Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Tsvetelia Tsolova / Reuters – 2016-04-23 17:31:03
NATO Seeks Bigger Black Sea Fleet to Target Russia
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(April 22, 2016) — Already picking fights with Russia in the Baltic Sea, and deploying ever-growing numbers of ground troops in Eastern Europe, NATO’s latest focus in needling Russia is a major increase in naval presence in the Black Sea.
It makes sense from the position of NATO hawks. After all, the Black Sea includes one of Russia’s most historically important ports, at Sevastopol, and NATO is eager to contest Russia’s ownership of the Crimean Peninsula, in which that port is located.
It’s not going to be simple, however, as the effort will mostly have to come without the direct involvement of either the United States or Britain, NATO’s two biggest navies, and the two nations most eager to stick it to Russia.
That’s because the Montreaux Convention of 1936 strictly regulates the entry of warships from nations without coastal territory in the Black Sea, restricting the size of such ships entering the sea, and allowing those ships to only stay for 21 days.
This means that in practice Turkey is going to have to do the heavy lifting in building a Black Sea fleet, with Bulgaria and Romania the only two other NATO nations with any coast on the Black Sea. That limits their existing fleet strength, as all together the three nations only have a couple dozen frigates and some smaller ships.
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet isn’t dramatically large either, but the Russian Navy overall is, and the nation will likely redeploy more ships into the sea as NATO escalates.
NATO’s New Deterrent May Include Bigger Black Sea Presence
Tsvetelia Tsolova / Reuters
SOFIA (April 22, 2016) — Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania may expand the NATO alliance’s maritime presence in the Black Sea as part of a broader strategy to deter Russia, NATO’s deputy chief said on Friday.
NATO is looking to counter Russia’s military build-up in Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and in the Black Sea, which is strategically important for both East and West given its energy reserves and closeness to the Middle East.
“There are some very valuable discussions under way among the allies who live on the Black Sea . . . of more closely integrating their naval forces and operations,” NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said in a visit to Sofia, mentioning the three NATO allies by name.
The US-led alliance is concerned by what it sees as a Russian strategy to try to block NATO from moving about by air, land and sea by positioning surface-to-air missile batteries and anti-ship missiles in Kaliningrad, the Black Sea and in Syria.
NATO already patrols the Black Sea, but Vershbow said that by the time Western leaders meet for a NATO summit in July, allies could have “an enhanced presence” in the area as part of plans to move troops on rotation into the Baltics and Poland.
“We need to consider a more persistent NATO military presence in the region, with a particular focus on our maritime capabilities,” he said.
Backed by a big increase in US military spending, NATO is setting up small eastern outposts, forces on rotation, regular war games and warehoused equipment ready for a rapid response force to deter Russia. That force includes air, maritime and special operations units of up to 40,000 personnel.
Worried since the seizure of Crimea and pro-Russian rebel operations in eastern Ukraine that Moscow could exert pressure on Poland or destabilize the Baltic states — perhaps by fomenting unrest in their Russian minority populations — the West wants to bolster defenses on its eastern flank without provoking the Kremlin by stationing large forces permanently.
NATO says it respects a 1997 agreement with Moscow to avoid deploying substantial combat forces on Russia’s borders.
However, the Kremlin’s envoy to NATO sees the alliance’s plans as a threat to its security and has warned there will be no improvement in the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War until NATO withdraws its forces.
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