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James Stavridis

How to Break Russia’s Blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea Ports

Putin’s illegal actions are destroying Kyiv’s economy and causing global hunger. The US and allies need to protect grain ships.

Bulgaria’s navy is ready to bust a blockade.

Bulgaria’s navy is ready to bust a blockade.

Photographer: Velko Angelov/AFP/Getty Images

When I was operations officer on an Aegis guided-missile destroyer in the late 1980s, we were given a mission in the Arabian Gulf. The Iranians, amid the so-called Tanker War with Iraq, were trying to close off the vital Strait of Hormuz. 

The rest of the world needed to keep oil flowing, and chose a fairly dramatic solution: escorting convoys of oil tankers, which were flagged by the US, in and out of the tight waterway. Called Operation Earnest Will, it was mostly successful, running from the hot summer of 1987 to the fall of 1988. (Admittedly, there was a great tragedy during this time, the downing of an Iranian jetliner with 290 people killed.)