Having been in Europe for some weeks, I’ve heard several people whose opinions I respect say two things since the incident in the Kerch Strait: that the Ukrainian government is faltering and that Russia is going to make a play for the Black Sea. Any one of these people could be dismissed. All of them should not. That so many are talking this way means either they have fallen prey to a disinformation campaign of enormous size, or a new sense of reality is emerging in the region. It seems to me that one or both of possibilities need to be taken seriously.
Strategic depth is the basis of Russia’s national security, and it has been since the days of Napoleon. It was strategic depth, provided by buffer states, that enabled the country to absorb, weaken and destroy invading forces first from France and then twice more from Germany. For Europe – and its current security guarantor, the United States – the strategic depth Russia needs is a threat because it puts