Russia’s naval commander in the Black Sea announced plans to add 80 ships to the fleet and to build a second base in Crimea by 2020. Reuters reports:
In comments made to President Vladimir Putin as he visited the port city, Vice Admiral Alexander Vitko said a second Black Sea base was needed in addition to the main base on the Crimea peninsula annexed from Ukraine because of NATO expansion.“Eighty ships and other vessels are expected to arrive (in Novorossiysk) before 2020. The Black Sea Fleet will have 206 ships and vessels by 2020,” Vitko told Putin.“NATO ships are constantly present in the Black Sea and it plans to establish a naval base in the Black Sea,” he added.
NATO threats (real or perceived) aside, Russia’s moves are about entrenching themselves in Crimea at least as much as they are about projecting power.The interesting angle to watch, however, is how this plays in Turkey, which has a historic allergy to strong Russian moves in the Black Sea. Prime Minister Davotoglu’s neo-Ottoman gambit (conceived when he was the Foreign Minister) was an effort to chart an independent course for Turkey—broadly speaking, away from the West and its institutions. But with the Middle East in meltdown and Russia massing its navy on Turkey’s doorstep, it’s possible that the wise minds in Ankara are considering anew the benefits of the country’s NATO membership.