While most of the world is concerned with keeping Russian fighter jets out of NATO airspace, Russian warships have already incurred on NATO territorial waters. So why can’t the US Navy can’t send an Aircraft Carrier into the Black Sea to protect Romania and NATO merchant ships or help Ukraine? According to a UN Treaty, they are too big and heavy.
by Alpaslan Ozerdem (The Conversation) As bad as the Ukraine war is so far, an international agreement signed in 1936 is preventing it from getting even worse.
TheMontreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits gives Turkey control over the water route between the Black Sea – home to amajor Russian naval force– and the Mediterranean Sea and beyond.
It sets limits on the passage of civilian vessels and military warships through the Dardanelles and the Bosporus straits, which with the Sea of Marmara between them form the seagoing link between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
The international agreement was signed by Australia, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Japan, Romania, Yugoslavia, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and Turkey and has been in effect since November 1936.
Now the Montreux Convention is serving an important role in the Ukraine conflict. Ukraine has asked Turkey to close the straits to Russian warships, highlighting the Turkish role in keeping regional peace. TheTurkish government agreedon Feb. 28, 2022. However,several Russian warshipsentered the Black Sea in early February. And Turkey has said itwould not prevent Russian warships from entering the Black Seaif Russia claimed they werereturning to their home port.
Four key elements in the Montreux Convention regulate which vessels may enter the Black Sea in wartime:
- Turkey can close the straits to warshipsof belligerent parties in wartime or when Turkey itself is a party to the war or threatened by aggression from another nation.
- Turkey can close the straits to merchant shipsbelonging to countries at war with Turkey.
- Any country with coastline on the Black Sea – Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia or Ukraine – mustnotify Turkey eight days in advanceof its intention to send vessels of war through the straits. Other countries, the ones that don’t border the Black Sea, must give Turkey 15 days’ advance notice. Only Black Sea nations maysend submarines through the straits, only with prior notice and only if the vessels are constructed or purchased outside the Black Sea.
- Only nine warships are allowed to pass through the straits at any one time, and there are limits on how big the ships can be, both individually and as a group. No group of ships mayexceed 15,000 metric tons. Modern warships are heavy, withfrigatesaround 3,000 metric tons anddestroyersandcruisersaround 10,000 metric tons.Modern aircraft carriers are too big to go through, andaren’t allowed anywayunder Turkish rules.
Turkey has used the convention’s powers before. During World War II, Turkeyclosed the straits to warshipsbelonging to combatant nations. That prevented the Axis powers from sending their warships to attack the Soviet Union – and blocked the Soviet navy from participating incombat in the Mediterranean.
In the current situation, the Turkish government finds itself in adifficult position, as both Ukraine and Russia are important partners in critical energy and military trade agreements. Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, wants tostrengthen its ties with the Westwhilenot upsetting Russia. Its control over these key straits may test its balancing act.
Prof Alpaslan Özerdem is Dean of the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution. Prof Özerdem specializes in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and post-conflict reconstruction. Via The Conversation
gCaptain UPDATE: US Naval Institute reports that on March 1st Turkey closed off the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to warships from any country, whether or not they border the Black Sea, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine… except if the warship is homeported in the Black Sea.