Russia is ready to escalate some local tensions in the Black Sea region, but will not run the risk of a full-scale confrontation with NATO, clearly realizing they have no chances to succeed, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said.
"I do believe Russia is ready to escalate some local tensions in the Black Sea region, but I do not see them being suicidal. They may pinch and provoke here and there. But Russia will not risk a full-scale confrontation with NATO, clearly realizing they have no chances to succeed in it," Kuleba said in an interview with Newsweek, published on Friday.
The minister said that if the Alliance does not take action, the Russian Federation can significantly strengthen its control over the Black Sea and further expand its influence in the region.
"In our conversations with NATO we are very frank on this: if things continue as they are, there is a risk that Russia may significantly increase its control over the Black Sea and further expand its influence in the region. Which means elevated threats for the security and stability of Ukraine and NATO allies there," he said.
Kuleba pointed to Moscow's attempts to disrupt trade routes and restrict freedom of navigation.
In addition, the Foreign Minister drew attention to the fact that the Black Sea featured heavily in his discussions with NATO members.
"I am raising this topic in all of my meetings with both the NATO allies of the Black Sea region, Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria, and in the NATO headquarters in Brussels. Gradually, I see them hearing Ukraine when we ring alarm bells. Many things were done too little too late in 2014, and I hope now we don't repeat those mistakes, acting differently with the full understanding of Russia's intentions," he said.
The Ukrainian minister admitted that now Russia does have a strategically advantageous position in the temporarily occupied Crimea.
"Therefore, it is very important for us that the Black Sea does not repeat the fate of the Azov Sea region. We need to enhance cooperation between the Ukrainian navy and navies of the NATO allies in the Black Sea," Kuleba said.
Kuleba also expressed confidence that nothing can interfere with the Sea Breeze training.
"What Russia tries to do now is play a muscle game showing that no matter how much others train, it's only them who is ready to act in the region," he said.