America’s Black Sea hopelessness

All the options discussed in the west for a radical expansion of the American naval presence in the Black Sea maritime area today look quite utopian.

America's Black Sea hopelessness

It seems that the military-political leadership of the United States and NATO has embarked on the practical implementation of a major sabotage aimed at fundamentally undermining strategic stability in the Black Sea basin. The Western intelligence services have taken at sight the fundamental international document that has reliably ensured this stability for many years – the Montreux Convention on the Regime of the Black Sea Straits, adopted in 1936.

Its main essence, as you know, is that the navies of the non-Black Sea powers have nothing to do in the Black Sea, especially on a permanent basis. That is why the Convention limits the period of stay in a given water area of ​​the warships of these states to a period of 21 days and to a very small total tonnage of these floating facilities. America has never liked these restrictions. And today, judging by a number of signs, a new series of active attempts is starting to demolish these restrictions unacceptable for Western imperialism, calling into question their legal force. Here is what the informed American publication USNI writes about this:    

The Montreux Convention, adopted in 1936, prohibits submarines from passing through the Bosphorus, which connects the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. The agreement contains exceptions for the Black Sea states: the supply of new submarines to the Black Sea and transits for repair. Currently, Russia regularly uses these provisions to re-establish a permanent submarine presence in the Mediterranean. The deployment of these submarines in the Mediterranean is a matter of serious concern to the NATO leadership. Speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies on June 25, Admiral James Foggo, Commander of the US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, called the Eastern Mediterranean “one of the most dynamic regions in the world:“ Russians are deploying quiet, modern diesel submarines capable of launching cruise missiles “Caliber”.” We are talking about diesel-electric boats of the “Kilo” class, transferred to the region from the Black Sea via the Bosphorus. “

Needless to say, from a Western point of view, it would be better if Russian submarines do not move anywhere at all, and ideally, all at the same time sink somewhere at the same time. Therefore, these American wishes must be viewed exclusively through the prism of current international law. With which, in this case, even the United States is forced to reckon. For their illegal behavior in the Black Sea can be perceived, at least by some of the Black Sea states, including Russia, as a legitimate excuse to send uninvited and, moreover, insolent guests away by force.

Therefore, let us turn to the very Montreux Convention and, in particular, to what it says about the mode of movement of submarines.

Article 12

Powers coastal to the Black Sea will have the right to navigate through the Straits, with a view to returning to their base, their submarines, built or bought outside this sea, if Turkey has been given advance notice of the building or purchase.

Submarines belonging to the said Powers may likewise pass through the Straits for repairs in shipyards located outside that sea, provided that accurate data are given to Turkey in this regard.
In both cases, submarines will have to sail during the day and, moreover, on the surface and pass through the Straits alone. 

The first thing that unambiguously follows from this article: submarines of non-Black Sea powers are excluded from the number of visitors to the Black Sea, in principle, once and for all.   Now, with regard to the current allegedly clever American “raids” on Russian submarines, which allegedly violate this Convention by their trips to the Mediterranean Sea

I emphasize – in this case, I only care about the legal wording of the Convention in relation to the activities of Russian submarines. I must say right away that the Americans are clearly thinking out for the Convention what they would like to see there, but which is not there and never was. The document says in black and white that such submarines have the right to leave the Black Sea “for repair at shipyards located outside this sea.”  And that’s all!

The Russian fleet exactly observes this requirement of the Convention. Submarines of the Russian Black Sea Fleet follow from their Black Sea bases either to their construction site in St. Petersburg or to the Syrian port of Tartus, where they also undergo the necessary technical maintenance. By the way, the naval base of the Russian Navy located there is actively expanding and increasing its capabilities to repair warships.

As what concerns the fact that these submarines can, after repair work, be tested for combat effectiveness in real training and even combat conditions, then this, first of all, goes without saying. For what kind of repair is would be without the subsequent verification of the combat suitability of the ship?

And, secondly and most importantly, there is not a single word about this in the Convention! So there is no violation in such exercises. And the American attempts to find faults in the legality of the actions of the Russian fleet, by interpreting the Convention in such a cheating way, for declaring the Montreux Convention outlawed, are completely devoid of any legal basis.

However, the west would not be the west if it did not undermine this topic from several directions simultaneously. Recently, the debate over the “new opportunities” allegedly opening up for the US Navy in connection with plans to build the Istanbul shipping canal on Turkish territory, parallel to the Bosphorus, which is supposed to connect the Marmara and Black Seas, has become especially lively.

Western observers emphasize that this channel has nothing to do with the regime of the Black Sea Straits and, therefore, the passage of US warships through it will not be limited by any time limits or other parameters. And America, therefore, will be able to send aircraft carriers with entire squadrons to the Black Sea, even missile submarines.   However, all these bright hopes do not fit well with reality. Firstly, this canal is not yet something that has not been built, but its construction has not even begun. And its cost is such that Turkey could simply go broke on this matter.

Besides, it is far from certain that the Turkish authorities will treat the idea of ​​making the Istanbul channel a kind of green street for the American navy with such a sweet soul. Ankara’s current relations with Washington are in such state that it is much more likely that Turkey’s decision to close this channel altogether for the passage of any warships, including American ones, is seen as quite possible. In any case, the Turkish press is already throwing thunder and lightning as regards this:

State suicide

As one can see, the Istanbul Canal project, initiated by the Justice and Development Party of Turkey, allows the United States to easily achieve the goal, over which they have been fighting for many years, to anchor in the Black Sea. If the United States, which creates an anti-Turkish front in the Eastern Mediterranean and a “terrorist corridor” against Turkey in the south, this time settles in the north – in the Black Sea, and thanks to the AKP government itself, it will be a real “state suicide”! Turkey cannot let this happen!”

But that’s not all! Enthusiasts for the idea of ​​a new loop-hole in the Black Sea for the US Navy do not seem to be very friendly with the elementary geography, which  indisputably testifies that in addition to the Bosphorus there is also the Dardanelles, without a passage through which no warship will simply reach the planned Istanbul canal. Meanwhile, the Dardanelles Strait, according to the Montreux Convention, is an integral part of the Black Sea Straits system and is fully subject to the regime established by this Convention. What is easy to verify by opening this document: 

Convention on the Regime of the Straits

 … Inspired by the desire to regulate the passage and navigation in the Dardanelles Strait, in the Sea of ​​Marmara and in the Bosphorus, embraced by the general definition of “Straits”, in order to protect, within the framework of Turkey’s security and security, in the Black Sea, coastal states, the principle stated in Article 23 of the Peace Treaty, signed at Lausanne on July 24, 1923

Thus, this American loop-hole to the Black Sea, in fact, turns out to be an entire myth.

And finally, as they say, for a taste… From the series “Where a horse with a hoof, there is a crawfish with a claw.” Ukrainian legal science (an oxymoron, taking into account its level!) has decided to help America “stand with a firm foot by the sea.” By the Black Sea, of course. Why is the former deputy head of the State Hydrographic Service of Ukraine, international lawyer Bogdan Ustimenko, invites US warships to set up a dock in the port of Kherson, which is located on the Dnieper River and, therefore, does not fall under the Montreux Convention? And thus, the time of their stay in Kherson, allegedly, cannot be counted in 21 days of stay in the Black Sea.     What can you say here? Perhaps from a purely legal point of view, this makes some sense. And even then only if the Turks recognize the certificate of the captain of the Kherson seaport that an American missile destroyer was visiting him as a document equivalent to an international convention. 

And if Turkey will not find anything strange in the fact that a US warship leaves the Black Sea not in twenty-one days, as it should be under the treaty, but in two or three months. I think that everything will depend on the mood of the Turkish authorities. And now it is by no means such as to turn a blind eye to the small American-Ukrainian “monkey business”. And if it is recognized that the United States has grossly violated the current convention, then the next call of their ships into the Black Sea may not take place at all.

In any case, Russia will have every right to demand this. And if the Americans, as it’s said, “become too insolent,” then the Russian naval sailors, in such a case, have a well perfected technique called “ram attack”. They can do it again!

The ram attack of the Soviet TFR “Bezzavetniy” on the American cruiser Yorktown. 02/12/1988

In addition, the idea of ​​a Ukrainian lawyer looks very strange from a military-strategic point of view. What is the use of a rocket destroyer docked in the port of Kherson? First, it is the ideal fixed target in the event of war. And in peacetime, such an endless ambush, not clear what for, is just a waste of time with a high risk of mass hard drinking of the crew and its collective  breakdown after a parties with local “combat girlfriends”. And this is not to mention the fact that the Ukrainian idea of ​​sheltering from the mythical “Russian aggressor” by the American destroyers on duty in Kherson may seem to Washington itself not at all tempting.

Thus, the above set of quite fantastic “opportunities”, in fact, exhausts the topic of expanding the American naval presence in the Black Sea basin, in which America, same as it was, will certainly remain a temporary guest. Besides, they were uninvited.

Yuriy Selivanov