Finally, it has become clear what the world has been set to expect from the NATO summit to be held in Warsaw on July 8-9. Summing things up, it is clear that the Alliance is moving to the east. It plans to create a Black Sea «allied fleet». It should be done quickly – the standing force should be formed by July.
The idea has been put forward by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis who probably wants to leave a historic legacy. The «allied fleet» is to comprise the warships from Germany, Italy, Turkey and the United States. At present, non-Black Sea NATO vessels visit the Black Sea only during exercises. The ships from Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Georgia may join the force on permanent basis.
The 1936 Montreux Convention regulates the transit of naval warships. The document restricts outside navies’ access to the Turkish Straits and the Black Sea to 21 straight days per warship, and a maximum aggregate tonnage of 45,000 tons, with any one vessel no heavier than 15,000 tons.
Non-Black Sea states must also give Turkey a 15-day notice before sending warships through the straits.
International law is not strictly observed nowadays, so this problem could be solved. But what mission the new NATO standing force in the Black Sea is destined for?
A bit more than a couple of years ago Washington and Brussels had plans to make Sevastopol a NATO naval base. For many centuries the city has served as an outpost to protect the peninsula. After Crimea was reunited with Russia, Sevastopol became a fortified area with integrated command and control, intelligence and reconnaissance, anti-air, anti-surface ship and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
Sevastopol’s reunification with Russia was a great frustration for NATO planners. Now they start to mull retaliatory measures. The «allied fleet» is an element of broader strategic plans. A few ships cannot tip the balance of forces in the Black Sea. Neither US, nor Romanian surface ships, nor the Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy escorted by rubber boats, or German conventional submarines pose any threat to Sevastopol. But it may change in the future. The Montreux convention can be changed (or violated), public opinion can be influenced and democratic parliaments can be convinced to approve allocations for creating a really strong maritime force in the Black Sea with Odessa as its home base. The port could be upgraded to host a large naval force.
Then the situation will be escalated to the days of the Cold War. The status of Ukraine led by Petro Poroshenko will change, if the president still remains in power and the Hetman Sahaydachniy still keeps afloat. Poroshenko is happy. He is impatiently waiting for the July NATO summit. The event can ultimately do away with whatever is left of «détente», «reset» etc. and bring the world back to the days of uncompromised mutual assured destruction.