Ever since the illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea in 2014, the borders between Russia and Ukraine have been veiled in obscurity. Since both nations refuse to recognize the territorial claims of each other, there is no system in place to avoid serious military confrontation.
Enter the Sea of Azov; a small and brackish body of water landlocked deep in the heart of an eight long feud between two post-soviet neighbors. For centuries, this area, along with connections along the Black Sea, served as one of the busiest shipping arteries in Europe; connecting regional powers to the rest of the world. Even today, vessels from every corner of the world dock along her coast; fueling a sea-faring economy which has kept both Russian and Ukrainian communities strong for centuries.
Yet, in this new era of hostilities, not even the Sea of Azov is safe from tensions.
With Crimea and the mainland reunified last year via the Kerch Strait Bridge, for the first time since the crisis began, Russia now has full strategic control of the basin. From the shores of Tanganrog to the coast of Taman, Russia was finally able to exercise her full control over this very important body of water.
And control it they have.
Ever since construction was completed, observers in the region have noticed an overwhelming increase in the amount of illegal vessel seizures. Starting as close as 7 kilometers from the coastline, Russian naval vessels have adapted a policy of forceful boarding and detention...focusing entirely on Ukrainian merchant vessels.
No matter where they may originate from, nothing is off limits. As often as twenty times a week, some vessel, somewhere, is being detained. As a result? Ukraine has seen a huge decrease in industrial productivity along her coastal regions. No one, to put it simply, wants to do business with you if your imported material arrives hours...sometimes days...late.
With the economic toll quickly mounting, it is quite obvious that a crisis is brewing. With invasive Russian naval exercises scheduled for later this week, I seriously fear what lies ahead. While I doubt a deliberate confrontation is in the cards, the odds of an accidental clash are astronomically high. With no *clear* borders, no one is bound by international law. With no law comes tension, and with tension comes misunderstanding and miscalculation.
No one knows for sure what lies ahead for this strategic area of the world, but for now, things appear to be quiet...too quite, even.
I intend on following up this subject later this week, and apologize ahead of time for how hastily written the one you are reading now is. This is such a serious (and frankly dangerous) issue, yet not a single figure within MSM has even touched it.
With that said, be sure to keep an eye out on @IntelCrab for any further regional developments. In the unlikely scenario that some sort of confrontation does emerge, you will be updated 100x faster over there than here.