With tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalating over the past two months, the security situation in Europe has deteriorated with many supply chain operators fearing what is to come.
onitoring the situation daily, Risk Intelligence assesses what potential impact a further escalation might have on both the maritime and land-based supply chain.
Namely, Russian demands of NATO and Ukraine, and the build-up of Russian forces on the border to Ukraine have increased the risk of conflict.
While Risk Intelligence does not believe a conflict between Russia and NATO is likely, there is a possible and perhaps more likely risk of a conflict between Russia and Ukraine
Russia’s primary objective is the subject of some debate and is likely to include some combination of the following to greater or lesser degrees:
- Desiring greater attention and presence on the world stage.
- Expanding control and territory in the northern area of the Black Sea.
- Achieving actual and recognised control of the Ukrainian Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and the Crimean peninsular.
- Making future Ukrainian NATO, and perhaps even EU, membership impossible.
- Forcing the current pro-Western government in Kyiv to stand down and demand a pro-Russian government take its place.
- Trying to force the West and most notably NATO members to recognise Russia’s position on its “near abroad”.
What could Russia do?
According to the report, there are broadly five different operational scenarios that Russia might consider:
- A hybrid operation, including subversion, information warfare and cyber attacks on military and government installations and sectors to limit the normal functioning of the country.
- A Russian naval blockade in the Black Sea to limit direct trade with Ukrainian Black Sea ports, thereby targeting the Ukrainian economy as a means of exerting pressure and cutting of supplies delivered by sea.
- A limited military operation limited to the Donbas region, as an incursion to fully exert control of the region and officially claim it as part of Russia proper.
- A partial invasion of eastern Ukraine perhaps to and including the Dnieper River as well as southern Ukraine and coastal areas.
- A full-scale complete invasion and occupation of Ukraine.
What would this mean for maritime security
Merchant vessel operations and personnel safety might be directly affected:
- In case of direct confrontation, Russia is likely to use its naval superiority to control maritime traffic in the Azov and Black Sea near Crimea and the Ukrainian coast, including blockades of the Kerch Strait and major Ukrainian ports. This will impact the way merchant maritime traffic is conducted in the area.
- Another possible outcome is that Russia will engage Ukrainian naval assets in port and on patrol in the Black Sea, using landbased anti-ship missiles, air attacks and warships to cripple Ukrainian units.
- Similarly, Ukrainian units might attempt to engage Russian vessels. While this activity would likely be focused mainly on military targets, collateral damage in port areas or firing on civilian vessels due to mistaken targets cannot be ruled out.
- Russian naval or special forces units may be tasked with taking and holding major Ukrainian ports to cut off the country from the Black Sea, potentially leading to combat operations near and in port areas.
- It is also possible that Ukrainian special forces or other assets will attempt to sabotage Russian port infrastructure or other maritime targets, including the Kerch Strait Bridge to disrupt Russian planning and operations.
- Finally, it is possible that sea mines will be deployed by either party, meaning that civilian shipping will be at risk of collateral damage.