(Moscow Times) From a military point of view, Russia's ground operation to annex Crimea in 2014 was an exceptionally clean affair, and gave ample opportunity to demonstrate the fruits of Moscow's military modernization efforts. But for Russia's famed Black Sea Fleet, the most tactically relevant action it could take was to deny Ukrainian ships from setting to sea by scuttling one of its oldest and rustiest cruisers in the mouth of a channel.
Despite efforts since 2008 to upgrade Russia's aging Soviet-built military, the Black Sea Fleet in 2014 was a decrepit shell of the once great outfit. Under agreement, independent Ukraine allowed Russia to keep ships in Crimea after the fall of the Soviet Union, but it largely prevented additional Russian vessels from being added. Much of that fleet spent 25 years rusting away at their moorings, and many doubted the fleet was capable of combat. […]
"If you look at a map, you can see that Crimea sits right there in the middle of the Black Sea," says Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, an expert on the Russian navy at the Virginia-based CNA think tank. "From Sevastopol, the Russian navy can pretty much control all approaches and dominate the region vis-a-vis Turkey."
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