As Russia intensified its air, land and sea operations along south-eastern Ukraine during July, it must have increased Brussels’ awareness of the growing security threats along the Romania-Ukraine border, but they failed to deter Russian military strikes only 200 meters from the territory of a NATO nation.

On Monday, July 24 Russia launched a wave of kamikaze drone strikes against freight-handling facilities in the Ukrainian Danube River port cities of Izmail, Reni and Kali. This blasted holes in silos, set tons of stored grain on fire and ruined port equipment.

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The resulting explosions and flying metal injured several people and damaged grain storage equipment, according to a statement from Ukraine's Southern Operational Command.

The drone raid marked the first time in Russia’s seventeen-month-old war on Ukraine that the Kremlin attacked Ukrainian riverine ports, in an expansion and escalation of the continuing missile and drone bombardment against the major Ukrainian port city Odesa, on the Black Sea which has been in progress for months. The three Danube ports had, until the Russian strikes, been the only routes by which Ukraine was still able to export grain by sea.

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Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in a July 24 statement condemned the Russian military's attacks on Ukraine's Danube ports, calling it an “escalation.”

Images of one Russian Shahed drone diving onto Izmail port and exploding in a massive orange flame, filmed from a vantage point on the Romanian side of the Danube, were widely shared on Russian, Ukrainian and Romanian social media.

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The Polish prime minister’s appeal came as a likely response to appease Kyiv and local farmers as the rift between Warsaw and Kyiv widened over Ukrainian farm imports.

Thirty-six hours after the attacks, there appeared to be little immediate NATO response. International flight tracking platforms reported that an American AH-64E Apache helicopter gunship with the callsign “Hunt32” flew into eastern Romanian air space some 30 kilometers from the Ukrainian border and port city of Reni, hours after the Russian strike. 

Long-range NATO reconnaissance aircraft routinely fly in proximity to the Ukrainian border, and over international waters in the Black Sea. Those flights seemed to continue their normal routines, Kyiv Post research has shown. Sorties by NATO combat aircraft near Ukrainian sites hit by Russian bombardment are extremely rare.

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The highest profile recent NATO operation near Ukraine was Exercise Poseidon 2023 which ran from July 14-21 in the western Black Sea. The exercise, which is an annual event hosted on alternate years by Romania and Bulgaria, practiced joint naval training in sea mine detection and sweeping. This year’s involved military personnel from Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Italy, Romania, Turkey, the UK and the US. The Russian attacks on Ukraine’s river ports came four days after the NATO exercise ended.

According to Romanian news reports, the 2023 event tested the Romanian navy frigate Regina Maria for inclusion into a standing naval element called the NATO Reaction Force, with specific mine clearing and unexploded ordnance disposal missions.  

Images broadcast on Romania’s Dogrogea TV channel showed Romanian scuba divers marking training mines, Puma helicopters flying patrol and search and rescue missions, while US and other NATO warships maneuvered with their Romanian counterparts in waters off the Black Sea coast, near the port city of Constanza.

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Romanian navy vice admiral Cornel-Eugen Cojcocaru said a key mission for NATO forces along Romania’s Black Sea littoral was ensuring freedom of navigation to commercial shipping in comments to Dogrogea.

Nicole Creţu, commander of a major NATO air operations hub at the 57th Air Base Mihail Kogălniceanu, said the airfield already was hosting dozens of US military-operated aircraft including AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, UH-60 and CH-47 cargo helicopters, and surveillance aircraft in a June interview with Radio Romania Actualității. Reinforcements from other NATO states to participate in the Atlantic Alliance’s Enhanced Air Police mission were en route to Kogălniceanu, he said, and “soon” the base would become home for a squadron of Romanian F-16 fighter aircraft purchased from Norway.

Romania’s Digi news platform reported on July 17 citing, US sources, that Bucharest will also receive upgrades to an Aegis Ashore anti-aircraft missile system currently deployed near the east Romanian city of Deveselu. The weapon, developed by the US Navy, contains a target acquisition and tracking radar and 24 interceptor missiles. Its mission is to protect NATO air space from threats to the east and south.

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A powerful French SAMP-T air defense system is currently operating on rotation at Capul Midia air base in eastern Romania, the military news magazine Defense Romania reported. A France-led NATO battle group in Romania is supported by and regularly trains with the French and Romanian air forces flying Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and F-16 fighters, the report said.

The wave of kamikaze drones came on the heels of a Kremlin mid-July rejection of a grain transfer deal which allowed some Ukrainian ships to carry foodstuffs through the Russian naval blockade of Ukraine’s ports, in exchange for Ankara’s permission to ship Russian-produced grain and fertilizers through the Bosphorus, as an exception to international sanctions on Russia.

Global wheat prices rose by around 5.5 percent by Monday evening and another 2.6 by Tuesday morning.

According to Reuters news agency report on Tuesday, which cited international shipping market data analysts MarineTraffic, 29 cargo ships had dropped anchor near Ukraine’s crucial Izmail port terminal, and 3 were similarly stationed off the Danube River port of Reni.

Owner concerns over cargo and ship insurance were a possible reason for the halting of the traffic, but it wasn’t fully clear why the ships weren’t entering the ports, the report said.

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Comments (13)

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David
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Actually a ground launched version of the naval SM 6 anti air missile is already available. Let’s see how it goes against the Russian K 300 P (Bastion P) that uses P800 Onik anti shipping missile used for ground attack against Odesa . These close in at 2000 mph at low level and are very difficult to intercept.

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Pat Frankewicz
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Thomas Davie provided an excellent enumeration of what NATO "should" do if Putin's forces/weapons touch any NATO soil. But sadly, I suspect NATO and the US will NOT do what Article 5 specifies. Their individual political fears/ambitions, their cowardice, and their insincere concerns for Ukraine will delay or prevent any proper NATO response. I suspect the US will back down first citing some bullshit administrative or legal justification, and the Western European countries of NATO will follow suit.

Just as well, I guess. Like the impotent UN, NATO has become little more that a political theater for the US and the western most NATO countries - those far removed from most Russian short-range missile and ground threats. They will all let any border countries to Russia bleed first (like Ukraine) before commanding troops to directly engage Russian troops. Ohh, we are so afraid of "starting" WW3... Well WTF do think Putin has already done, and continues to threaten to escalate via nukes?

It is quite shameful, but the state of political affairs in the US tells me this is the probable outcome of such a scenario as the 200-meter near miss scenario described above. Good news for Putin, and bad for the rest of us who truly seek protection and justice for the innocent and due punishment for the guilty.

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David
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Wonder how long NATO will take to realise they need a defence against missiles that arrive at the target area at speeds of Mach 3 +
Perhaps SM3 from a ship should be tried and improved to prove viable warship defence.
Else there might be unpleasant surprises in the north Phillipines sea.

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gavan duffy
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I think the world is waking up to the fact that Ukraine is fighting NATO's war. Unfortunately there are some NATO countries, including the US, whose strategy is to fight the war to the last Ukranian. NATO does a lot of talking. Ukranians are doing all the fighting and all the dying.

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JAKE
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Sounds like you were just watching too 😂 so dumb

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Cs
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You're embarassing your country with your cry baby article.

Franklin Machin
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@Cs, When the United States of America becomes the target and the country starts losing 100's of thousands of soldiers as well as Britian and all other NATO countries done cry to you low life

David
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@Franklin Machin, Name calling is a sign of lack of content and substance. Trump started using this formula whenever he had no real answers.
Perhaps best to keep this discussion civil and filled with relevant points and logical deductions

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Thomas Davie
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It might seem like 'normal' in Brussels. It is not. If a Shaed drone oversteps its intended target (can something that imprecise have a target?) and hits Romanian territory, article 5 is invoked.

1. Immediate NATO overflights in Ukraine, looking for targets
2. Immediate mobilization of the rapid response force
3. NATO troops pouring into Ukraine via Polish land corridor

With the Ukrainian skill and valor and ferocity from 1.5 years of hard fighting and the NATO airpower, your country would be restored to pre-2014 borders.

Like it or not, NATO is not in a hurry to go to war. Nor are the member countries.

More Leopards, Challengers, Abrahms. F-15's/16's. A-10 Warthogs, F-35's and B2 bombers and ATACMS

Franklin Machin
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@Thomas Davie, They would rather have Ukrainians die then themselves cowardly NATO allies

Thomas Davie
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@Franklin Machin, Really? Curious why you say that. I would rather Ukraine win and quickly. I would rather it not takes years and hundreds of thousands of dead. The best way to do that is to arm Ukraine to the teeth as soon as is physically possible. That way, Canadians do not have to die. We bought a NASAM for Ukraine even though our militry does not have such a system.

And if Canada fights, I would rather it be over ‘there’ than on North American soil or the Arctic

I don’t want anyone to die except Russians

Tom

David
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@Thomas Davie, The truth is NATO is totally unprepared. They struggle to supply the few guns Ukraine has.
There is a non-existent production capacity that is able to cope with wartime ammunition consumption rates.
Therefore it makes sense for NATO to avoid direct combat, apart from the question of doctrinal escalation to the nuclear threshold should Russia evaluate that total defeat and invasion is possible.
The very real hollowing out NATO supply chain and military power is thanks to Merkel and others who could not learn from hopeful but continuously failing influencing of Iran and North Korean .

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Freddie
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Your right but that was close very close.

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Imokru2
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See Alex below. Agree 100%.

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Alex Smith
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"200 Metres from Romania" is not Romania. Why would NATO get involved and risk lives of its citizens if it one of its members is not attacked? This article is nonsense.

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I support
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God help us cause this is a shit show

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Joseph Swanson
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NATO will do nothing for Central and Eastern European NATO members because we do not have the Premium Level Membership that Western Europe has, which includes Article 5.
Our lives are worthless to the West.

T Bradley
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@Joseph Swanson, Rubbish! When, and if Russia deliberately strikes a NATO country, there will be a response. Until then the huge amount of military equipment and training that is being provided by NATO will have to do for Ukraine. Articles like this are not helpful in maintaining public support in NATO countries - especially the USA.

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Bill Lukens
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Ignorance is curable;

Stupidity is terminal.

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