Just recently, Russian servicemen fired warning shots and boarded a Palau-flagged ship after it failed to respond to a demand for it to stop. Carrying automatic weapons, the Russians entered the vessel’s bridge and confronted the ship’s captain while crew members were made to put their hands on their heads and kneel.
After carrying out the inspection, the ship was allowed to continue its journey to the port of Izmail in southwestern Ukraine.
Incidents like this could force Kyiv's partners to intervene and prevent Ukraine's economy from being crippled, warned Ex-U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Stavridis led the alliance's forces on the continent between 2009 and 2013.
"Russia's actions in the international waters of the Black Sea create a real risk of escalating this to a war at sea between NATO and the Russian Federation," said Stavridis. "NATO is not going to provide all the weapons and money for Ukraine, only to watch Russia strangle their economy with an illegal blockade."
The latest incident took place just off the coast of Turkey, a NATO heavyweight.
"If Russia starts seizing vessels or seeks to scare them away, I think it likely NATO will respond by supporting a humanitarian corridor for shipping," Stavridis said. The alliance could protect vessels going to and from the Ukrainian port of Odesa "with NATO combat aircraft overhead and possibly NATO warships in escort."
After unilaterally withdrawing from a UN grain deal in July, Russia warned that ships traveling to Ukrainian ports could be seen as military targets. (Related: US condemns Russia for conducting US-style 'shock and awe' bombing of Ukraine.)
Ukraine responded in kind, attacking a Russian tanker with a drone. It declared the waters around Russia's Black Sea ports to be a "war risk area" beginning Aug. 23.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accused Russia of "dangerous and escalatory actions in the Black Sea," partly also about Russia's bombardment of Ukrainian ports. He added that NATO was "stepping up surveillance and reconnaissance in the Black Sea region, including with maritime patrol aircraft and drones."
Against NATO members Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria which border the Black Sea, "the Russian Black Sea fleet would be militarily overmatched," according to Stoltenberg.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an is reportedly set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of the month, with the cereals trade likely to be on the agenda.
Until Russia's withdrawal, the UN-brokered grain deal was credited with ensuring that 32.9 million tons of crops safely left Ukraine's Black Sea ports, averting the risk of famine in poorer nations.
Putin said his government would "refuse to extend" that agreement, instead electing to provide grain for free to certain African countries on a case-by-case basis.
Following the move, Moscow's armed forces struck Ukrainian grain depots along the Black Sea coast, destroying a reported 60,000 tons of food.
On July 21, Russian missile strikes set grain storage facilities in the Odesa region on fire and destroyed a huge amount of food stored for export.
Moscow's defense ministry warned that "all vessels sailing in the waters of the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports will be regarded as potential carriers of military cargo."
Kyiv has created a "temporary corridor" for maritime traffic from its southern ports, allowing ships that have been confined to harbor for weeks to enter international waters. On Wednesday, Aug. 16, Ukraine's Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov announced that the first vessel, a container ship under the flag of Hong Kong, had set sail despite the threat from Moscow.
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Watch this video where Col. Douglas Macgregor says Russia will beat NATO if they go toe-to-toe.
This video is from the Russia Truth channel on Brighteon.com.