UK sends warships to the Black Sea, targeting Russia

The UK is deploying warships to the Black Sea next month, further ratcheting up provocations by the United States and its stooge regime in Ukraine against Russia.

Russia has amassed substantial forces near the Ukrainian border, after the Ukraine regime endorsed a strategy to “recover” Crimea. The strategically vital peninsular was annexed by Russia following the far-right 2014 coup in Kiev, which was backed by the US and the European Union (EU).

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence told the Times, “The UK and our international allies are unwavering in our support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

They added, “We are working closely with Ukraine to monitor the current situation and continue to call on Russia to de-escalate.

“Our armed forces continue to support Ukraine through our training mission Operation Orbital, which has trained over 20,000 members of the armed forces of Ukraine, and the UK-led Maritime Training Initiative.”

Britain is sending a Type 45 destroyer, equipped with anti-aircraft missiles, and an anti-submarine Type 23 frigate. F-35B Lightning stealth jets and Merlin helicopters based on the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier will be on standby to provide support—an international treaty currently prohibits aircraft carriers themselves from entering the Black Sea, although this arrangement is under threat .

The UK already has special forces and Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft deployed to the region. An SAS special forces team and Royal Signals electronic unit were officially sent to Ukraine last week, alongside a US special operations team, to “monitor Russian activity”. Six RAF Typhoon jets, armed with Paveway bombs and Brimstone missiles, have been despatched to Romania as part of a NATO “air policing mission” to patrol the Black Sea region.

These developments make clear that US President Joe Biden’s decision to cancel the deployment of two American warships to the region last week was a tactical pause in a still escalating conflict.

Russia responded to the news that US warships were on their way with a statement warning of a high likelihood of serious “incidents”. Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said, “There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores, this is purely a provocative action. Provocative in the direct sense of the word: they are testing our strength... They will not succeed.

“We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be for their own good.”

There are currently more than a dozen Russian naval vessels on deployment in the Black Sea. Fifty Russian fighter jets, bombers and attack aircraft are engaged in “exercises over the Black Sea”, according to Russian news organisation Interfax, including “missile launches and bombardment of naval targets.” The Russian air force and Black Sea fleet are also scheduled to carry out joint exercises designed to “ensure security in the Black Sea”.

Military planners in the US and allied militaries clearly drew from this warning the necessity of getting their pieces in place before making such an incendiary move. The US has neither confirmed nor denied the dispatch of its warships or the cancellation of the operation. Meanwhile, the UK will establish a significant presence.

British forces have been leading participants in anti-Russian provocations in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. Last September, 250 soldiers in the 16th Air Assault Brigade, including from its elite Pathfinder platoon, parachuted into Ukraine just 100 miles from Crimea in the largest British army parachute drop in decades. They took part in an 8,000-strong exercise with Ukrainian, US and Canadian forces.

Ukrainian General Yevhan Moysiuk commented, “The main message for Russia is that the UK is our true and reliable partner who will help us in our hardship. The UK is ready to stand up to Russian aggression with us.”

Later this year, British soldiers will take part in NATO’s Operation Cossack Mace, involving 1,000 troops from at least five NATO member states and which will simulate offensive strikes on positions held by pro-Russian and Russian forces.

The UK’s taking a lead in additional deployments to the Black Sea is proof that the ruling class intends to follow through on the warmongering plans outlined in the recent Integrated Review of foreign and defence policy.

The document positioned the UK at the head of the US war drive against Russia, describing the country as the “most acute threat to our security.” It argued that the UK should place itself “at the forefront of implementing NATO’s new Deterrence and Defence Concept” across the Euro-Atlantic region and supporting “others in the Eastern European neighbourhood and beyond to build their resilience to state threats. This includes Ukraine, where we will continue to build the capacity of its armed forces.”

The review also called for an increase in the UK’s stockpile of nuclear weapons to meet “the full range of state nuclear threats.”

Military deployments are being matched with an escalation of anti-Russian agitation and propaganda. On Sunday, the Czech Republic claimed that two Russian agents—the same two alleged by Britain to have been responsible for the Salisbury poisonings—were behind an explosion at a Czech munitions factory in 2014.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab quickly declared the UK’s “full support” for “our Czech allies, who have exposed the lengths that the GRU [the Russian secret service] will go to in their attempts to conduct dangerous and malign operations.”

He continued, “This shows a pattern of behaviour by Moscow, following the novichok attack in Salisbury. We are as determined and committed as ever to bring those responsible for the attack in Salisbury to justice and commend the actions of the Czech authorities to do the same.”

Tom Tugendhat, Conservative MP and chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted, “Czech Republic is standing up to Putin’s Russia committing warlike acts in Prague. They’re right and all NATO must stand with them. We are all threatened by such violence. We defend ourselves best when we defend each other.”

The UK’s stepped-up aggression against Russia is bound up with the crisis of British imperialism—attempting to maintain its position on the world stage after Brexit and to create an outlet for explosive domestic tensions—and of world capitalism, racked by escalating class and nationalist antagonisms. The ruling class in every country is seeking a way out through an increasingly reckless deployment of military force, turning the world into a tinderbox. Provocations in the Black Sea have already come close to sparking a major confrontation.

In November 2018, Ukrainian naval vessels entered Russian-claimed waters near Crimea and were fired upon and seized by the Russian Coast Guard. The Ukrainian regime declared martial law and put the army on full alert, receiving assurances from Washington that it would provide “full support, full assistance, including military assistance.”

In June 2015, Russian jets intercepted the US destroyer USS Ross after the ship set a course which would have taken it into Russian territorial waters in the Black Sea—the ship changed course. Russian military sources latter commented, “Scrambled Su-24 attack jets demonstrated a readiness to forcibly suppress border violations and defend the country’s interest.”

The deployment of more forces to Ukraine and the Black Sea makes military confrontation ever more likely. Any incident could escalate into a full-scale engagement and war between nuclear-armed states. The urgency of the situation demands an urgent struggle by the international working class to form an anti-war movement to bring an end to the insane warmongering of the ruling elite.