July 20, 2022

Russia Has Its Sights on Odesa

Featuring Jim Townsend

Source: Foreign Policy

Journalist Jack Detsch

Western officials believe that Russia will likely begin another major offensive in Ukraine early next year, including a possible effort to advance on the blockaded strategic port city of Odesa, in an effort to seize the country’s southwestern coast and cut off Ukraine from the sea.

Odesa, a warm water port historically known as the “Pearl of the Black Sea,” is a critical transit hub for Ukraine’s grain exports, which account for one-sixth of global corn supplies and one-eighth of global wheat supplies. If Russian forces were to take the port, current and former officials warn, it would represent a devastating blow to Ukraine’s war efforts and give Moscow a greater stranglehold over critical global food supplies that have dwindled since the war began.

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Yet Ukraine’s stiff resistance, coupled with vital military aid from the West and Moscow’s own military blunders, means it’s far from certain that Russian forces could capture Odesa even if that becomes a top priority in the next phase of the war.

“Given the time that Ukraine has bought to fortify that southern area while the fighting is going on further east and north, it’s going to be hard for the Russians to go in and take Odesa, particularly with Western defense systems that can keep the Russian Navy at bay,” said Jim Townsend, a former U.S. Defense Department official and now expert on European security issues with the Center for a New American Security.

Read the full story and more from Foreign Policy.

Authors

  • Jim Townsend

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Transatlantic Security Program

    James Joye Townsend Jr. is an adjunct senior fellow in the CNAS Transatlantic Security Program. After eight years as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for European ...