The Maritime Dimension of the Russian-Ukrainian War

Policy Brief

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Hanna Shelest, PhD, Security Studies Program Director at the Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism” for the University of Waterloo

Russian-Ukrainian war has been traditionally analysed in two dimensions – the Crimean
occupation and the military activity in Eastern Ukraine. However, a third dimension – maritime – has
been developing steadily, presenting higher risks and multiply manifestations.
As the Russian Federation uses Eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea region as a testing ground
for many military and hybrid tactics, later applying them in other regions, the maritime dimension of
the Ukrainian-Russian war is worthy of study for better understanding Russian actions in the Baltics,
Northern Sea, Arctic, Japan Sea, Mediterranean, and elsewhere. The April 2021 military build-up that
attracted the attention of all NATO allies demonstrated the significance of the maritime domain for
the Russian Federation, as the deployed ships remained despite the announced withdrawal of forces.
Moreover, increased activities in the Black Sea region during the last two years give us arguments to
consider the maritime domain a full-fledged third theatre of confrontation.
It is necessary to understand that Russian actions in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are not
aimed only at Ukraine, but first of all to project power against NATO as an organization and against
Turkey as an individual state.