Russia Controls the Black Sea and Ukraine Needs to Join the EU

The Russian coastguard opened fire on two artillery boats and a tug belonging to Ukraine which it claimed had made an unauthorized passage through Russia’s waters.

Two of the craft, the Berdyansk and the Nikopol, were damaged and six crew members injured.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and Ukraine’s Parliament has declared martial law in 10 of its provinces to combat growing aggression from Russia. Poroshenko originally proposed 60 days before halving the proposed period to 30 days.

Three former Ukrainian presidents, including first president Leonid Kravchuk, opposed the motion. A letter signed by them said that the originally proposed length of 60 days would pose a “threat to democracy” by delaying the Ukrainian presidential election. Poroshenko’s approval ratings have declined dramatically in recent months. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is leading in the polls. Some Ukrainian and foreign observers have suggested that Poroshenko is trying to benefit from playing up Russian hostilities.

President Vladimir Putin’s own approval ratings have sunk in recent months over controversial pension reforms. Putin’s purported order to special forces to seize the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine came in March 2014, with his approval ratings sagging.

Martial law will include a partial mobilization and strengthening of the country’s air defense. There will be anti-terrorism and cybersecurity measures as well.

The Kerch Strait, the Bridge and Blocking Commerce to Ukraine

Russia prevented three Ukrainian ships from entering the Kerch Strait, a narrow strip of water linking the Azov and Black seas. Russia prevented the ships from entering the strait by placing a large cargo vessel beneath a Russian-controlled bridge. Russia then closed the strait, which both nations use.

In May, Russia opened a 19-kilometer, rail-and-highway bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting mainland Russia with the annexed Crimean Peninsula. The bridge’s low height restricted the types of merchant ships that could pass. This decreases traffic to service Ukrainian ports in Mariupol and Berdyansk. For those cities, their ports are economic lifelines.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have since detained more than 150 merchant vessels, holding them for up to several days. An extra day at sea costs a shipping company up to $15,000. There are also costs to the port.

Each side has detained the other’s vessels. In March, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service detained a Russian fishing boat and impounded it in Berdyansk. Just last week, Russian Border Guards seized a Ukrainian fishing boat and impounded it in the Russian port of Yeysk, about 60 kilometers southeast of Mariupol.

Kyiv said the Russians’ actions violated a 2003 bilateral treaty designating the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait as shared territorial waters and the UN Law of the Sea, which guarantees access through the strait.

Russian officials said the Ukrainian ships were maneuvering dangerously, requiring the strait to be temporarily closed for security reasons.

Russia is Able to Control the Black Sea to Blackmail Ukraine

Russia is able to control the Black Sea. Putin will be able to blackmail Ukraine to allow ships to pass.

The main response for USA and Europe against Russia is imposing more economic sanctions. There will be no military response to Russia over the Black Sea. Russia has the military capability to conquer Ukraine. However, there would be a constant Ukrainian insurgency against Russia which would drain Russian resources.

The best option for Ukraine is probably to elect Tymeshenko and try to join the EU.