According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, British military intelligence announced that the Russian Black Sea Fleet may be planning to implement a naval blockade of Ukraine, as it may intercept and detain merchant ships traveling to and from the besieged country.
If Russia implements this step, the first thing it will block is Ukrainian grain exports.
The British newspaper, asked… Can Russia impose such a blockade?
Ships loaded with grain must travel through Ukrainian ports, especially Odessa, to head later to the Bosporus Strait in Türkiye, and thus pass through the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea to reach the ocean.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet won’t be interested in operating near the Ukrainian coast, especially after what happened to the missile Moskva cruiser, which was targeted by Ukrainian missiles last April, which led to its sinking.
The Telegraph continued, then, the grain ships can leave Odessa, and head south, where they will remain within the territorial waters of Romania, Bulgaria and Türkiye, and if Moscow tries to impede its progress there, then this step will be considered an act of war against NATO member states.
Although they pass through friendly waters, this step takes a lot of time and makes the task difficult for large cargo ships that prefer sailing close to the coast.
While some of the grain would be transported by sea, the other part could be transported by rail, although it was more expensive and less spacious.
Will this be bad news for Ukrainians?
Ukraine will lose some foreign exchange earnings, but it’s not its biggest problem.
Indeed, the Ukrainian economy suffers from serious problems.
If Ukraine really encircled, it won’t be affected if it loses some of its grain revenues.
However, in fact, the potential Russian embargo won’t actually target the Ukrainians, but will be directed at every country in the world.
In many African countries, for example, rising grain prices could lead to famine.
This blockade will also lead to the emergence of indirect effects, as not only grain-based foods will be affected, but also the cost of food will rise dramatically in Britain, for example.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin hopes to weaken Western support for Ukraine and turn Africa and China into stronger allies.
How can this step be counteracted?
One option is convoys.
Warships from willing nations could escort merchant groups from the Bosporus to Ukrainian waters, guaranteeing their right of passage on the high seas.
Putin cannot launch an attack on NATO, as this would allow the armed forces led by the United States to respond without being accused of escalation, so convoys could be a reasonable solution.
It was logical to deal with the problem in another way.
Right now, the Ukrainians are counterattacking some of the deepest and strongest defensive lines the world has ever seen, namely, along the front lines from Zaporizhia to Donetsk.
However, this is a very difficult task.
The Ukrainians hacked into Russian lines last year because someone told them where all the Russian sites were.
But the Russians have learned their lesson, and the main headquarters conducting the fighting are heavily fortified.
Rather than using convoys or entering into a possible naval clash in the Black Sea, it might be easier to allow the Ukrainians to obtain the Army’s Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) then Russia would have to withdraw to the Sea of Azov to be safe from the missiles.
The entire land bridge and Crimea would be exposed to Kiev’s missiles.
Forces that fight and die in a counterattack stand a chance, and the Sevastopol naval base could be neutralized, making any Russian grain embargo much more difficult to implement.