Russian Influence Returning in Black Sea

Putin said Russia was back as a key player in the Black Sea region.

President Vladimir Putin said on Monday Russia was back as a key player in the Black Sea region and urged its neighbours to turn their loose regional grouping into an effective tool of economic cooperation. "The Balkans and the Black Sea have always been a sphere of our special interests," he told reporters after a summit of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation (BSEC). "And it is but natural that a resurgent Russia in returning here." Russia lost much of its clout in the region after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, but is seeing its influence revive on the back of its strong economic growth and booming oil and gas exports. Many of the 12 BSEC members are ex-Soviet republics or former Cold War allies of Russia. Putin told the Istanbul summit, called to mark the 15th anniversary of the grouping, that the Black Sea had great potential as a hub for delivering oil and gas from Central Asia and the Caspian region to European markets. "Energy supplies are becoming an increasingly important factor in progress," Putin told fellow leaders. "We are ready to solve with our regional partners major tasks that affect not only the economic climate in the region but also the European and world economy," he said in the sumptuous Ciragan Palace beside the Bosphorus straits. Last month, Putin told a conference in St Petersburg that flexible regional groups could challenge the domination of established Western-led international bodies, which he said had failed to fully take into account emerging nations' interests. In Istanbul, he said the BSEC could become such a grouping. "We propose to enhance the stability of local energy markets, among other things through long-term contacts," he said "Diversification of energy delivery routes is also on the agenda." Apart from its Blue Stream project, which delivers Russian gas to Europe via Turkey, Russian monopoly Gazprom last week signed a deal with Italy's ENI to build a pipeline under the Black Sea to Bulgaria and on to Europe.


Analysts say the pipeline expansion plans are part of Moscow's strategy to head off the creation of rival routes bypassing Russia. European countries are keen to lessen their heavy dependence on Russia for their oil and natural gas. "All projects, small and big, should be economically viable, otherwise they will be just idle talk bringing disappointment," Putin said, in an apparent reference to the rival projects. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that other projects backed by Russia that the BSEC could undertake included a ring road around the Black Sea coast, a joint energy network and the revival of ferry traffic between major ports. But Lavrov signalled Russia's reluctance to allow the grouping to tackle the region's political conflicts. "Any attempts to politicise its work are counterproductive. The conflicts should be solved in formats that have been approved by the United Nations," he said. In particular, Armenia and Azerbaijan are at loggerheads over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, and the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have broken away from central control in Georgia. The leaders of Serbia and Albania -- both members of the BSEC though they are not on the Black Sea -- sparred at Monday's meeting over Kosovo, the mainly ethnic Albanian province that is seeking independence from Belgrade.


Russia aims to increase number of submarines in Black Sea Fleet

Russia would like to increase the number of submarines in its Black Sea Fleet, but has so far been held back by Ukraine, Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Masorin said. "In the future Russia's Black Sea Fleet [based in Ukraine's Crimea] should have a brigade consisting of 12-15 diesel submarines," Masorin said. The fleet currently has two diesel subs. "We have been asking Ukraine to transfer a sub from the Northern Fleet to the Black Sea Fleet, but we have yet to resolve the issue," he said. Masorin said in July that the construction of a new base for the Black Sea Fleet at the Russian port of Novorossiisk would be completed by 2012. President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in 2003 setting up the alternative naval base for the Black Sea Fleet in Novorossiisk, after Ukraine demanded the base in Sevastopol, Crimea, be withdrawn by 2017. The commander said that in Soviet times, there were about 60 diesel subs in the Black Sea Fleet. "There is no longer any need for such a number," he said. Masorin said the construction of a third diesel sub named Sevastopol, from the Lada family, had recently been started. He also said the Black Sea Fleet would receive two new ships this year - The Admiral Zakharyin minesweeper and a Serna air-cavity landing craft. Kiev has been pushing for the withdrawal of Russia's naval base in Sevastopol by 2017, in compliance with a previous bilateral agreement. Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in 1997 stipulating that the Black Sea Fleet's main base in Sevastopol be leased to Russia for 20 years, with the possibility of extending the term. The annual rent of about $100 million is deducted from Ukraine's debt for Russian energy supplies. In addition to the main base, the Black Sea Fleet maintains two airfields and a ship re-supply facility on the Crimean Peninsula. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said in July the current rent could be increased in the future.


Russia begins deployment of mountain brigades in North Caucasus

Russia has begun deploying two mountain brigades in the North Caucasus, near the border with Georgia, an Air Force spokesman said Tuesday. Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said in March that the brigades would be completely formed by December 2007 and would be based in the republics of Daghestan and Karachayevo-Circassia. "Over two months, Il-76 planes will conduct about 20 flights to transport personnel of the mountain brigades to the North Caucasus military district," Alexander Drobyshevsky said. The Defense Ministry plans to deploy a reconnaissance and a motorized infantry battalion in the area in July-August, and complete deliveries of military equipment and ammunition to the brigades by October. The two brigades will be manned with contract soldiers and will total about 4,500 personnel.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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