Crimea Serves as Russian Power Projection Platform

Speaking with reporters at the Pentagon following his testimony on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Supreme Allied Commander Europe and US European Command boss USAF Gen. Philip Breedlove said Russian military assets have transformed the Crimean peninsula in some “fairly significant ways” through the stationing of long-range weapons, which could affect power projection in the Black Sea region. While the size and posture of Russian forces in Crimea has not changed much, the Russian military has moved key air defense and “surface attack systems” into the region, making it a “platform for power projection.” NATO forces and vessels continue to operate in the Black Sea, and continue to exercise there, however, he added. When asked how maritime and air interactions between NATO forces and Russian forces in the waters of the Black Sea are being conducted, Breedlove said there has been a range. “Most I would call professional, at first,” he said, then adding when some US vessels or aircraft have operated closer to the Crimean Peninsula, Russian forces have acted “more confrontational … but, by and large, they are professional.”