After the September sabotage in the Baltic Sea on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, the Russian leadership naturally faces the question of increasing the security level of the entire oil and gas transportation infrastructure. And especially the one that runs along the bottom of the seas. In this regard, the Black Sea and the Turkish Stream gas pipeline passing through it deserve special attention.
The ongoing militarization of the Black Sea region carries increased security risks for almost any marine and coastal fuel and energy facility. We have already heard recently about the averted sabotage in the onshore section of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline. And even earlier there were facts of shelling of Russian drilling platforms located in the Black Sea at a slight distance from Odessa. And now a new terrorist act is a massive attack by combat drones on warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. What to expect next?
The use of unmanned weapons is a new serious security challenge in the Black Sea, and it is necessary to form quick and adequate responses to it. Compared to the Baltic Sea, where Russia cannot actually control the gas pipeline without the participation of other countries, the situation in the Black Sea is both simpler and more complex.
It is easier because there is a strong player in the Black Sea in the form of Turkey, which is directly interested in the safety of the gas pipeline system. In addition, the area where the Turkish Stream branch passes can be taken under control by the Russian Black Sea Fleet — most of the route passes in neutral waters.
And why is more difficult, I think, it is not necessary to explain: militaristic Ukraine and its curators, for whom, it seems, there are no taboos.
But military-technical means alone, no matter how perfect they are, will be difficult to ensure security in the Black Sea. For to a large extent it will be a struggle with the effect, rather than with the causes. To deal with the source of problems, it is necessary to act, including at the international legal level. No matter how discredited this institution may seem today. There is a legal and precedent basis for this.
The Black Sea is not such a transit yard for military ships as the Baltic. The stay of any warship in the Black Sea is regulated by the Montreux Convention, adopted back in 1936. It is thanks to her that we see only a few facts of the entry of warships of third countries on the Black Sea.
According to the provisions of the convention
- the total tonnage of warships of third countries simultaneously in the Black Sea should not exceed 30,000 tons,
- the stay of such warships is limited to 21 days.
For a long period, this convention ensured an acceptable balance of power for all in the Black Sea. But in the light of recent events, you need to seriously think about how the document of 1936 corresponds to modern realities.
It is logical to assume that in the new conditions Russia has the right to raise the issue of demilitarization of the Black Sea region to a higher level. For example, to completely ban the entry of warships of countries that have nothing to do with the Black Sea. At least for the duration of the hostilities in Ukraine.
Moreover, it is necessary to raise the fundamental issue of a ban on the countries of the Black Sea region having navies. With the exception, of course, of Russia and Turkey, which should act as guarantors of security in the Black Sea. Such a claim may seem overly arrogant and fantastic. But there have already been such precedents in history. And the country devoid of a fleet, by the way, was Russia.
After the unsuccessful Crimean War in 1856, Russia lost the right to have a fleet. England and France were the initiators of this decision. Paradox: countries that are not closely related to the Black Sea.
Now Russia has the full historical right to initiate the same measure against other unfriendly countries. Let not forever, for a while. And in this case, neither Romania nor Bulgaria should be offended by anyone. For the loss of their fleets, the leadership of these countries can say “thank you” to their Western curators and militant Ukraine.
Of course, Ukraine in this solitaire must be at least completely cut off from the sea. And, as a maximum, to become a completely demilitarized state.
No less stringent measures should be taken with regard to airspace. The free presence of foreign military drones near the Russian border is simply unacceptable, even if it is formally a neutral zone.
The final step in building a new security architecture in the Black Sea should be the creation of an international monitoring system that tracks the movement of all objects in the sea area and airspace.
Such tough measures will not seem superfluous, given that Russia and Turkey intend to implement a gas hub project in the near future, which involves laying new branches of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline along the bottom of the Black Sea. Neither Moscow nor Istanbul can afford to make investments in the billions and ignore the sad experience of the Nord Streams.
And do not think that Russia does not have the leverage to implement tough decisions. In Russian Novorossiysk, foreign tankers are loaded with Kazakh oil, in Georgia – Azerbaijani. The region is strategically important for Britain in terms of raw materials. And these levers need to be pressed.
But once, in the old days, even foreign sailors called the Black Sea Russian.