Destroyer “porter” on the way to the Black sea in Istanbul, Turkey. 6 Jun 2016
Photo: Murad Sezer / Reuters
NATO to strengthen presence in the Black sea, declared NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Measures aimed at “containing Russia”, but would not violate international agreements on Maritime navigation, he said. Experts call the stages of the Alliance “symbolic measures.”
On the morning of Thursday,16 February, the defence Ministers of NATO countries at the summit in Brussels adopted two solutions: increasing the presence of naval forces of NATO countries in the Black sea and the establishment of a coordination system between the national Navy and of the Permanent naval group of NATO in the region.
From the words of the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, it follows that the increased presence will be expressed in the “further intensification of training exercises and raising awareness about the situation in the region.” Answering questions of journalists, Stoltenberg said that the planned actions are designed to provoke conflict in the region, and to provide a policy of containment of Russia. Such a policy the Alliance has been in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea to Russia.
Strengthening in the Black sea
About what NATO is planning increased presence in the Black sea, Stoltenberg said at the end of January. “We have agreed to increase the naval presence of NATO in the Black sea to enhance training, improve awareness of the situation and coordination of forces at sea,” — said on Thursday Stoltenberg. However, the specific details of the gain he did not name. The Secretary General said only that the process gain will be in full compliance with the Montreux Convention.
The passage of warships in the Black sea and their presence there is governed by the Montreux Convention of 1936 regarding the regime of use of the Turkish Straits. According to the document, which has no outlet to the Black sea powers may send a group of Navy with a total tonnage of not more than 30 thousand tons. For comparison, the “mount Whitney”, the flagship of the 6th fleet of the U.S. Navy (responsible for Europe and the Mediterranean) has a displacement of 18.4 thousand tons. Mediterranean the standing group of NATO consists of eight ships with a total tonnage of about 16 thousand tons.
In addition, non-black sea countries are encouraged to alert the authorities of Turkey (a NATO member) about the upcoming trek through the Straits into the Black sea at least 15 days. Warships of non-black sea powers can be in this sea is not more than 21 days.
“The classification of tonnage under the Convention, is on a national basis, not a bloc, so to create a serious group, it is sufficient that each of the 28 NATO countries sent to the Black sea on one ship,” explained RBC a leading expert of the Center for military-political research of the MGIMO Mikhail Alexandrov. The maximum time you can work around by rotation of ships, highlights, program Director, Russian Council for international Affairs Ivan Timofeev.
According to estimates Aleksandrov, NATO will not be able to deploy in the region strong enough to withstand the black sea fleet and coastal defense of Russia presented missiles “Bastion”, which are located in Anapa and Crimea. According to him, it is only an unfriendly step, but not about the violation of the balance of power. “The purpose of NATO’s actions — to constrain our actions in the black sea region and to maintain military and political pressure”, — said Alexander, adding that after the change of US administration “the line of confrontation with Russia” and the NATO’s plans for the creation of strike groups in Eastern Europe will still be saved.
Tactics of containment
The question of how to ensure permanent presence of NATO ships in the Black sea was first staged in Romania in June 2016. In December 2016, the Minister of defence of Romania, Mihnea Motoc drew attention to the “constant degradation” security on the Eastern borders of NATO because of Russia’s actions. “As the EU and NATO, Romania is configured to dialogue with Russia. But at least in the short term, we will have a serious and responsible approach to the deterioration of the level of confidence and security in the region,” said Hank of The Irish Times. Bucharest led the February NATO exercises “Sea shield — 2017”. Given this activity, the final decision on the strengthening of presence is a symbolic gesture, the best “old” and “new” members of the Alliance, I’m sure Ivan Timofeev, programme Director, Russian international Affairs Council (RIAC).
Stoltenberg on Thursday has repeatedly stressed that NATO is on the defense, is committed to dialogue and it will not be placed on the borders of the Alliance forces beyond the capabilities of a potential enemy.
“The new countries-participants of NATO in Eastern Europe trying to attract attention and raise the question of security assurances to the Russian threat. Brussels in response makes symbolic steps, showing that it is not his throwing,” explained RBC Timofeev. According to him, the increased presence of NATO in the Black sea is in line with the old line “slow confrontation”, and no change in relations with the West, Russia is not.
The President of Russia Vladimir Putin in the afternoon on Thursday reacted to the statement of Stoltenberg. “Containment of Russia officially declared the new mission of NATO. To this end, a further expansion of the bloc, Putin said at a meeting of the FSB Collegium, and then provoke and tend to be drawn into a confrontation” (quoted by TASS). According to Timofeeva from the INF Treaty, Moscow is aware that the situation for drama is not worth it, however, “certain conclusions about a new arms race will do.”
In response to the February exercise “Sea shield — 2017”, which was attended by ships of the Ukrainian Navy, the Russian defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the Russian military is closely watching the actions of the Alliance. “I hope that the exercises will be held in the safest environment without any challenges against Russia. In any case, the challenges are ready,” warned the Minister (quoted by TASS).
NATO in the Black sea
In the region of the Mediterranean and Black seas, the structure meets the NATO standing naval group two (group one conducts operations in the Eastern Atlantic). The group includes nine ships from seven countries of the Alliance. The flagship acts of the German frigate “Sachsen”, it also consists canadian and Romanian frigate, the Turkish Corvette, two frigates from Albania and the UK, as well as three Greek ship, small missile ship, gunboat and anti-mine ship.
Constituency number two stationed in Naples, in early February participated in joint exercises of Ukraine and NATO “Sea shield — 2017” in the Black sea. According to “Interfax-Ukraine”, the exercise was attended by 16 ships, one submarine and ten aircraft. The U.S. Navy on the exercises was represented by the destroyer “porter”, which is part of the U.S. Sixth fleet, having a permanent anchorage in Spain.
“From a position of strength”
The position of Washington at the Ministerial meeting in Brussels represented a new Pentagon chief James Mattis. On the evening of 15 February, by the end of the first day of the summit, he said: “We remain open to opportunities to restore cooperation with Moscow, and at the same time, we are realistic in our expectations and recommendations of our diplomats to negotiate from a position of strength”.
The statement caused a negative reaction in Moscow. Shoigu said the attempts to build a dialogue from a position of strength “hopeless”, and Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin in his Facebook hinted at progress in rearmament of the Russian army.
As a representative of the administration of Donald trump at the summit Mattis paid a lot of attention to the financing of the Alliance. During his election campaign and after winning the election, trump criticized the security system in the North Atlantic. According to him, NATO is “outdated”, is unable to protect the West from terrorists, and the Alliance members do not fulfill their financial obligations, shifting it on the shoulders of Washington.
According to the adopted in 2006, the principle, the defence budget of the countries-members must be at least 2% of GDP. By the end of 2015, this requirement, in addition to the US, satisfied only the United Kingdom, Greece, Poland and Estonia — only five of the 28 members of the Alliance.
The discontent of Washington with its European allies was one of the topics of the joint statement of Stoltenberg and Mattis, announced by Wednesday afternoon. According to the Secretary General of NATO, a more equitable budgeting of the organization was a priority of his work since assuming the post in November 2014. “After years of cuts to the military budget, we finally changed the trend, — said Stoltenberg. — For the year 2016 defense budgets of European members of the Alliance and Canada has grown in real terms by $10 billion or 3.8 per cent.”
In response to the need to combat terrorism NATO at the summit presented a draft of the new command centre in the Italian Naples. Consisting of about 100 experts, this headquarters will start collecting information and building a defensive strategy in the Mediterranean and the middle East. According to NATO Secretary General, staff should become fully effective by the end of this year.