NATO Seeks More Influence in the Black Sea

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Since 2014, the balance of naval power in the Black Sea has shifted. Moscow has exploted its position on the Crimean Peninsula, building up its fleet strength in the sea. The strategic importance of the waters has risen in NATO’s eyes as the bloc seeks to bolster its deterrence against Russia in Europe. To counter Russia’s presence, NATO member states advocate the joint NATO naval force in the Black Sea, following the growth of NATO presence in Poland and the Baltic states and other measures to expand the alliance’s presence in the region.

But as NATO contemplates enhancing its forces in the Black Sea, it must contend with the constraints set by the 1936 Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits. The pact imposes limits on nations that do not border the Black Sea, restricting the tonnage of warships as well as aggregate tonnage, number of vessels and duration of stay for any single nation. However, NATO could circumvent those restrictions by building its fleet with ships from several nations and using force rotations. NATO could also lean on member states Romania and Turkey, which are largely exempted from the convention’s restrictions, to bulk up a Black Sea fleet.

In terms of sheer numbers of ships, Russia does not have the upper hand in the Black Sea. However, Russia has many other military advantages that help make up for its smaller fleet size, including naval aviation and overall aviation assets that it could task for Black Sea missions. It also possesses long-range anti-ship cruise missile batteries that can reach most of the Black Sea. Russia has used its position on the Crimean Peninsula to build up these advantages, and it is in the process of substantially modernizing its Black Sea forces.

Indeed, Moscow can no longer rely on the Montreux Convention amid NATO attempts to increase the presence in the region. However, Russia’s position on the Crimean Peninsula gives it considerable advantages, and Moscow can work to exploit divisions within the NATO alliance to press those advantages.

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  • Veritas Vincit

    The U.S./NATO/allied bloc not only seeks to enhance Black Sea based allied military strike capabilities but there are reports that indicate U.S.-Ukrainian (and broader allied) preparations for provocations to be employed to facilitate military operations for the forceful integration of Crimea into Ukraine (also associated with the objective of displacing the Russian naval base and replacing it with NATO naval forces). For example:

    “US Navy ships will join their Ukrainian counterparts in Black Sea naval drills dubbed Sea Breeze-2016. However, some analysts are concerned that the content of the exercises could lead to devastating consequences for the entire region…… Russian military analyst Sergei Ishchenko is concerned that the operation amounts to a rehearsal for an invasion of Crimea….. In previous years, Breeze was covered by the semantic fig leaves of ‘anti-piracy’, ‘earthquake relief’, and so on. Now, the masks have been thrown off. If one wants to be really brief and precise, an operation of a multinational force in a crisis region is normally referred to as an ‘intervention’.”……

    …….The subs’ participation is particularly noteworthy, given that the US only has nuclear submarines in its fleet, and that all subs, even non-nuclear ones, may enter the Black Sea only in accordance with international agreements.”

    Essentially, “the US’s multipurpose cruiser subs will only be able to participate in the exercises from the Mediterranean Sea. What tasks can they effectively solve there? Only one: subjecting Crimea or other Russian Black Sea territories with a massed Tomahawk cruise missile strike.” There’s literally nothing else for them to do, according to Ishchenko……. [Note: This is consistent with U.S. operational plans for a potential decapitating first strike to employed in certain scenarios through mass cruise missile/ABM augmented strikes]

    ….. Effectively, the analyst warned, “if this reasoning is correct, it becomes clear that the main event of the upcoming US-Ukrainian exercises will be the landing of forces near the mouth of the Danube. Then the question becomes how similar are these places to the Crimean coast. And how well will the upcoming training battles replicate real ones?” “By and large, the main question can be worded differently: how prepared is the world for nuclear war? Even if it is just a limited one using tactical nuclear weapons in the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean theater? Because given the vast superiority of NATO and Ukraine over our military in terms of conventional arms, there is no other way for such a conflict to end. There is no other ending to any large-scale attack on Crimea.” Ultimately, “it would be interesting to know whether a hypothetical nuclear exchange has been taken into account in the planning in Washington and Kiev for Sea Breeze-2016,” Ishchenko concluded.” (US-Ukrainian ‘Sea Breeze 2016’ Exercises Threaten to Blow Up the Black Sea, Sputnik, 14/07/2016)

    According to reports, the coup installed Ukrainian regime is also preparing intensified offensive military operations against E Ukrainian regions.

    “People close to the Ukrainian government brag that they will soon be coming to Donbass. Almost certainly in the New Year. “Everything has been decided”. (The Donbass Diary: If Kiev Launches a New Offensive, Donbass Is Ready, Zakhar Prilepin (LiveJournal)/Russian Insider, 15/12/2015)

    As such the current situation is likely a relative calm (albeit an ongoing low intensity conflict) preceding a more profound conflict.

    • Veritas Vincit

      p2. ‘Black Sea deployments associated with enhancing first strike potential’
      – “The Black Sea is the perfect platform through which to project military power into the very heart of Russia,” the CIA-linked think tank STRATFOR wrote in, “The Black Sea: A Net Assessment.” From positions in the Black Sea, NATO can strike rapidly against the Russian capital city, and simultaneously cut off energy supplies to Russia’s military by seizing Russia’s oil production centers in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, STRATFOR wrote…… “If a naval operation were to project power from the Black Sea toward the Don River corridor between Rostov-on-Don and Volgograd (better known by its former name, Stalingrad), Moscow would be cut off from the Russian Caucasus and the region’s immense energy resources,” STRATFOR noted.” (US Navy to continue Black Sea incursions, brushing aside Russian demands, By Thomas Gaist, WSWS, 18 June 2017)

      Preparations by the U.S./NATO/allied bloc for the possibility of military conflict (involving enhancement of first strike capabilities) with the RF are self evident. In the ongoing pursuit of primacy, the U.S./NATO/allied bloc will logically escalate operations (as is occurring).

      The Russian Federation will no doubt continue to work towards a best outcome but is correct to prepare for a worst case scenario.

      – “Putin said he was ready for “the most adverse development of events.” As the interview makes clear, this referred to all-out nuclear war with NATO…… “our nuclear forces, they, as always, are in a state of full combat readiness.” (Russian President Putin says Ukraine crisis threatens nuclear war, WSWS, 17 March 2015)

      Despite efforts to prevent a more profound conflict from developing (evident through ongoing restrained/calculated responses), a priority of the RF will be to ensure the best outcome for its domestic population including in a worst case scenario.

  • Nexusfast123

    Will be like shooting fish in a barrel. The Russians have lots of land launched surface to suface missiles. NATO is run by fools.

  • John

    When I was on active duty, NATO had real muscle. It´s not much more than a paper tiger now. They were barely holding their own in Afghanistan. Imagine getting tangled up in the Black Sea, against the full weight of the Russian military. It is just not doable. Supply problems, lack of maneuvering space for naval assets, the ports of allies in that area being blown into oblivion at the get go, ect. No NATO naval commander would want to go into the hell.