest of the world, namely the Central Europeans (although they have costlier alternate routes) and Russia. Militarily, the Black Sea was always a much simpler theater of operations for the Ottomans than the Mediterranean, because the forces arrayed against them in the Black Sea (Russians, Ukrainians, the Balkan nations) were much weaker than those in the Mediterranean (Italians, French, British, Venetians, Genoese, etc.). Ottoman control over the northern coast of the Black Sea, particularly Crimea, simply never was vital to the core of the empire as was control of the Balkans, from where the Ottomans tried to advance on Europe.
The struggle for control over these straits has been the root cause of many previous military campaigns, including the Crimean and the Russo-Turkish Wars in the 19th century and the Allied Dardanelles campaign of World War I. Throughout its history, Russia has never been able to exit the Black Sea through the straits at will. In part, this is because Turkey was either strong enough to resist Russia or propped up by a Western power hoping to keep Russia out of the Mediterranean.