A new military alliance at the Black Sea?

Posted in Europe , Russia , United States | 07-Jul-10 | Author: Corneliu Pivariu

At the end of June this year, numerous media presented information on the likelihood that a new military alliance appears at the Black Sea, by means of a military treaty between Russia, Turkey and Ukraine, under the name of Black Sea Defense Treaty. This treaty is expected to be signed sooner or later, some sources say it may happen in August 2010 and others say it will happen later on.

The idea is not a new one, it also occurred in 2003, when apparently most of the documents supporting this treaty were already drafted. The delay was due to Viktor Yushcenko’s victory at the presidential elections in Ukraine. The election of the new president Viktor Yanukovich and the signing of the new agreement for the Russian fleet in Crimea, together with other geopolitical elements, seem to have resuscitated this issue and brought it back to the attention of the three countries. Turkish analysts consider that if Turkey and Russia reach an agreement, Ukraine would be easily determined to join them.

From the same public sources, the Chief of General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, general Ilker Bashbug, would pay an official visit to Moscow this month, in order to continue negotiations for this treaty to be concluded.

From a military perspective, the signing of this treaty may be quite simple, as Turkey would participate with patrolling speedboats and submarines, whereas Russia would provide the surface ships of the Crimean Fleet. The Mistral, the ship bought from the French, was also mentioned. As for Ukraine, its presence with warships is more like symbolical, as the Ukrainian military navy is way less equipped than the other fleets at the Black Sea.

According to Russian analyst Fyodor Lukyanov (quoted by RIA Novosti), the above-mentioned military alliance is an objective that cannot be reached on short term. Although we believe he is trying to undermine the geostrategic value of the Black Sea, he makes an accurate assessment of the Russian-Ukrainian agreement concerning the Russian fleet, as he sees that this agreement will contribute to lessening any potential misunderstandings between Russia and Ukraine on this topic in the future, with political consequences difficult to assess. It is hence a point won by Russia in the competition with the USA and the European Union on the Ukrainian issue.

We believe that the regional and global geopolitical situation matters the most in the signing or not signing of this military agreement at the Black Sea: Turkey is a NATO member states, and has not yet declared they wish to give up to the European Union membership, so the potential signing of this military alliance will surely lead to an important balance against two members of NATO and the EU, Romania and Bulgaria.

Russia aims to achieve a counterbalance to the increasing influence of the US and more recently of the EU at the Black Sea, so Turkey is the most important piece that could contribute to the achievement of this objective. An argument stating that a military alliance between Russia-Turkey-Ukraine could contribute to the limitation of the economic rights of Romania and Bulgaria in the continental platform of the Black Sea is wrong.

As for Russians, by signing this military agreement they could gain leverage on the Turkish decision concerning the access of other military ships (especially American ones) into the Black Sea – with direct reference to the support provided by the USA to Georgia. Also, they could gain influence in order to allow a more relevant Russian military presence in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea in the years to come.

No matter how the situation develops, one thing is clear: Turkey won’t give up the control stipulated by the Montreaux Treaty over the straits under any circumstances, not even partially. In fact, we believe that Russia pretends those straits are not important and makes such declarations exclusively for its own interest.