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Why Does Russia Fight to Control Warm Water Ports

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Russia had to fight to gain control over warm water ports to facilitate economic development and trade for centuries. The United Nations is a unique classification for landlocked developing countries.

Nations that don’t have access to ports find it more expensive to buy and sell goods internationally, and without an adequate internal river system, these further hampers development both internally and global ability to transport and sell goods and services.

The old Roman Empire is an excellent example of the importance of sea trade.

During the height of its power, it controlled North Africa, Western Europe and Asia Minor; during that time city of Rome got most of its grain supply from Egypt even though Roman farmers were much closer.

By the time Cleopatra rolled herself out of a carpet at Julius Caesar’s feet, Egyptian exports had accounted for a third of the 16.8 million bushels of grain brought to Rome.

In short, whoever controlled Egypt could starve the City of Rome when Vespasian became Roman emperor from 69 to 79.

The fourth and last emperor who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors, he founded the Flavian dynasty that ruled the Empire for 27 years.

His fiscal reforms and consolidation of the empire generated political stability and a vast Roman building program.

To get control over the Empire rather than heading to the  Roman capital, Vespasian seized control of the province of Egypt, which was also the personal property of the Roman emperor due to the region being too important to be administered by anybody other than the Emperor.

This is a very straightforward example of the importance of international shipping to a nation’s continuity and continued existence.

The British Empire was a maritime empire that controlled over 40% of international trade by the 1820s.

The British control of international trade won England the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolutionary Wars from 1793 to 1815.

By controlling waterways which are the lifeblood of commerce and empires, anybody with a sword could conquer another city.

Still, building a fleet and controlling the high seas takes fiscal planning and ingenuity.

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Photo by Katarzyna Modrzejewska on

Russian Geography

The Russians have bad geography; Mongol hordes and German tank divisions could easily manoeuvre into the Russian heartland because those lands are mainly flat when you get past the mountains of Corsica and the Carpathian mountains.

Without access to ports, Russia had no choice but to fight several long and bloody wars in order to get access to the world’s oceans even then Russia today is highly limited, with the Bosporus being controlled and the Republic of Turkey, which could be blockaded quite easily by the Turks leaving Russia limited to the Baltic Sea and trapped in the Black Sea.

The other locations are in East Asia, which means Russia has to have three fleets to have control and access to the world’s oceans.

Still, it also means Russia can not concentrate its forces meaningfully as the United States’ fighting force. This was why the Japanese destroyed the Baltic fleet of Russia during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 to 1905.

The Japanese fleet under Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō destroyed the Russian fleet under Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky, which had travelled over 18,000 nautical miles (33,000 km) to reach the Far East.

With Russia’s geographical location, it is meant that throughout its history, it has had to fight to get access to economic activity and transfer wealth opportunities available in global shipping lanes by force.

Russia in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The Russian Federation 1992 tried to apply for membership of the European Union this was denied and the opportunity has been lost to integrate Russia into the liberal world order.

The missed opportunity, which could have been a poisoned chalice for the European Union and killed the possible greater integration, meant that Russia has reverted to the old way of doing things and can be a strong explanation for the current war in Ukraine and the seizure of Crimea in 2014 by the Russian Federation.

The Russian government do not see the world the way liberal democracies see the world, that everybody, due to the American subsidising protection of global shipping lanes, can trade goods and services around the planet.

Before this, the nations who do not have access to coal and steel that nation will not have industrialised with the global security and protection of the oceans being subsidised first by the British Empire in the 19th and early 20th century and then by the United States from the mid-20th century in the aftermath of World War II to the present day.

The Russians never bought into the Western global order being created and subsidised by the United States of America.

Russia rejecting the Western World leaves Russia with the only other option but to fight for strategic and economic locations; for this, we can look back to previous Russian leaders and how they waged wars to get control of warm water ports.

The Russo-Turkish wars (Russian: Русско-турецкие войны) or Russo-Ottoman wars (Turkish: Osmanlı-Rus savaşları) were a series of twelve wars fought between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire between the 16th and 20th centuries.

One of these wars where waged by Catherine the Great, who ruled from 1762 to 1796.

The territory of Crimea, previously controlled by the Crimean Khanate, was annexed by the Russian Empire on 19 April 1783.

The period before the annexation was marked by Russian interference in Crimean affairs, a series of revolts by Crimean Tatars, and Ottoman ambivalence.

Again during the rule of Peter the Great of Russia from 1682 to 1725 and during his leadership, he started The Great Northern War, which was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe.

The chief objective of Peter the Great during the Great Northern War was to control access to the Baltic Sea and provide Russia with a secure warm water port to the Atlantic and the rest of Europe.

After winning access to the Baltic Sea through his victories in the Great Northern War, Czar Peter I of Russia founded the city of St. Petersburg as the new Russian capital on May 27, 1703, which was near ports in the Baltic Sea partially achieving Russian objectives during the Great Northern War.

As for the Russian Federation, during the Russia-Ukraine War or the Ukraine War from 2014 to the present day, Russians again have two objectives one is access to the Black Sea, which is partly useless without control over the Bosporus River, and Constantinople/Istanbul is located on the boundary between Asia and Europe.

The other objective of Russia is to control the primary invasion roots to attack Russia, which are Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, the Republic of Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Finland.

Hopefully, this article helps to explain why the Russians are fighting the war in Ukraine and why Russia historically has battled with its neighbours for control over access to warm trading ports and is an extensive explanation of why Peter the Great went north instead of the south heading towards Istanbul and the Bosporus River.

This was because Peter The Great would not have been able to take Istanbul, the Ottoman Empire’s capital.

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Photo by Maxim Vostrikov on


Britannica Carpathian Mountains link

World History Encyclopedia Vespasian link

Stephanie Dray How Rain, Grain & Cleopatra’s Daughter fed the Roman Empire link

United Nations 3rd United Nations Conference on the Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDC3) link

Britannica Russo-Turkish wars link

Crimean History Society The First Annexation of Crimea 1784 link

Smithsonian Museum  When Catherine the Great Invaded the Crimea and Put the Rest of the World on Edge link

Stanford University Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Khanate: A Symbiotic Alliance or Veiled Rivalry? link

Britannica Battle of Tsushima link

Council of Europe Russia’s request for membership of the Council of Europe link


Brittanica The reign of Peter the Great link

History St. Petersburg founded by Peter the Great link

Brittanica Second Northern War Europe [1700–1721] link  

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