Wednesday’s incident with the British destroyer off Cape Fiolent, Crimea, has shown the danger of using warships to achieve diplomatic goals as it might have gone beyond control, Prof. Anatol Lieven of Georgetown University in Qatar wrote in a commentary posted by Responsible Statecraft on Wednesday.
"The episode does however highlight the dangers involved in using warships or warplanes to make diplomatic or legalistic points. The danger of an accidental collision is always present, and the resulting international crisis may spiral beyond anything that either side would have wished or can control," he noted. "We should also remember the hysteria in our own media and security establishments when the ships and aircraft of rival powers approach our own air space and territorial waters."
According to the expert, it became clear back in 2016 that "the United States, NATO and Britain will never in fact fight to defend Ukraine." "To suggest otherwise is to engage in public deceit — and to create the possibility that Ukrainian hotheads may believe this empty suggestion, the way the Georgians did in 2008 when they attacked Russian positions in South Ossetia in the mistaken belief that the U.S. would fight to save them from Russia’s retaliation," he emphasized, TASS reports.
Calling Crimea’s reunification with Russia, he admitted however that it had been "backed by an apparently genuine majority in a local referendum" and warned that "it is now irreversible without U.S. and NATO victory in war over Russia."
"The Western principle of non-recognition should however be maintained through occasional low-key official statements — not through the dispatch of warships. Words hurt nobody, but when ships risk collision, bones risk being broken," he added.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Russian defense ministry said that the Black Sea Fleet, acting in cooperation with the border guard force of the federal security service FSB, stopped a violation of the state border by the destroyer HMS Defender off Crimea's Cape Fiolent. The destroyer ventured three kilometers into Russia's territorial waters. A border guard patrol ship fired warning shots and a Sukhoi-24M bomber dropped bombs ahead of the destroyer. After that, the HMS Defender left Russia's territorial waters.
The Russian defense ministry later described the British ship's actions as a gross violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and urged the British side to investigate the crew's actions.