ON WEDNESDAY, Britain staged a deliberate provocation when it sent the warship HMS Defender steaming through Russian territorial waters in the Black Sea.
The Defender entered the Black Sea last week with the Royal Netherlands Navy’s frigate HNLMS Evertsen to carry out a joint exercise with the USS Laboon guided-missile/interceptor-missile destroyer in the sea. Laboon is the fifth US ship to be sent to the Black Sea so far this year in a build-up of NATO military power in the region as US imperialism and its NATO allies ramp up the creation of a ‘ring of steel’ around Russia.
The Defender sailed through Russian territorial waters moving within 12 nautical miles off the coast of Crimea – a three-mile incursion into Russian waters.
The Russian response clearly took the UK navy by surprise with its speed and decisiveness. Two Russian coastguard vessels intercepted the Defender and fired warning shots while fighter planes buzzed the ship and performed warning bombing to drive it away.
All this was denied by the Ministry of Defence which claimed shots fired by Russian ships were merely a training exercise and that no bombs had been dropped. The MOD also insisted that HMS Defender was on a peaceful ‘innocent passage’ through what it considers to be Ukrainian waters.
The UK, US and NATO refuse to recognise that Crimea is no longer part of the Ukraine. Crimea broke with the Ukraine after the 2014 coup, orchestrated and funded by the US and EU, overthrew the elected president and installed a right-wing pro-imperialist government.
Following this coup, the Crimea voted overwhelmingly to rejoin the Russian Federation and the surrounding seas are now Russian territorial waters.
The staging of this latest provocation followed the signing on Monday (on the deck of HMS Defender) of a ‘memorandum of implementation’ between the UK and Ukraine which includes supplying British warships to Ukraine and training for the Ukrainian navy.
There was nothing innocent or peaceful about this event and the Russian response was underlined by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who told reporters that the security of Russia comes first, adding that the country can appeal to common sense and call on other countries to respect international law, but if such a stance does not help, ‘Russia can use its armed forces to defend its borders.’
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev told the Moscow Conference on International Security on Thursday that Russia sees the ‘high intensity of intelligence and demonstrative actions of NATO aircraft and ships near Russian borders.’
‘We are observing a significant surge in the number of exercises with clear anti-Russian scenarios, the deployment of additional forces and means in the direction of Russia.’
Patrushev pointed out that NATO countries are continually increasing military spending noting: ‘The alliance’s military spending grew by nearly 4%. Meanwhile, in absolute terms in this field, NATO countries outperform Russia by nearly five times and with the US defence budget by nearly 20 times.’
In the face of imperialist provocation and aggression, Russia has every right to defend its borders and territories. The US and its UK allies are preparing the forces to attack Russia just as they are marshalling their forces in the seas around China.
Imperialism in the grip of the biggest capitalist crisis in history is driven to war to attempt to re-conquer the lands it was driven from by the Russian and Chinese revolutions.
The provocation this week is part of stoking up a war crisis from Ukraine to the China Seas as capitalism seeks a way out of its economic and political catastrophe through new wars and military interventions financed by massive ever-growing military spending.
While Russia and China have the absolute right to defend themselves, the only way to put an end to imperialist wars is to put an end to imperialism itself.
This requires building sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International in every country to defend the gains of the Russian and Chinese revolutions by overthrowing capitalism in the US, the UK and throughout the EU and going forward to the world socialist revolution.