Ukraine Update: 10 February, 2022

The game pieces are set in place. Large scale military exercises have commenced in Belarus, the Black Sea and other areas. The buildup to hostilities is in its final phase with pressure on Ukraine intensifying by the hour and Moscow’s geopolitical moves shrouded in ambiguity.

Now is the time for Western focus to shift to the big picture and the realities of the moment.  Russia now appears far more likely to move militarily than it is to seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis. This has been apparent for weeks now. However, misreads on Russian intentions both geopolitical and military by Western diplomats and intelligence agencies have kept their heads embedded in the sand for weeks. During that period of miscues, precious time has been lost.

Russia’s upcoming naval exercises on the Black Sea are raising a considerable amount of concern. With the arrival of the final batch of amphibious assault ships and an additional Kilo class conventionally powered attack sub, the Black Sea Fleet announced that missile and gunfire exercises will take place between 13 and 19 February with the exercise expected to end on the 20th. A portion of the exercises will take place near the southern coast of Ukraine.

Ukraine is already complaining that the exercises are tantamount to a blockade since they will make safe navigation in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov very difficult. The foreign ministry of Ukraine said Russia’s actions “show blatant disregard for the rules and principles of international law.” Kiev has long accused Russia of attempting to strangle trade from its through de facto blockades. Ukraine, a leading exporter of steel, grain and sunflower oil, carries exports through ports on the Black and Azov Seas. These ports will be adversely affected by the upcoming Russian naval exercises.

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