The Messages Of Russia’s Military Exercise In The Black Sea


Russian President Vladimir Putin watches a military exercise in Anapa, a Russian Black Sea resort. Read also: China and Russia conduct ‘surprise’ military exercises

The Messages Of Russia’s Military Exercise In The Black Sea – Analysis

By Habibe Özdal, Journal of Turkish Weekly, April 1, 2013

Putin, Russia’s president, ordered for a military exercise in the Black Sea after his participation to the BRICS Summit on 28 March 2013 in South Africa. Under his command, the navy ships set forth on Sevastopol Harbor of Ukraine. During the three day drill 36 warships and over 7,000 military personnel were reported to participate in the military exercise in Russian territorial waters. Dmitri Peskov, the press secretary of Putin, stated that it had not been considered as necessary to forewarn the Black Sea riparian countries about the exercise within the context of international practice since the number of the troops was limited 7,000.

Peskov clarified that the aim of the exercise was to improve the war power of Russian navy by using the statement “The aim of this greatest exercise of all times is to make sure whether our navy is able to perform a duty in case of war”. Indeed, the discussions related to the modernization of Russian army flared up after the Georgia War in August 2008. Yet, according to some analysts, the infirmity of the Russian army, who had intended to not to lose control over former Soviet region, became evident after Georgia War.

Last month, Russian army conducted a surprise military exercise in which the armed forces participated in the middle and interior parts of the country. Valeri Gerasimov, the commander of the armed forces of Russia, remarked that a number of systematic errors and omissions in the army had been recognized due to this exercise. It is possible to note that Russia with Putin acts correspondingly to continuity of the former reflexes and makes significant investments with respect to military spending and modernization of the army. Besides, Moscow has created a budget of 600 billion Euros for the modernization of the army within the next 10 years. It is also intended with the last exercise to showcase the resurgent image of the Russian army, which had been criticised for being inefficient during Georgia War.

The reflection of the Black Sea exercise on the Mediterranean region

It is probable to say that the respective exercise has an interregional message considering the agreement among the Black Sea riparian countries on the relationship and the preservation of the stabilization in Black Sea. On the ground that some new developments take place specifically in Middle East and Syria crisis, it is useful to draw attention to Middle East and Mediterranean rather than Black Sea.

As a reminder, Moscow made a decision to permanently possess warships in Mediterranean due to the conflicts in Syria last month, and this decision sparked a debate. Some experts described Kremlin’s this decision as “the move to return to Mediterranean from Russia”, whereas some authorities remarked that “Russia do not have the power to possess ships over here”. The decision of military exercise in Black Sea taken on plane from the Summit of BRICS thus gives the message that Russian army and military forces are powerful enough to maintain their geopolitical role and are ready for possible war scenarios.

At the current state of civil war, which has been progressing for more than two years, the basis of Russian foreign policies comprises of preventing foreign intervention. Moscow, who aimed to practice the plan of gathering the regime supporters and the opponents around the same table through political dialogue in Syria, complies with the terms of Geneva agreement signed after the meeting in June 2012 and intends to bring the international actors to the subject common ground.

When ministers of foreign affairs from the Arab League countries had discussions with Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, on 20th February 2013, they compromised on the idea that regime representatives and opponents would negotiate. However, the fact that Moaz Al-Khatib, the President of National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCSR), has been given the empty chair of Syria at the recent summit of the Arab League indicates the futile efforts of Russia when evaluated in the context of diplomatic isolation of Assad’s regime. Aleksandr Lukashevich, Russian Foreign Affairs spokesman, stated in his commentary that the decisions taken by Arab League are against the common understanding of the need and solutions of peaceful political settlement in Syria, which particularly takes place in Geneva Agreement of Syria Action Group, dated 30th June 2012.

In addition to the fact that opponent leader Moaz Al-Khatib was given the empty chair of Syria at the Summit of the Arab League, the attempts of England and France to cease the arms embargo of European Union for Syria take attention of Kremlin in the presence of both global and regional actors. Moreover, it was emphasized that Russian foreign policies would concentrate on soft power elements within the concept of foreign policies published and revised last month; yet, it is obvious that hard power elements preserve their severity in practice at least for the short term. Likewise, Moscow bases on the economical and martial power to be an “influential actor internationally” with regard to the true experience of bitter memories in the Balkans in 1990s and that Russia was not able to prevent unilateral initiatives of the Western countries. From this point of view, Russia, which considers it as crucial to be a part of the solution to Syria crisis, regards as possible by claim of “great power” to negotiate with both United States of America and the members of EU and NATO.

Habibe Özdal, USAK Expert on Russia