Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Moscow: No room for more NATO ships on Black Sea, Moldova should beware

DEBKAfile - Moscow: No room for more NATO ships on Black Sea, Moldova should beware: "America’s decision to redirect its Georgia aid warship from Russian-controlled Poti port to Georgian-controlled Batumi Wednesday, August 27 – on direct orders from the Pentagon - did not cool the escalating Black Sea tension between the two powers. As soon as the US Coast Guard cutter Dallas docked with 34 tons of humanitarian aid, three Russian missile boats, led by the Moskva missile cruiser, anchored to the north at the Black Sea port of Sukhumi, capital of breakaway Abkhazia, for what the Russians called “peacekeeping operations.”

In Moscow, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said NATO had exhausted the number of forces it can deploy in the Black Sea under international agreements. He warned Western nations against sending more ships. “NATO – which is not a state located in the Black Sea” cannot continuously increase its forces and systems there, he said.

According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, ten NATO warships are present in the Black Sea – American, Turkish, German, Spanish and Polish. Alliance sources have said more vessels would soon be deployed, raising the number to eighteen.

Moldova, another former Soviet Black Sea nation, is the latest target of Russian threats and element in the Russian-US contest over the region.

Tuesday, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev warned Moldovan leaders against repeating Georgia’s mistake of trying to use force to regain control of its breakaway region of Transdniestria. Russian peacekeepers have been posted there since 1990, when provincial separatists fought to break away from Moldova. This dispute mirrors the predicament of Georgia and other former Soviet nations which have large Russian populations.

Moldova is strategically located on the Western shore of the Black Sea, very near the Crimean Peninsula and the big Russian naval headquarters base at Sevastopol, Ukraine.

Wednesday, Russian ambassador Valeri Kuzmin advised Moldova’s leaders to avoid a “bloody and catastrophic trend of events.” He said Moscow had recognizes South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence the day before, because of “Georgian’s aggression.”

Ukraine stepped in Wednesday with a demand to renegotiate the Russian Black Sea fleet’s lease for the use of the Sevastopol base to raise the rent."

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