Places in news: Snake Island & the Black Sea

  • IASbaba
  • June 25, 2022
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Context: Ukraine has caused “significant losses” to the Russian military in airstrikes on Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, in the Black Sea.

  • The hit on the island is believed to be the second major military success using missiles given to Ukraine by the West.

Strategic island

  • Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake or Serpent Island, is a small piece of rock less than 700 metres from end to end, that has been described as being “X-shaped”.
  • Located 35 km from the coast in the Black Sea, to the east of the mouth of the Danube and roughly southwest of the port city of Odessa.
  • The island, which has been known since ancient times and is marked on the map by the tiny village of Bile that is located on it, belongs to Ukraine.
    • On February 24, the day Russia launched its invasion, two warships from the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Vasily Bykov and Moskva, attacked Snake Island, followed by Russian troops landing on it.

Black Sea

  • The Black Sea, also known as the Euxine Sea, is one of the major water bodies and a famous inland sea of the world.
  • The Black Sea is also connected to the Sea of Azov by the Strait of Kerch.
  • The famed water body bound by
    • Ukraine to the north and northwest
    • Crimea in the north
    • Russia and Georgia to the east
    • Turkey to the south, and
    • Bulgaria and Romania to the west, which links to the Sea of Marmara through the Bosphorus and then to the Aegean through the Dardanelles
  • It is the largest water body with a meromictic basin
    • It means the movement of water between the lower and upper layers of the sea is a rare phenomenon which is also responsible for its Anoxic Water (significant absence of oxygen in the water).

Politics around Black Sea

  • A busy waterway, Greece controlled it in the 9th century BC and by 500 BC Greek communities took its control. It helped them increase their trade.
  • In 1479, the Black Sea came under the control of the Ottoman Empire until it was taken over by the Russian Navy in 1783.
  • The 1853-1856 Crimean War saw immense bloodshed to take control of this region. One of Russia’s main reasons for joining World War I was to take over control of the Black Sea.

Significance of Black Sea to Russia

  • Not only is the Black Sea an entry point for Russia into the Mediterranean and a buffer between NATO and itself, it also serves as an economic gateway for the country to major markets in southern Europe
  • Moscow sees the Black Sea as vital to its geo-economic strategy; helps in supplying Russia’s oil and gas to the west.
  • Russia depends on the Black Sea both for military operations outside its immediate neighbourhood and for exports of Russia’s main commodity (hydrocarbons).
  • With the breaking away of the USSR, ideally NATO should have been dissolved. But this did not happen. In fact, despite multiple assurances by the US and NATO, it has expanded four times since 1991 and almost reached the doorstep of Russia.
  • The Kremlin sees the Mediterranean as a largely NATO-dominated region. So, by increasing its presence in the Black Sea, Russia hopes to spot opportunities to make political, economic, and military inroads with key regional states in the region.
  • A domination of the Black Sea and Sea would give Russia a major advantage in the Crimea-Odessa-Mariupol region now that Sevastopol is already under its command.

Pic courtesy: Wikipedia

For Russia, the Black Sea is both a stepping stone to the Mediterranean as well as a strategic buffer between NATO and itself. Domination of the Black Sea region is a geostrategic imperative for Moscow, both to project Russian power in the Mediterranean and to secure the economic gateway to key markets in southern Europe.

About North Atlantic Treaty Organization

  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 4, 1949.
  • Established by: United States, Canada, and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.
  • Article 5: It states that if one member of the alliance is attacked in Europe or North America, it is to be considered an attack on all members. That effectively put Western Europe under the “nuclear umbrella” of the US.
  • As of 2019, there are 29 member states, with Montenegro becoming the latest member to join the alliance in 2017.

Source: The Indian Express

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