Welcome to the latest NATO show: Sea Breeze starts today and goes all the way to July 23. The co-hosts are the US Sixth Fleet and the Ukrainian Navy. The main protagonist is Standing NATO Maritime Group 2.  

The show, in NATOspeak, is just an innocent display of “strengthening deterrence and defense.” NATO spin tells us the exercise is “growing in popularity” and now features more than 30 nations “from six continents” deploying 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 aircraft and “18 special operations and dive teams.” All committed to implement and improve that magical NATO concept: “interoperability.”

Now let’s clear the fog and get to the heart of the matter. NATO is projecting the impression that it’s taking over selected stretches of the Black Sea in the name of “peace.” NATO’s supreme articles of faith, reiterated in its latest summit, are “Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea” and “support for Ukraine sovereignty.”

For NATO, Russia is an enemy of “peace.”  Everything else is hybrid war fog. 

NATO not only “does not and will not recognize Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea” but also denounces its “temporary occupation.” This script, redacted in Washington, is recited by Kyiv and virtually the whole EU.

NATO bills itself as committed to “transatlantic unity.” Geography tells us the Black Sea has not been annexed to the Atlantic. But that’s no impediment for NATO’s goodwill, which the record shows turned Libya, in northern Africa, into a wasteland run by militias.

As for the intersection of Central and South Asia, NATO’s collective behind was unceremoniously kicked by a bunch of ragged Pashtuns with counterfeit Kalashnikovs. 

Meet the Bucharest 9

The White House defines its NATO eastern flank allies as the Bucharest 9.

The Bucharest 9 includes the members of the Visegrad Four (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia); the Baltic trio (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania); and two Black Sea neighbors (Bulgaria and Romania). No Ukraine – at least not yet.

Black Sea regional map by Spiridon Ion Cepleanu. Source: Wikimedia Commons

When the White House refers to “strengthening transatlantic relations” this means, above all, “closer cooperation with our nine Allies in Central Europe and the Baltic and Black Sea regions on the full range of challenges.” Translation: “full range of challenges” means Russia.

So welcome to the return, in style, of the Intermarium – as in “between the seas,” mostly the Baltic and Black, with the Adriatic as a sideshow.

After WWI, the drive for what would possibly become a geopolitical entente included the three Baltics, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Belarus and Ukraine. That concoction was made in Poland.   

Now, under the US and its NATO weaponized arm, a revamped Baltic-Black Sea Intermarium is being pushed as the new Cold War 2.0 Iron Wall against Russia. That’s why the definitive incorporation of Ukraine to NATO is so important for Washington – as it would solidify the Intermarium for good.  

007 does Monty Python

Last week, the prequel to Sea Breeze took place via a farcical Britannia Rules the Waves stunt, enacted like a Monty Python sketch – yet with potentially explosive overtones.

Imagine waiting at a bus stop somewhere in Kent and finding a soggy blob – nearly 50 pages – of secret documents in a trash bin detailing Ministry of Defense elaborations on the explicitly provocative deployment of the Defender destroyer off Sebastopol, along the Crimean coast.

Even a BBC journalist embedded with the destroyer smashed the official London spin that the ship’s deployment was a mere “innocent passage.” Moreover, the Defender’s weapons were fully loaded – as it advanced two nautical miles inside Russian waters. Moscow released a video documenting the stunt.

Image of Russian Black Sea Fleet and border patrol vessel’s alleged ‘prevention of the breach of the Russian state border committed by the UK Navy destroyer Defender on June 24, 2021.’ The Russian Defense Ministry said a border patrol vessel fired shots at HMS Defender after it entered the country’s territorial waters in the Black Sea. It also said that a Su-24M warplane dropped four bombs close to the ship. Britain dismisses Russian claims, saying that the 152 meter-long, 8,500-ton vessel was conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law. In a statement posted on Twitter, it said: We believe the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea and provided the maritime community with prior warning of their activity. No shots were directed at HMS Defender and we do not recognize the claim that bombs were dropped in her path. Photo: AFP / EyePress News

It gets better. The soggy blob found in Kent not only revealed discussions about the possible Russian reaction to the “innocent passage.” There were also digressions about the Brits, “encouraged” by the Americans, leaving commandos behind in Afghanistan after the troop pullout next 9/11. 

That would qualify as extra evidence that the Anglo-American-NATO combo will not really “leave” Afghanistan.

A vague “member of the public” contacted the BBC when he innocently found the geopolitically radioactive materials. No one knows whether this was a leak, a trap or a silly mistake. If the “member of the public” were a true whistleblower he would have gone the Wikileaks way, not BBC.   

The “innocent passage” happened only hours after London signed a deal with Kyiv for the “enhancement of Ukrainian naval capabilities.” 

On the Russian reaction front, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova summed it all up: “London has demonstrated yet another provocative action followed by a bunch of lies to cover it up. 007 agents are not what they used to be.”

UK Ambassador to Russia Deborah Bronnert leaves Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters after she has been summoned on June 24 over an incident involving the HMS Defender destroyer in the Black Sea. Photo: AFP / Sefa Karacan / Anadolu Agency

Meanwhile, on the Mediterranean front, which NATO considers its Mare Nostrum, two Russian Mig-31k fighters – capable of carrying Khinzal hypersonic missiles – were redeployed last week to Syria. The Khinzal range encompasses the whole Mediterranean, east as well as west.  

Across the Global South, NATO promoting “global peace” in the port of Odessa, in the Black Sea, is bound to evoke shades of Libya cum Afghanistan. Austin Powers – self-billed Agent Double Oh! Behave! – would fit perfectly in the Kent trash bin “secret documents” caper.

“Oh. Behave!” totally applies to Sea Breeze. Otherwise, the opportunity might arise to say hello to Mr Kinzhal.