Earlier this week, President Petro
Poroshenko said that he had ordered the Ukrainian armed forces to take measures
to prevent Russia from continuing to block ships on international waters, a
directive Shamus says means that “everything will be carried out by force”
rather than only by legal appeals.
In this case, the Ukrainian military
specialist says that this means that “convoys will be established and they will
accompany merchant ships from point A to point B thus not permitting ships of Russia’s
FSB to inspect them.” Such arrangements are entirely legal under international
law; and if Russia challenges them, it would be an act of war.
Shamus says that Ukraine has “sufficient
forces” for establishing convoys because patrol boats from the coastal forces
can be used. “Here is the issue is not the number of guns ona ship. The Sea of
Azov is so small that in principle, if some conflict situation begins, then
support can be provided by air, helicopters and shore complexes.”
“This is not an open ocean;” he
continues. “These are coastal waters.” At the same time, he acknowledges, “Ukraine
undoubtedly needs to build up its forces in the Azov region.”
No Ukrainian official has yet echoed
Shamus’ words, a reflection of two things. On the one hand, the balance of
forces on the Sea of Azov is so much in Russia’s favor that any step Ukraine
might take, Russia would be able to counter, undoubtedly in the current
environment able to blame Kyiv for any escalation.
And on the other, Kyiv is certainly
aware that as much as right and international law are on its side, many Western
governments would be angry if the Ukrainian side did anything that would lead
to a new upsurge in violence in the region. They likely are delivering exactly
that message already.
Consequently, it is likely that the
statements by Poroshenko and Shamus are intended primarily to ratchet up
pressure on international bodies to move quickly to find for Ukraine in its
suits against Russia involving the situation in the Sea of Azov by sending them
a message as to what could happen if the international community fails to take
a stronger stand.