Russia/Ukraine military conflict: Discussing the maritime element of the confrontation

Published: Jan 15, 2023
Russia-Ukraine conflict; Maritime Domain Tactical Warfighting; Black Sea & Sea of Azov Maritime Operations; Sea Lanes; Maritime Law; Maritime Warfare International Law.
Harold Thomas Workman
Dimitrios Dalaklis
Adriana Ávila-Zúñiga-Nordfjeld

Within the globalization era, the conduct, resolution, and impact of international conflicts are frequently not limited solely to the belligerent states involved. Conflict influences distant countries and often illustrates the vulnerability of sea access to the security of coastal and landlocked nations, by factoring in that: import/export commodities are impacted; access to vital energy resources is undermined; and/or international resource distribution is threatened. Therefore, the maritime domain (and its military, legal, and commercial components) represents a Russia/Ukraine conflict cornerstone and the epicenter of this analysis. This conflict highlights maritime trade importance and re-establishes the strategic significance of protecting multi-polarity, the “rule of law”, and freedom of the seas within the Black Sea region (BSR), which today represents a very large concentration of power (involving actors like Russia, USA, NATO, EU) and has been the site of ten post-Cold War conflicts. Resultantly, maritime domain objectives and tactical events (on, above, and below the seas) require detailed analysis as hostilities continue, the norms and principles of international law are threatened and/or undermined, and prospective combat end-state(s) are considered. Such will define Russia’s and Ukraine’s future(s), as well as economic-diplomatic stability and the future of rules-based international order across the BSR, which is a vital maritime transport corridor.

Amidst increasing maritime emphasis, this conflict also illustrates transformational warfighting facets. In addition to troops, ships, and aircraft, modern battlefields now include issues like: Information Warfare outlets; “lawfare”; cyber threats; and adversaries with unprecedented Artificial Intelligence capabilities. The international community must acknowledge these skills yield warfighting capability to nations lacking capacity. As naval warfare equipment and tactics change, protecting sea lanes, preventing maritime hegemony, and upholding the “rule of law”, remain dominant-and are enhanced by globalization.

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