Kuznetsov in Eastern Mediterranean

Almost one month after her departure and weeks after the announcement of her departure, the sole Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and her battle group arrived in Eastern Mediterranean.

The Russian battle group includes the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko, the support vessel Nikolay Chiker and the tanker Sergey Osipov from the Northern Fleet, the frigate Yaroslav Mudry from the Baltic Fleet and the frigate Ladny from the Black Sea Fleet.

According to Greek newspaper Ta Nea, The Russian naval group conducted exercises on 5th and 6th of January in Ionian Sea, 80-90 miles southwest of Pylos.

What the Russian naval group will do after this exercise is not clear yet, but I guess as they head for a easterly course, they might conduct exercises with Turkish Navy too, as they did the last time when Admiral Kuznetsov was in the region.

>Video: Kuznetsov in Turkey

>I have found a small video Kuznetsov steaming into Aksaz Naval Base.

http://video.rutube.ru/6cbced228c06809e45b4389b20b2a517

I wish I was able to tell what they are talking about but I cannot speak Russian so you must help yourself. I wonder if this video was done before or after the fire on board.

>Fire on board of Kuznetsov

>

According to Turkish daily Hürriyet, a sailor died during a fire on board a Russian aircraft carrier, when she was docked in naval base Aksaz in Marmaris.

The fire, lasting about two hours, was caused by a short circuit in the ship’s wiring and the sailor died from smoke inhalation late on Tuesday, RIA news agency reported.

Kuznetsov is in the region to conduct military exercises. This latest accident indicates that it is not easy for any nation to have a wide spread naval forces around to world and to keep them sufficiently supplied and maintained at the same time.


Kuznetsov in her better days. Here a photo of her during her maiden voyage trough the Bosphorus in 1991.

The Montreux Convention Regarding The Regime Of The Straits: A Turkish Perspective

The Montreux Convention regarding the regime of the Turkish Straits was signed on 20 July 1936 in Montreux. With this convention, the Republic of Turkey managed to end the issue of Straits, which was resolved temporarily with the Treaty of Lausanne, so as to protect its own safety and interests.

Considering the historical developments, Turkey had to allow the Straits as a gun-free zone to be administered by the Straits Commission under the Treaty of Lausanne. This situation which threatened Turkey’s absolute sovereignty and security over its territory had to be corrected due to the increasing political tensions in Europe in the late 1930s. The Montreux Convention was the result of the political and diplomatic efforts that were made in this direction.

Through this convention that was signed by Australia, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Japan, France, Romania, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey, Turkey’s limited rights were given back. Turkey gained sovereignty over the Straits Zone. The USA was also invited to the conference that was held before the convention. However, the Washington Government preferred not to participate and thus couldn’t become a signatory.

500px-Turkish_Strait_disambig.svg

Northwestern Turkey is divided by a complex waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea. The channel passing between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara is named the İstanbul Boğazı, more commonly called the Bosporus. Istanbul, the largest city of Turkey is positioned at the south end of the Bosporus. The Sea of Marmara is connected to the Aegean Sea by a channel called the Çanakkale Boğazı, also known as the Dardanelles. The Turkish Straits, comprising the Strait of Canakkale, the Strait of Istanbul and the Sea of Marmara, are unique in many respects. The very narrow and winding shape of the strait is more akin to that of the river. It is an established fact that the Turkish Straits are one of the most hazardous, crowded, difficult and potentially dangerous waterways in the world for marines. All the dangers and obstacles characteristic of narrow waterways are present and acute in this critical sea lane.

The Montreux Convention guarantees free passage of civilian merchant ships without any restriction through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus in peacetime. Therefore, the adoption of the Turkish Straits Vessel Traffic Services System, which was put into practice by Turkey when the number and tonnages of vessels passing through the straits increased dramatically, became possible after serious diplomatic negotiations between the signatories of the Montreux Convention.

Six out of 29 articles of the Montreux Convention were related to the civilian merchant ships while 16 of them were related to warships and aircraft. Provisions regarding the passing of warships through the Straits vary depending on whether these ships belong to a country with or without a shore on the Black Sea. Also, these provisions vary depending on whether Turkey is belligerent or sees itself under a close war threat.

The definition of “ton” in the Montreux Convention, unless otherwise specified, refers to the long ton, which is equal to 1016 kg (2240 pounds) instead of the metric ton that is equal to 1000 kg.

Passage of warships
The Black Sea riparian countries have the right to transit their warships and submarines through the Straits without any tonnage restriction provided that Turkey is notified eight days prior to the transit passage through diplomatic channels

Ships that have a greater tonnage than 15.000 tons may pass through the Straits one by one and be escorted by not more than two destroyers.

Only submarines belonging to riparian states can pass on the surface and singly through the Turkish Straits, for the purpose of rejoining their base in the Black Sea for the first time after their construction or purchase, or for the purpose of repair in dockyards outside the Black Sea.

There are severe restrictions in terms of type, number and tonnage for the transit through the Straits of warships that belong to the non-Black Sea countries. These non-riparian countries are required to notify Turkey 15 days, prior to the transit through diplomatic channels.

The total number and the maximum aggregate tonnage of all foreign naval forces which may be in course of passage through the Turkish Straits are limited to 9 and 15.000 tons respectively. The maximum aggregate tonnage that non-riparian States may have in the Black Sea is 45.000 tons. In this regard, the maximum aggregate tonnage of the vessels of war that one non-riparian State may have in the Black Sea is 30.000 tons. The non-riparian states cannot keep their warships for more than 21 days in the Black Sea.

Due to its date of signing, the Montreux Convention does not have a clear statement with regard to nuclear-powered vessels. In fact, in the convention, there is not a statement with regard to the engine types of the ships that will pass through the Straits. In theory, the transit of a nuclear-powered ship through the Straits is not restricted. However, today nuclear-powered warships are either submarines or aircraft carriers with huge tonnage.

The transit of a submarine or an aircraft carrier belonging to a country without a shore on the Black Sea is not possible. Therefore, a nuclear-powered warship has not passed through the Straits officially so far.

The only type of warship that is exclusively banned from passage through the Turkish Straits is the aircraft carrier.

Turkish Straits during a War or Crisis
In the time of war Turkey not being belligerent, the peacetime rules apply for the warships belonging to non-belligerent parties. Warships belonging to the waring states cannot pass through the Turkish Straits, The only exception of this is that if the warships belonging to belligerent countries with or without a shore on the Black Sea have already left the ports that they are affiliated to before the war, they have the right to transit in order to return to their ports.

In time of war, Turkey being belligerent, the passage of warships is entirely left to the discretion of the Turkish Government.

The Southern enterance of the Bosphorus. The old city, The Golden Horn are visible at the bottom. At far left the first Bosphorus Bridge can be seen.

Similarly, if Turkey considers itself to be threatened with imminent danger of war, the transit of warships belonging to foreign countries through the Straits is left to the discretion of the Turkish Government.

By means of this authority, Turkey can prohibit the transit of warships belonging to the countries that cause Turkey to consider itself to be threatened with the danger of war while it can allow the transit of warships belonging to countries that do not cause that such situation.

With the Montreux Convention regarding the regime of the straits, which we have tried to summarize above, the number, type and size of the warships that can reach the Black Sea have been restricted. These restrictions increased the security of the riparian states. However, the same restrictions prevent the desire of countries with powerful naval forces to be present and cruise in all seas all around the world.

Turkey has been trying to implement the Montreux Convention with great precision since 1936. Therefore, occasionally Turkey is exposed to criticism from countries both with and without a shore on the Black Sea. The first big test of the Montreux Convention was, no doubt, the Second World War. Turkey closed the Straits to the warships of the belligerent countries during this war in which Turkey remained neutral. This situation served the purpose of the Soviet Union since the transit of German submarines and warships through the Straits was prevented. Axis countries couldn’t bring new warships to the Black Sea except for those that were already in the Black Sea before the war. Submarines were transferred in pieces by land or through the Danube River so that they could be assembled in Romania.

This however also prevented the military aid convoys coming from its allies, the UK and the USA, to pass through the Straits. Therefore, much of the military aid from the USA and UK had to be carried to Russia either over Iran or over the North Pole route.

Montreux During The Cold War
During the Cold War, Turkey was exposed to criticism both from the Soviet Union and the NATO allies from time to time due to its way of implementation of the Montreux Convention.

In 1976 when Turkey allowed the warship Kiev to pass through the Turkish Straits, many NATO allies including the USA protested Turkey. The Kiev, constructed in the Nikolayev Shipyard in the Black Sea in 1972 was considered as the first aircraft carrier constructed in the Soviet Union. However, having been quite aware of the fact that violating the Montreux Convention would not be good for its own benefit, the USSR classified Kiev as a heavy anti-submarine cruiser.

The Montreux Convention, defines aircraft carriers as surface warships, regardless of their tonnage, designed and constructed mainly to carry aircraft and enable their operation of them. If a warship was not designed or constructed with the sole purpose of carrying and operating aircraft, is not considered as an aircraft carrier even if the ship has a suitable deck for the aircraft’s take-off and landing.

Kiev and her sister ships had long-range anti-ship and air defence missiles as well as anti-submarine warfare rockets. Thus, the Soviet Union was able to classify these ships as heavy anti-submarine cruisers. All the ships of this class, Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk and Baku passed frequently both northbound and southbound through the Turkish Straits while they were commissioned.

This is not a carrier. Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov passing through Bosphorus

A similar crisis happened in 1991 when Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, still commissioned in the Russian Naval Forces, passed through the Turkish Straits. Although this ship looked like a classical aircraft carrier in terms of its structure, the Soviet Union classified it as a heavy cruiser due to weapon systems deployed onboard. Again some NATO members put serious pressure on Turkey not to allow this ship to pass through the Straits, but they didn’t succeed in this effort.

Unlike Kiev class ships, the Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov didn’t pass through the Straits ever, after leaving the Black Sea in December 1991.

Montreux in the New World
After the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the U.S. Government requested help from the NATO countries within the scope of Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. According to this article, an armed attack against a NATO country is considered an attack against all of the NATO countries.

In this context, on 26 October 2001 Operation Active Endeavour (OAE) the first anti-terror operation of NATO was launched. The operation began with the patrols of the warships belonging to NATO countries in the Eastern Mediterranean was later on expanded so as to search the suspicious ships and their loads.

Upon the success of the OAE in the Eastern Mediterranean, the operation was expanded to the whole Mediterranean in March 2004. At the same time, the Turkish Naval Forces launched Operation Black Sea Harmony (OBSH). The purpose of OBSH was to ensure security in the Black Sea, create situational awareness and control suspicious merchant ships. The recognized maritime picture obtained within the scope of the operation, which is still ongoing, is shared with the NATO authorities and headquarters.

Initially, only units of the Turkish Naval Forces participated in OBSH. Later Turkey invited all littoral countries in the Black Sea to participate in the operation that was launched with its own initiative, and Romania, Russia and Ukraine responded positively to this invitation. The most important effect of the OBSH was that all the pressure exerted to modify the Montreux Convention and expand the OAE into the Black Sea was neutralised. Otherwise, if OAE was extended into the Black Sea, warships belonging to non-riparian NATO countries would be regularly present in the Black Sea and successful implementation of the Montreux Convention would be jeopardised.

After the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, the Montreux Convention was widely discussed again. Turkey received a lot of flak for refusing the transit of the hospital ship USNS Comfort. The USA wanted to dispatch the ship with a 69.552 displacement to Georgia to show solidarity and provide aid. However the article of the Montreux Convention is very clear about the sizes of the ships to be sent for humanitarian reasons: “In the event that one or more countries without a shore on the Black Sea desire to send naval forces into the Black Sea, for a humanitarian purpose, the said forces cannot exceed 8.000 tons.” The neo-conservative U.S. government was not happy with this decision.

The Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, and NATO’s anti-ballistic missile defence system were the most recent times when Ankara faced pressure on how it implemented the Montreux Convention in dealing with foreign navies’ requests for transit to and from the BlackSea.

What Now?
Turkey will face challenges regarding the implementation of the Montreux Convention, especially after Ukraine calls on Turkey to close its airspace and the Black Sea access to Russian vessels on 24 February 2022. The Russian invasion of Ukraine showed that Russia indeed is the major challenge in terms of the security and stability of Europe in general and the Black Sea region specifically.

Turkey created a security architecture in the Black Sea with the riparian states. This apparatus keep the security in the region and keep the warships of the non-riparian states out. This architecture worked when the Russian Black Sea Fleet was weak and the NATO’s enlargement toward the east was slow. It even survived the Russian attack on Georgia in 2008. However, in 2014, Russia’s annexation of Crimea meant the collapse of the regional security architecture.

In recent years, Russia displayed its discontent towards the existence of foreign warships in the Black Sea by shadowing them constantly and flying military planes aggressively low and close to these vessels of war. On the other hand, NATO is trying to find ways to keep more warships of non-riparian States in the Black Sea and keep them longer.

When determining ways to bring stability to the Black Sea region and to answer the security challenges caused by Russian aggression it is important to remember that the Montreux Convention is simply far more than just a treaty that regulates the passage of commercial and naval ships through the Turkish Straits.

The Montreux Convention completes the Treaty of Lausanne, allowing Turkey to have full and absolute sovereignty and security over its territory. Therefore it is vital for Turkey to keep the convention alive and relevant.

Note: I have first written this text in 2014 for the Turkish online defence magazine C4 Defence in Turkish. It was published in the March 2014 Issue. Since then it was also published on web site Second Line of Defense. I have changed the original text in light of the recent Russian attack on Ukraine.

Foreign Warship On Bosphorus in 2016 (Part 37)

Here are photos of foreign warships, that have passed through Bosphorus, in last 15 days:

p1160247

Black Sea Fleet’s sole Admiral Grigorovichclass frigate Admiral Grigorovich returned from her 44 day long deployment with the Kuznetsov Taskforce.

p1160228

Alexander Shabalin passed through Istanbul for another Syrian deployment, just minutes before Admiral Grigorovich passed northbound

cdy_3761

Large landing ship Georgiy Pobedonosets, from Russian Northern Fleet returned from her syrian deployment on a cold, windy morning.

tam-ekran-yakalama-18-12-2016-233329

Russian large landing ship, Tsezar Kunikov was passing southbound through Istanbul just 8 days after her northbound passage. Photo: Yörük Işık.

tam-ekran-yakalama-18-12-2016-233245

Auxiliary cargo ship Kyzyl-60 returned from her Mediterranean deployment. Photo: Yörük Işık.

tam-ekran-yakalama-18-12-2016-232153

After completing her port visit in Russia, Pakistan warship PNS Alamgir made her southbound passage through Turkish Straits. The ship is on her way back to Pakistan. Photo: Alper Böler.

tam-ekran-yakalama-18-12-2016-232304

Small auxiliary cargo ship Kazan-60 made her southbound passage through Turkish Straits. Photo: Yörük Işık.

Korolev

Russian Ropucha class landing ship from the Baltic Flet, Korolev made her first deployment for Syrian Express in 2016. Photo: Alper Böler.

2-tam-ekran-yakalama-11-12-2016-121037

Alexander Shabalin returned from her 9th Syrian deployment in 2016, well after sunset. Photo: Yörük Işık.

Filchenkov

Russian Alligator class landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov, passing through Istanbul. Photo: Yörük Işık.

tam-ekran-yakalama-7-12-2016-100958

Russian Ropucha class landing ship Tsezar Kunikov made her northbound passage in the middle of the night. Photo: Alper Böler.

tam-ekran-yakalama-6-12-2016-091858

Romanian mine sweeper Sub Lieutenant Alexandru Axente, returned back to home after taking part in Nusret 2016 mine warfare exercise. Photo: Alper Böler.

63

Bulgarian mine sweeper Priboy returned to her home port, after the Nusret 2016 mine exercise was finished.

265

Romanian corvette Contraamiral Horia Macellariu, also returned to her home port, following the completion of the anti submarine warfare exercise Mavi Balina 2016.

tam-ekran-yakalama-6-12-2016-092047

Bulgarian frigate Verni, seen during her northbound passage through Istanbul, at the end of her 39 day long deployment to the Mediterranean. Photo: Yörük Işık.

The list of the foreign warships passed through Istanbul Strait is here.

Foreign Warship On Bosphorus in 2016 (Part 33)

Here are photos of foreign warships, that have passed through Bosphorus, in last 13 days:

iman

Tanker Iman heading to the Black Sea. Photo: Yörük Işık.

filchenkov

Alligator class landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov passes TCG Gökova, on her way to Syria. Photo: Alper Böler.

494-2

The frigate Admiral Grigrovich on her way to reinforce Admiral Kuznetsov task force

016_1-2

Ropcuha Georgy Pobedonosets yet on another northbound passage through Istanbul. She might be replaced by Korolev from the Northern Fleet.

kildin-2

Moma class intelligence gathering ship Kildin returns to the Black Sea after a 79 day long deployment.

ivanbubnov

Tanker Ivan Bubnov heading southbound, to supply the Admiral Kuznetsov task force. Photo: Yörük Işık.

tkil158

The buoy tender KIL-158, with a Raptor class assault boat on her deck heading to Syria. Photo: Alper Böler.

The list of the foreign warships passed through Istanbul Strait is here.

The Montreux Convention Regarding The Regime Of The Straits: A Turkish Perspective

I have written the following text for the Turkish online defence magazine C4 Defence in Turkish. It was published in the March Issue. Since it was also published in web site Second Line of Defense, I’m publishing it here.

As I have delivered the text in Turkish, the English translation was without my influence. There are some places where I would have expressed myself differently. But I admire the hard word and the good job the (for my unknown) translator has put it, thank him/her wholeheartedly.

 

THE MONTREUX CONVENTION REGARDING THE REGIME OF THE STRAITS: A TURKISH PERSPECTIVE

The Montreux Convention regarding the regime of the Turkish Straits was signed on 20 July 1936 in Montreux. With this convention, the Republic of Turkey managed to end the issue of Straits, which was resolved temporarily with the Treaty of Lausanne, so as to protect its own safety and interests.

Considering the historical developments, Turkey had to allow the Straits as a gun-free zone to be administered by the Straits Commission under the Treaty of Lausanne. This situation which threatened Turkey’s absolute sovereignty and the security over its territory had to be corrected due to the increasing political tensions in Europe in the late 1930s. The Montreux Convention was the result of the political and diplomatic efforts that were made in this direction.

Through this convention that was signed by Australia, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Japan, France, Romania, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey, Turkey’s limited rights were given back. Turkey gained sovereignty over the Straits Zone. The USA was also invited to the conference that was held before the convention. However, the Washington Government preferred not to participate and thus couldn’t become a signatory.

500px-Turkish_Strait_disambig.svgNorthwestern Turkey is divided by a complex waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea. The channel passing between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara is named the Istanbul Bogazi, more commonly called the Bosporus. Istanbul is positioned at the south end of the Bosporus. The Sea of Marmara is connected to the Aegean Sea by a channel called the Canakkale Bogazi, also known as the Dardanelles. The Turkish Straits, comprising the Strait of Canakkale, the Strait of Istanbul and the Sea of Marmara and, are unique in many respects. The very narrow and winding shape of the strait is more a kin to that of the river. It is an established fact that the Turkish Straits are one of the most hazardous, crowded, difficult and potentially dangerous, waterways in the world for marines. All the dangers and obstacles characteristic of narrow waterways are present and acute in this critical sea-lane.

Northwestern Turkey is divided by a complex waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea. The very narrow and winding shape of the strait is more akin to that of a river. The Turkish Straits are one of the most hazardous, crowded, difficult and potentially dangerous, waterways in the world for mariners.

The Montreux Convention guarantees free passage of civilian merchant ships without any restriction through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus in peacetime. Therefore, the adoption of the Turkish Straits Vessel Traffic Services System, which was put into practice by Turkey when the number and tonnages of vessels passing through the straits increased dramatically, became possible after serious diplomatic negotiations between the signatories of the Montreux Convention.

Six out of 29 articles of the Montreux Convention were related to the civilian merchant ships while 16 of them were related to the war ships and aircrafts. Provisions regarding the passing of war ships through the Straits vary depending on whether these ships belong to a country with or without a shore on the Black Sea. Also, these provisions vary depending on whether Turkey is belligerent or sees itself under a close war threat.

The countries with a shore on the Black Sea have the right to transit their war ships and submarines through the Straits without any tonnage restriction provided that Turkey is notified eight days prior to the transit passage through diplomatic channels.

Ships that have a greater tonnage than 15.000 tons may pass through the Straits one by one and escorted by not more than two destroyers. The submarines are required to navigate on the surface and singly when passing through the Straits.

The definition of “ton” in the Montreux Convention, unless otherwise specified, refers to the long ton, which is equal to 1016 kg (2240 pounds) instead of the metric ton that is equal to 1000 kg. Moreover, the tonnage calculation of a war ship is made by taking into account the well-constructed and ready-to-sail ship’s fuel, all machineries, weapons and ammunition, its equipment, all its crew and their provisions and fresh water as well as all the tools and equipment that will be carried during a war.

Entry into the Black Sea
There are some restrictions in terms of type, number and tonnage for the transit through the Straits of war ships that belong to the countries without a shore on the Black Sea. These countries are required to notify Turkey eight days, but preferably 15 days, prior to the transit through diplomatic channels.

The countries without a shore on the Black Sea have the right to transit a naval force, which is not prohibited by the convention and whose total tonnage does not exceed 15.000 tons, from the Straits to the Black Sea. Even if the total tonnage does not exceed 15.000 tons, the number of ships cannot be more than nine.

The countries without a shore on the Black Sea cannot keep their war ships more than 21 days in the Black Sea. The total tonnage of war ships belonging to a country without a shore on the Black Sea cannot exceed 30.000 tons while the tonnage of war ships that can be kept by all of the countries without a shore on the Black Sea at the same time cannot exceed 45.000 tons.

Due to its date of signing, the Montreux Convention does not have a clear statement with regard to nuclear-powered vessels.

In fact, in the convention there is not a statement with regard to the engine types of the ships that will pass through the Straits. In theory, the transit of a nuclear-powered ship through the Straits is not restricted.

However, today the nuclear-powered war ships are either the submarines or aircraft carriers with huge tonnage. The transit of a submarine or an aircraft carrier belonging to a country without a shore on the Black Sea is not possible. Therefore, a nuclear-powered war ship has not passed through the Straits officially so far.

Straits during a War or Crisis

The Southern enterance of the Bosphorus. The old city, The Golden Horn are visible at the bottom. At far left the first Bosphorus Bridge can be seen.

The Southern enterance of the Bosphorus. The old city, The Golden Horn are visible at the bottom. At far left the first Bosphorus Bridge can be seen.

In the event that one of the countries with a shore on the Black Sea enters into a war, the rules of the Montreux Convention that are applicable during peacetime change naturally. If Turkey is neutral in the war, the transit of war ships belonging to the belligerent countries is prohibited.

The peacetime rules apply for the war ships belonging to other countries. The only exception of this is that if the war ships belonging to belligerent countries with or without a shore on the Black Sea have already left the ports that they are affiliated to before the war, they have the right to transit in order to return to their ports.

In the event that Turkey is a party to the war, the transit of war ships belonging to foreign countries through the Straits is left entirely to the discretion of the Turkish Government.

Similarly, if Turkey considers itself to be threatened with imminent danger of war, the transit of war ships belonging to foreign countries through the Straits is left to the discretion of the Turkish Government.

By means of this authority, Turkey can prohibit the transit of war ships belonging to the countries that cause Turkey to consider itself to be threatened with danger of war while it can allow the transit of war ships belonging to countries that do not cause that such situation.

Montreux on a Global Scale
With the Montreux Convention regarding the regime of the straits, which we have tried to summarize above, the number, type and size of the war ships that can reach the Black Sea have been restricted. These restrictions increase the security of the countries with a shore on the Black Sea. However, the same restrictions prevent the desire of countries with powerful naval forces to be present and cruise in all seas all around the world.

Turkey has been trying to implement the Montreux Convention with great precision since 1936. Therefore, occasionally Turkey is exposed to criticism from countries both with and without a shore on the Black Sea.

The first big test of the Montreux Convention was, no doubt, the Second World War.

Turkey closed the Straits to the war ships of the belligerent countries during this war in which Turkey remained neutral. This situation served to the purpose of the Soviet Union since the transit of German submarines and war ships through the Straits was prevented. Axis countries couldn’t bring new war ships to the Black Sea except for those that were already in the Black Sea before the war. Submarines were transferred in pieces by land or through the Danube River so that they could be assembled in Romania.

However, in the following process Moscow’s perspective changed. The main reason of this change was the fact that the military aid convoys coming from its allies, the UK and the USA, could not pass through the Straits.

During the Cold War, Turkey was exposed to criticism of the Soviet Union and the NATO allies from time to time due to its way of implementation of the Montreux Convention.

The fact that in 1976 Turkey allowed the transit of Kiev, which was launched in the Nikolayev Shipbuilding in the Black Sea in 1972, through the Straits caused the protests among the NATO allies, including the USA. Kiev was the first aircraft carrier constructed completely by the Soviet Union according to the Westerners. However, having been quite aware of the fact that violating the Montreux Convention would not be good for its own benefit, the USSR classified the Kiev as a heavy anti-submarine cruiser instead of an aircraft carrier.

Moscow couldn’t solve the problem with a simple change of name.

In the Montreux Convention, the aircraft carriers were defined as surface war ships, regardless of their tonnage, constructed mainly to carry aircrafts and enable the operation of these aircrafts in the sea or designed for this purpose. If a war ship was not designed or arranged with the purpose of carrying aircrafts and enabling them to operate in the sea, having a suitable deck for the aircraft’s take-off and landing was not enough for its inclusion in the aircraft carrier class.

In Kiev and the ships that came after her in this class, there were long-range anti-ship and air defense missiles as well as anti-submarine warfare rockets. Thus, the Soviet Union was able to classify these ships as a heavy anti-submarine cruiser. Today, having been taken out service by Russia, the Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk and Baku that was constructed afterwards passed frequently through the Straits while on duty.

This is not a carrier. Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov passing through Bosphorus.

A similar crisis happened in 1991 when the RFNS Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, which still serves in the Russian Army, passed through the Straits. Although this ship looked like a classical aircraft carrier in terms of its structure, the Soviet Union classified it as a heavy cruiser due to some weapon systems deployed on the ship. Some NATO member countries put serious pressure on Turkey not to allow this ship to pass through the Straits, but they didn’t succeed in this effort. Unlike Kiev-class ships, the RFNS Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov didn’t pass through the Straits again after leaving the Black Sea in 1991.

The second ship belonging to this class was launched in 1988 with the name of Varyag, but no studies had been carried out on this ship for many years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This ship, as the flagship and first aircraft carrier of the Chinese Navy, passed through the Straits in 2001 with the name of Liaoning. Since its construction was not completed at that time, it wasn’t categorized as a ship and thus its transit wasn’t subject to the provisions of the Montreux Convention.

Montreux in the New World
After the terrorist attacks happened on 11 September 2001, the U.S. Government requested for help from the NATO countries within the scope of Article 5 of NATO Treaty. According to this article, an armed attack against a NATO country is considered as an attack against all of the NATO countries.

In this context, on 26 October 2001 the Operation Active Endeavour (OAE) that was the first anti-terror operation of NATO was launched. The operation that began with the patrols of the war ships belonging to NATO countries in the Eastern Mediterranean was later on expanded so as to search the suspicious ships and their loads.

Upon the success of the OAE in the Eastern Mediterranean, the operation was expanded to whole Mediterranean area in March 2004. On the same date, the Turkish Naval Forces launched the Operation Black Sea Harmony (OBSH).

The purpose of the operation, in which surface ships, submarines and aircrafts belonging to the Turkish Naval Forces were used at first, was to ensure the security in the Black Sea, create situational awareness and control the suspicious ships.

The OBSH actually had the same purpose with the OAE. The recognized maritime picture obtained within the scope of the operation, which is still ongoing, is shared with the NATO authorities and headquarters.

The Turkish Naval Forces invited all littoral countries in the Black Sea to participate in the operation that was launched with its own initiative, and Romania, Russia and Ukraine responded positively to this invitation.

The most important effect of the OBSH was that all the pressure exerted to modify the Montreux Convention and expand the OAE coming from the NATO countries without a shore on the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea could be resisted.

If the Turkish Naval Forces hadn’t launched the OBSH and made it accepted by other NATO countries, the OAE that was launched by the joint efforts of all NATO countries would have expanded to include the Black Sea. Therefore, they could have been in this sea and the war ships belonging to NATO countries without a shore on the Black Sea would have made it impossible to implement the Montreux Convention.

The Montreux Convention became a current issue after the Russia-Georgia War in 2008. Turkey didn’t allow the transit of the 69.552-ton hospital ship named USNS Comfort with the bow number of T-AH-20 that was desired to be sent to Georgia due to the Article of the Montreux Convention that read as: “In the event that one or more countries without a shore on the Black Sea desire to send naval forces into the Black Sea, for a humanitarian purpose, the said forces cannot exceed 8.000 tons.”

The U.S government did not welcome this development, which was neo-conservative during that period. Many American war ships that were carrying aid for Georgia had to shuttle back and forth between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea due to the restrictions of the Montreux Convention.

Another crisis broke out during the missile shield program which was established by NATO in order to protect Europe against ballistic missiles originating from the Middle East. Some of the Ticonderoga-class and Arleigh Burke-class ships in the U.S. Navy were fitted with the capability of ballistic missile prevention.

The Black Sea provides the most convenient location to these ships for hitting the enemy ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere.

Washington’s desire to deploy these ships, which represented the floating team of its missile shield program in the Black Sea, brought great discussions together.

However, the articles of the Montreux Convention that restrict the tonnage and duration of the ships passing through the Straits made it impossible for the American war ships to be deployed in the Black Sea within the framework of the missile shield program of NATO.

And 2014 Crimea
The presence of the foreign war ships passing through the Straits during recent Crimean events brought the Montreux Convention to the attention of the public once again.

When the Montreux Convention was signed, its duration was determined as 20 years. However, the freedom to pass through the Straits is unlimited. Termination of the convention can be only brought to the agenda by one of the signatory countries.

The USA, which will be able to bring its war ships for a time period depending on its own will with the repeal of the Montreux Convention cannot directly request the termination of the convention since it is not a party to the convention.

The countries with a shore on the Black Sea that have acquired rights by signing the convention prefer the continuation of the convention in consideration of their national security.

The fact that the convention hasn’t been terminated as described in the convention at the end of the 20 year-period and that this issue has never been raised until today shows that the Montreux Convention still has an important role for the signatory countries.

 

Russians In Tartous

Syria's Defense Minister General Rajiha gestures as he visits the Russian aircraft carrier Kuznetsov in Tartous. Photo: msnbcmedia.msn.com

This photo is for me the proof that the Russian aircraft carrier is really in Syrian waters.

Syrian authorities have called the visit of a Russian naval task force to the port of Tartus a “show of solidarity with the Syrian people,” the official SANA news agency reported.
A Russian task force, led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, arrived in Tartus on Sunday to replenish water and food supplies during a long-term training mission in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
“We highly respect Russia’s honorable stance in support of the Syrian people,” SANA cited Governor of Tartus Atef al-Naddaf as saying.
Russia maintains a Soviet-era naval maintenance site near Tartus as its only military foothold in the Mediterranean. Moscow is planning to modernize the facility to accommodate large warships, including missile cruisers and even aircraft carriers after 2012.
The Russian Defense Ministry reiterated on Sunday that the visit of Russian warships to Tartus was not related to the current political crisis in Syria, and said the task force would leave the port on January 9 to continue with the training mission.

Russian Navy in Syria

According to numerous news reports some ships of the Russian Naval Group have docked in Syrian port Tartous yesterday.

The video below shows the Udaloy II class, Northern Fleet destroyer Admiral Chabanenko entering into port of Tartous.

 

A group of warships of the Russian Navy has approached the naval base at the port of Tartous to conduct a replenishment, announced Sunday a representative of the Department of Information and Press of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

“The ship anti-submarine-Admiral Tchebanenko, the patrol Ladny, the tanker Lena entered the port of Tartous, while the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and the tug Nikolai Tchiki remained stranded outside the port,” he the source said.

The Syrian port of Tartus is the only naval base in Russia in the Mediterranean.

Once the replenishment done, “the boats leave the territorial waters Syrian January 9 to continue their mission.

French Frigate Arrives in Russia, While Russian Frigates Leaves For France

F-796 Commandant Birot, in Istanbul, in November.

According to Russian web sites rusnavy.com, the French Aviso class frigate F-796 Commandant Birot arrived in Novorossiysk, Russia for a 5 day port visit that will end today.

The French frigate was in Istanbul between 16th and 20th November 2011. Before arriving in Istanbul, the ship was part of the Surge Operation for the Operation Active Endeavour.

After her visit in Istanbul the frigate proceeded to the Black Sea. Her first port visit in the Black Sea was in Varna, Bulgaria.

French frigate Commandant Birot arrived in Novorossiysk, Russia with a 5-day visit. The ship moored downtown Novorossiysk at the city sea port where the solemn meeting ceremony took place. 

Right after arrival in the Russian port, French officers visited Novorossiysk city administration and met with city mayor Vladimir Sinegovsky, and then paid a protocol visit to Novorossiysk Naval Base Acting Commander Capt 1 rank Oleg Shastov. 

Later on that day, a press conference for Russian press was held on board the French frigate. 

In the mean time The Russian Black Sea Fleet send her frigate Ladny to the Mediterranean Sea. There the frigate will meet with aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and destroyer Admiral Chabanenko. Formal calls at ports of Cyprus, Malta, France, and Spain are planed by the Russian while the Syrian harbor Tartaus will remain unvisited.

Black Sea Fleet frigate Ladny on Dec 4 left Sevastopol and laid a course for the Mediterranean Sea to meet with the task unit consisting of ships of Northern and Baltic fleets, reported Capt 1 rank Vyacheslav Trukhachev, the head of BSF Information Support Group. 

The frigate will meet with aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and ASW shipAdmiral Chabanenko in the Mediterranean Sea, reported Izvestiya in Nov 2011. According to the newspaper, the Russian task unit would call at Syrian port Tartus in spring 2012. This information was later refuted by a Navy’s spokesman. As for him, the Russian carrier group would not visit Syria during the exercise to be held in the Mediterranean this winter. 

“BSF Ladny sailed off Sevastopol heading for the Mediterranean Sea. The ship’s departure was conducted one day before the schedule due to bad weather forecast”, said Trukhachev. 

He added that the ship would pay formal calls at ports of Cyprus, Malta, France, and Spain. 

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