MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military correspondent Ilya Kramnik) - The U.S. administration decided to insure American merchant vessels in the Black Sea against military risks until next March. Many analysts saw this as a sign of a possible early armed conflict in the Black Sea region.
This has never been a calm region. A centuries-long confrontation between Russia/U.S.S.R. and Turkey has given way to hot spots in the post-Soviet space. The region attracts the attention of all leading countries because of its location. Tensions in relations between Russia and its neighbors, primarily Georgia, are fraught with a new armed conflict, in which third countries may be involved in one way or another.
As distinct from a new Russian-Georgian conflict with Ukraine's participation (most probably, indirect) the risk of war between Russia and Ukraine is negligible; still, Ukrainian government and military leaders with anti-Russian attitudes may seek provocation. Regardless, there is a high probability of conflicts in Ukraine. The country is being torn apart by profound contradictions that are further aggravated by the global economic crisis. It is hard to predict how they will develop.
The U.S. decision to insure merchant vessels shows that Washington also considers the risk of an armed conflict in the region to be high. This most likely has nothing to do with the direct participation of U.S. citizens in military operations. In the case of an armed conflict, all vessels in the region would be subjected to certain risks. A mistake in identifying a target or a missile misfire may lead to the destruction of a neutral vessel.
It remains uncertain whether the U.S. made this decision based on a general risk assessment, or in anticipation of concrete events. In the latter case, it is directly linked with the continued restoration of the Georgian army's operational capability, and the transfer of Ukrainian military units to Russia's borders.
Considering the sad experience of the five-day war, the Georgian leaders are bound to realize that by going to war again, they will achieve the same results, only with worse consequences. In this situation, demonstrative shifting of Ukrainian troops toward the border may seriously help Tbilisi by side-tracking part of Russia's forces.
The appearance of U.S. warships in the Black Sea would serve the same purpose. The best ships in the Black Sea Navy, including its flagship missile cruiser Moskva, will have to be engaged in a standoff. In the meantime, the insured U.S. merchant ships will continue delivering military cargoes to Georgian ports.
This strategy is unlikely to have the desired effect, for the weight gap between Russia and Georgia is too huge. Nonetheless, imbalanced Georgian leaders may make illogical decisions and penalize themselves.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.