Winning back Snake Island isn't a major victory for Ukraine

The re-taking of Snake Island helps Ukraine resist the blockade across a narrow lane of traffic and deprives Russia of a site for their air-defense radar. But the Russians retain control over the rest of the Black Sea, including the ports of Crimea and Odessa. Their control is not absolute. In April, Ukrainian missiles sunk the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and just last week, they sunk a Russian tug boat that was delivering military supplies to Snake Island. Still, Russia has about 20 military vessels in the Black Sea, including seven submarines, most of which operate out of Crimea, which it annexed in 2014 and still holds without any active resistance.

As Steve Rosenberg, Russia editor for the BBC put it, “Snake Island may be in a highly strategic part of the Black Sea…but ultimately it is still a very small rock.”

Recapturing the rock also holds some symbolic significance. In a globally famous incident early on in the war, an officer on a Russian warship ordered a Ukrainian border guard on Snake Island to abandon his post, to which the guard replied, “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.” Reports differ on whether the guard was killed or taken prisoner, but either way, recapturing the island is playing as a moral victory for Ukraine.