BBC Reveals British Careful Planning of Black Sea Provocation
June 27 , 2021 (EIRNS)—The breaking story in London this morning is the “surprise” discovery of a pile of classified Defense Ministry documents, about 50 pages in all, at a bus stop in Kent on Tuesday morning, June 22. According to BBC they include documents, dated June 21, discussing the transit of the HMS Defender from Odessa to Batumi, Georgia. The documents show that a mission described by the Ministry of Defense as an “innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters,” with guns covered and the ship’s helicopter stowed in its hangar, was conducted in the expectation that Russia might respond aggressively. The mission, dubbed “Op Ditroite,” was the subject of high-level discussions as late as June 21, the documents show, with officials speculating about Russia’s reaction if HMS Defender sailed close to Crimea.
The documents relate that recent interactions between the Royal Navy and the Russians in the Eastern Mediterranean had been professional and unremarkable but, BBC writes, “officials knew this was about to change.”
“Following the transition from defense engagement activity to operational activity, it is highly likely that RFN (Russian navy) and VKS (Russian air force) interactions will become more frequent and assertive,” one presentation warned. A series of slides prepared at the U.K.’s Permanent Joint HQ shows two routing options, one described as “a safe and professional direct transit from Odessa to Batumi,” including a short stretch through a “Traffic Separation Scheme” (TSS) close to the southwest tip of Crimea, within Russian territorial waters. This route, one slide concluded, would “provide an opportunity to engage with the Ukrainian government ... in what the U.K. recognises as Ukrainian territorial waters.”
An alternative route was considered, which would have kept HMS Defender well away from contested waters. This would have avoided confrontation, the presentation stated, but ran the risk of being portrayed by Russia as evidence of “the U.K. being scared/running away,” allowing Russia to claim that the U.K. had belatedly accepted Moscow’s claim to Crimean territorial waters.
According to BBC’s assessment, the documents discovered in Kent confirm that passage through the TSS was a calculated decision by the British government to make a show of support for Ukraine, despite the possible risks involved.
BBC relates that the documents were found at the bus stop on the morning of June 22 by a private citizen who chose to remain anonymous. He contacted BBC when he realized the sensitive nature of the documents. The time lag between their discovery and BBC report this morning, June 27, is not explained.
On June 25, Gen. Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the Defense Staff, told The Times that the conflict between the British destroyer HMS Defender and Russian forces in contested waters off the Crimea coast was an example of how a miscalculation could come from “unwarranted escalation.” Carter claimed that the dispute between Britain and Russia was a “classic example of the battle of the narratives,” and that “The jury is out as to who won that battle.”
“The thing that keeps me awake in bed at night is a miscalculation that comes from unwarranted escalation,” he told The Times. “The sort of thing we saw in the Black Sea on Monday and Tuesday is the sort of thing it could come from. It wouldn’t have done on that occasion but it’s the type of thing one needs to think quite hard about.”
Russian Ambassador to Great Britain Andrei Kelin also declared that the incident could have led to a much more serious confrontation. “The nightmare is that they are trying to reinforce the political position with a military provocation, which, indeed, can lead us to a serious military incident, which the chief of the British General Staff admitted just yesterday evening,” Kelin said during a live broadcast of the YouTube channel “Soloviev Live,” reported TASS.
“I have now scheduled meetings with people who are responsible for foreign policy and security issues. I hope to clarify this matter with them and say quite clearly that either we have a political dialogue or a provocation,” Kelin said.
The HMS Defender has since docked in Batumi, Georgia, Reuters reported yesterday.