The Kerch Incident

Russia seized three Ukrainian naval vessels on 25th November 2018 Sunday and escalated the feud between two countries to the next level.

The Ukrainian trio – Gurza-M class gunboats P-175 Berdyansk, P-176 Nikopol and the tug A-947 Yana Kapu – set sail from Odessa and was destined to Berdyansk by the Azov Sea.

The Azov Sea is a large and shallow part of the Black Sea shared by Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Access from the Black Sea is through the Kerch Strait.

In 2003 the –then friendly – Russian Federation and Ukraine signed a treaty cooperation in the use of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait. According to this treaty merchant ships and warships, as well as other state ships flying the flag of the Russian Federation or Ukraine, operated for non-commercial purposes, enjoy the freedom of navigation in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.

Before the occupation of Crimea, the Kerch Strait was separating Ukraine from Russia. Now both side of the strait is controlled by the Russian Federation. And this control enables Russia to decide who can pass through the Strait and who cannot. In the last couple of months, the Russian Federation has started to delay merchant ships in the Azov Sea, by detaining and inspecting them if their destination is a Ukrainian port. These legal but abusive inspections delay the ships at least 2 or 3 days.  European Parliament stated that Russia detained at least 120 vessels that flown the EU flag since April and not allowed them to proceed to Ukrainian ports. These arbitrary and unnecessary long inspections hurt the Ukrainian economy very much.

In the recent months, Russia has moved naval units from its Caspian and the Black Sea Fleets to the Azov Sea. As a counter move, Ukraine decided to reinforce its naval assets in the region. In early September Ukraine deployed two Gurza-M class gunboats. But instead sailing through the Kerch Strait they were moved on a truck by road. Thus Russia was not in a position to prevent this movement. Furthermore, Ukraine sends on 24th September the Amur class warships, A-500 Donbas and the tug A-830 Korets again through the Kerch Strait. During that deployment, the tug was towing the other ship.

However this time Ukraine decided to send the gunboats by sea instead of by land. This was not a decision out of nautical necessities.

The Russians tried to stop the Ukrainian ships. A video made from the bridge of Russian Sorum class Coast Guard vessel Don shows how the ship shouldered the Ukrainian tug Yana Kapu. The video does not show however how Don collided with the other Russian Coast Guard vessel Izumrud and created a hole on her superstructure.

Izumrud later opened fire with her AK-630 multi-barreled 30mm gun to the gunboat Berdyansk. The photos circulation on social media clearly shows the bullet hole on this boat. Later Russian special forces boarded the vessels and seized them.

In the aftermath of the incident, Russians flew the Ukrainians to Moscow. But before that, some of the Ukrainian sailors had to appear in front of the TV cameras to be forced to read some kind of made up confessions.

Ukraine pleaded help from the West and asked NATO to send warships to the Sea of Azov. People with enough geographical knowledge quickly realized that Azov Sea was too shallow to accommodate any NATO warship big enough to make a statement and armed enough to protect herself properly. Such a warship would not be able to pass under the Kerch Bridge that has only 33 meters clearance.

Ukraine also demanded Turkey to close Turkish Straits to Russian warships. Ihor Voronchenko, Commander of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, at the II International Conference on Maritime Security in Kiev, said that Ukraine intends to appeal to the international community to strengthen sanctions against Russia in connection with its aggressive actions in the Sea of Azov and to close the Bosporus Strait for vessels of the Russian Federation according to the 19th paragraph of the Convention of Montreux.

According to Article 19 of Montreux Convention, in time of war, Turkey not being belligerent, warships shall enjoy complete freedom of transit and navigation through the Straits under the same conditions as those laid down in Article 10 to 18. Vessels of war belonging to belligerent Powers shall not, however, pass through the Straits except in cases arising out of the application of Article 25 of the present Convention, and in cases of assistance rendered to a State victim of aggression in virtue of a treaty of mutual assistance binding-Turkey, concluded within the framework of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and registered and published in accordance with the provisions of Article 18 of the Covenant…

The obvious problem here is, that there is no openly declared war between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.  And neither of these two nations is going to change the status quo, by declaring one. Turkey will not close the Straits and will keep them open for any nation. Turkey also will try to lessen the tensions in the Black Sea through indirect mediation.

By sending the gunboats and the tug, Ukraine challenged the Russian position, that the Kerch Strait was a Russian inner waterway, and showed that it hasn’t recognized, the unilateral Russian change to the 2003 agreement. Ukraine has also managed to bring the problems it faces in the Azov Sea to the worldwide public attention. But has lost a third of her Gurza-M class gunboats which are much needed to strengthen the Ukrainian Navy

On the other hand, Russia revealed that it prefers to confront Ukrainian armed forces without proxies rather than putting its assumed ownership on the Kerch Strait and demonstrated that it was ready physically block the Strait at all costs.

SNMG-1 Sneaked Through Istanbul

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F-334 NRP D. Francisco de Almeida, the flag ship of SNMG-1, passing through Istanbul.

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F-334 NRP D. Francisco de Almeida sneaking though Istanbul.

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F-803 HNLMS Tromp making her northbound passage.

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F-803 HNLMS Tromp, illuminated by a leisure boat, as she is passing though Istanbul.

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F-803 HNLMS Tromp, passing though Istanbul.

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F-334 NRP D. Francisco de Almeida illuminated by the lights of the bridge. Photo: Saadettin Irmakçı. Used with permission.

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F-334 NRP D. Francisco de Almeida. Photo: Saadettin Irmakçı. Used with permission.

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F-803 Tromp, illuminated by the lights of the bridge. Photo: Saadettin Irmakçı. Used with permission.

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F-334 NRP D. Francisco de Almeida. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.

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F-803 HNLMS Tromp and the moon. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.

 

NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two is not the only NATO naval task force deployed to Bulgaria this weekend.

On 4 July 2015 late in the night at 22.30 local time the SNMG-1 ships F-334 NRP D. Francisco de Almeida and F-803 HNLMS Tromp passed through Istanbul Strait. According to the publicly available information both ships have arrive at Varna port on 5 July 2015. They are going to take part in Breeze 2015 naval exercise.

Foreign warships do usually pass through the Turkish Straits in day light. The Montreux Convention orders only the submarines of Black Sea nations to pass through the Turkish Straits at day time. The transit passages of foreign warships through Turkish Straits must start in day time. The Convention does not openly regulates the ending of the transit passage of foreign warships. Never the less I must say that the timing of these warships was particular peculiar.

Both NRP D. Francisco de Almeida and F-803 HNLMS Tromp are actuality very beautiful Dutch ships (though the former is now under Portuguese flag) which do not need to hide themselves in the darkness of the night.

The word photography means writing with light. And as we all know the single largest and the most important source of light on earth is our sun. Thus photography is more fun when the sun is up. And the results are far more better.

But as you can see from the results day or night the ship spotters in Istanbul are ready to document the foreign warships passing through our beautiful city.

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.

 

A Primer On The Montreux Convention

500px-Turkish_Strait_disambig.svgThis just a short primer on the Montreux Convention that regulates the passage of Merchant and warship through Turkish Straits.

Signed on 20 July 1936, The Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits gives Turkey full control over the Turkish Straits, guarantees the free passage of civilian vessels in peacetime and permits Turkey to remilitarise the Turkish Straits.

  1. The aim of the Montreux Convention is to regulate the passage of civilian and military ships through the Turkish Straits.
  2. The term Turkish Straits covers the Dardanelles, Marmara Sea and the Bosporus.
  3. The Convention makes a clear differentiation between Black Sea countries (Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia) and non-Black Sea countries.
  4. Merchant vessels enjoy a total freedom of passage through the Turkish Straits.  Turkish Straits Vessel Traffic Services Centre regulates the passages according to the Maritime Traffic Regulations for the Turkish Straits dated 1998.
  5. The Black Sea Countries;
    • cannot pass warships solely designed to carry airplanes through Turkish Straits.
    • can pass submarines if they are joining their base in the Black Sea for the first time after their construction or purchase, or if they are returning from a repair in dockyards outside the Black Sea.
    • can pass their warships through Turkish Straits by notifying Turkey through diplomatic channels 8 days before the passage.
  6. The Non Black Sea Countries;
    • cannot pass warships solely designed to carry airplanes through Turkish Straits.
    • cannot pass submarines.
    • can pass warships, but the aggregate displacement of the foreign warships in the Black Sea may not exceed 45.000 tons.
    • cannot hold their ships in the Black Sea longer than 21 days.
    • cannot have more than 9 ships in the Black Sea at the same time
    • can pass their warships through Turkish Straits by notifying Turkey through diplomatic channels 15 days before the passage.

For further reading:

  • The full text of the Montreux Convention can be found here.
  • The official Turkish stand of the implementation of  the Montreux Convention can be found here.

USS Monterey in Bathumi

On Monday, 20 June 2011, the Ticonderoga class US Navy cruiser CG-61 USS Monterey will visit the Georgian port Batumi.

The US cruisers arrival in Georgia will come less than two weeks after another U.S.  cruiser, USS Anzio, visited the port of Batumi on June 9-12 for a joint damage control exercises with the Georgian coast guard.

At the moment the USS Monterey  in Odessa Ukraine to take part in multinational military exercises, Sea Breeze 2011, co-hosted by Ukraine and the U.S. Today is the last day of this exercise.

Azerbaijan, Algeria, Belgium, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Macedonia, Moldova, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the UK and the U.S. took part in the exercises held from June 6 to June 18. Organizers said the training agenda included counter-piracy operations; non-combatant evacuation operations, as well as board, search and seizure training.

CG-68 USS Anzio left Black Sea by passing through Turkish Straits on 14 June 2010.

The other US Navy warship in the Black Sea is the salvage ship T-ARS 51 USS Grasp. She is in Odessa, Ukraine to take part in the naval exercise Sea Breeze 2011.

Usually the Russians are sensitive about US naval visits to Georgia since their conflict in 2008. Last week, the presence of the USS Monterey caused a salvo from Russia after the talks between Russia and NATO about the missile shield failed. Let’s wait and see if the visit of this warship in Georgia will cause a second salvo of protest from Russia.

>USS Gonzales Is In The Black Sea

>Arleigh Burke class US Navy destroyer DDG-66 USS Gonzales passed through the Dardanelles on 28 November 2010.

http://www.haberler.com/video-haber/iframe/video.asp?id=2384649

Haberajans.com is the source of the video above.

USS Gonzales can stay 21 days in the Black Sea as Montreux Convention dictates. According to news reports she entered the straits at around 14:00 and ended her transit after 90 minutes. She was escorted by Turkish Coast Guard Boat TCSG-84 during her voyage.

>NATO’s Missile Shield And Turkey – Part I

>If the headlines of newspapers can be a reliable indicator, then there is a lot of closed door arm wrestling between Turkey and NATO/USA.

The reason for this diplomatic activity is the new missile shield NATO intents to adopt as part of the alliance’s overall mission.

From: Economist – Sep 24, 2009

The originator of the ballistic missile defense system is USA. The idea evolved from Reagan administration’s Star Wars project to its current form. The missile defense system was readmitted to public discussion by George W. Bush administration. The plan devised during President G.W. Bush foresaw that 10 ballistic missile interceptors would be stationed Poland and a X-band tracking radar system would be established in Czech Republic so that these can engage any ballistic missile coming from east. It was primary a guarantee for the new NATO members of the old communist block against Russia. That plan immediately draw backfire mainly from Russia and did not gained any support from major European NATO allies. Countries like Germany, France or UK do not want to jeopardize their trade relations with Russia over ballistic missile defense system and they do no longer feel threatened by Russian nuclear weapons.

The Obama administration took the Bush’s plan and brilliantly twisted in two ways. The first twist was to replace Russia with Iran as the main adversary against whom this missile shield is being established. The second twist was to change the land based sensors and weapon systems with sea based ones.

The first twist is actually nothing more than a statement of the obvious. The burgeoning ballistics missile force and construction capabilities of Iran are not welcomed in USA. And it makes the whole concept of the missile shield easier to sell across the Europe where Islam-phobia is on a steady rise since September 2001.

The second twist replaced the land based systems with the US Navy’s existing and combat proven AEGIS weapon system. The AEGIS equipped ships do carry the necessary sensors, C4I systems and the weapons needed to detect, track and intercept ballistic missiles on their own hulls. Plus they can be deployed anywhere on the world as long as it is accessible by sea. That is %70 of the world.

The public debate that is going on in Turkey about the proposed missile shield has started too late and unfortunately the debaters have not much knowledge about the technical issues of the missile shield systems. Therefore they are discussing about political and diplomatic aspects of the proposal. Turkey’s geographical and current Turkish administration’s political proximity to Iran makes these debates inevitable. And such debates about the position of Turkey on a proposal against Iran are not limited to Turkey either.

There has not been any leakage about the closed doors discussion between Turkey and NATO or Between Turkey and USA. But I see thee important discussion points:

  1. Establishment of an early warning and tracking radar in Turkey
  2. Fielding of land based ballistic missile interceptors in Turkey
  3. Keeping US warships in the Black Sea longer than Montreux Convention permits.

From:  The Washington Post – August 1, 2010

The proposed missile shield needs a tracking and detection radar close to Iranian border to provide and early warning for the system. According to analysis and studies made by US Missile Defense Agency Turkey among Georgia and Azerbaijan is one of the most obvious and suitable locations. Theoretically a radar site should not create much headache for Turkey about its relations with Iran. Turkey hosted many radar and surveillance sites for USA and NATO against Soviet Union such as Pirinçlik and Sinop.

More problematic would be fielding of land based interceptors. The proposed site for these missiles is Incirlik Airbase just outside of Adana. Land based ballistic missile interceptors are needed to ensure that a seamless and total coverage against Iranian missiles is available for whole NATO territory. As they would be actual weapons to be used against among other Iran’s ballistic missiles they would create a political and diplomatic rift between Turkey and Iran.

Keeping US warships in the Black Sea, longer than the Montreux Convention permits is no less unpleasing for Turkey than basing of interceptor missiles. The Montreux Convention signed in 1936, forbids warships of non-Black Sea nations, to remain in the Black Sea for more than 21 days at a time. If AEGIS equipped US warships should be stationed in Black Sea the Montreux clearly stands in the way. And any attempt to change the Montreux Convention would not only be opposed by Turkey but by Russia as well.

I will write my opinion about stationing land based interceptors and AEGIS based warships in the Black Sea in detail. 

For further reading:
Turkey’s Tough Ballistic Choices
Turkey in Dilemma Over NATO Shield
New missile defences in Europe
Rasmussen In Poland: Expeditionary NATO, Missile Shield And Nuclear Weapons
Turkey conditionally approves NATO missile shield
Ankara-Washington Differences Could Disrupt NATO Missile Shield Plans
NATO near adoption of U.S. missile shield
U.S. nears key step in European defense shield against Iranian missiles
Washington: No Turkish refusal of missile shield plans
Fact Sheet on U.S. Missile Defense Policy A “Phased, Adaptive Approach” for Missile Defense in Europe
Options for Deploying Missile Defenses in Europe

>Turkish Ports For US 6th Fleet?

>US Navy is looking for a friendly port in Mediterranean basin to forward-deploy the surface ships that will be assigned for anti ballistic missile defence.

Navy officials are considering the new home ports to keep more ballistic-missile defense ships closer to waters from which they can protect Europe from missiles. Today, BMD ships must sail from the U.S., adding weeks of transit before they can get on station.

US Navy is currently in talks with Spain and Italy. Rota in Spain and Gaeta in Italy have been homeports for US warships since early cold war years. According to Navy Times, the ports at both Rota and Gaeta probably could accommodate a few cruiser- or destroyer-sized warships, their crews and their families; today, they’re both common stops for warships on their way to and from the Persian Gulf. But it’s an open question whether their governments would agree to permanently host more American military personnel.

Even if the Spanish and Italian governments were wary about a new long-term U.S. Navy presence, other European governments would probably fight for the economic boost that American crews would bring. Georgia and Ukraine, for example, might pitch their ports on the Black Sea, eager for support from the U.S. against their Russian neighbor, but the State Department would likely nix that idea for fear of provoking Russia.

Well home porting an American warship in the Black Sea is impossible. Not because for the fear of provoking Russia but for the Montreux Convention. The convention clearly states that the duration of stay of a warship belonging to a non Black Sea nation in the Black sea cannot be longer than 21 days. And USA stated that they will abide the Convention.

Aksaz Naval Base and Mersin in Turkey could be interesting locations for USN. Aksaz is the biggest naval base of Turkish Navy in Mediterranean. It has a good naval infrastructure with some repair and maintenance facilities. Mersin further east, is a busy commercial port, but the city is close to the Incirlik air base of USAF. Thus logistics would be not much a problem.

But I do not expect any US warship to be home ported in Turkey as the political climate is not suitable yet. The politics of the previous US government alienated Turkey and the recent administration has not done enough to reverse the trend. The neocons in USA feel angry against Turkey as they think Turkey did not gave enough support for their war against global terrorism. Therefore it would be very difficult for both governments to sell the idea of permanent existence of US warships in Turkish ports to their nations.

>USS Klakring in Sevastopol

>Today photos of FF(G)-42 USS Klakring in Sevastopol are published.

Her arrival in this city again aroused the protests of Russians living here.

>US Navy is back in Black Sea

>Today US frigate FFG-42 USS Klakring passed through Turkish Starits and entered Black Sea.

She can stay until 10th April 2009. She will visit Varna, Sevastopol and Batumi.

USS Klakring is the first US warship in Black Sea since January.

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