Question: Mass media are reporting a growing number of Russian troops in Crimea. How can You comment it?
Answer: Five years’ occupation of Crimea by Russia has proven to both the Ukrainians and the world community that its implicit intentions behind the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula were to build up a strong base in Crimea to create a military threat for the European Union countries and to dominate the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. For the Kremlin, “protection of Russians” or “Russian speakers” has always been a pretext to satisfy its imperial ambitions.
For these five years Russia has transformed Crimea into a huge military base – with full-fledged land, air and naval components. Obviously, the level of militarization has become unprecedently high. Just a few examples. Firstly, compared to the pre-occupation period, Russia has more than doubled its military personnel in the peninsula, from 12.500 to over 32.000 persons. In the near future (2020-2025) it will be further increased to 43.000 servicemen.
Secondly, Russia has actually formed today a "triad" of tactical nuclear weapons carriers in Crimea, including surface vessels and submarines, strategic bombers, missile systems. The infrastructure for nuclear weapons storage has been fully restored and modernized.
Thirdly, Russia has turned Crimea into a military test-ground: the latest models of weapons and military equipment are stationed there; projects for development of military infrastructure are financed as a priority. The occupiers do not stop short of destroying the most important spheres of the Peninsula’s life: starting with tourism and ending with preservation of the unique ecological landscape.
Moreover, Russia is extending its militarization to the entire Black-Azov Sea region. It increased a number of warships in the Sea of Azov, deploying them all over the sea; it placed additional military units under the pretext of protecting the Kerch bridge; it staged a number of provocations and keeps trying to squeeze Ukraine out of the Sea of Azov.
The Kremlin justifies its military buildup by mythical threats of a Ukrainian attack, NATO’s eastward expansion, deployment of US antimissile defenses closer to Russian borders, NATO’s redeployment of some of its military capabilities to direct vicinity of western borders of Russia, increased number of NATO military drills in Eastern Europe, etc. However, Europe is only defending itself from Russian threats: first of all, through economic and technological sanctions against Russia, strong condemnation of Russian aggression and ongoing support to Ukraine. Nobody wants to make war on Russia but European countries and Ukraine are trying to deter Moscow’s aggression by toughening sanctions so that the Russian elite could realize that successful development of Russia is impossible without dropping its adventurous and aggressive policy.