The sharp exacerbation of Russian-Turkish relations, caused by the death of 24 on November 2015 of the Russian Su-24M front-line bomber from a Turkish fighter missile, caused the world media to start talking about the problem of the Black Sea straits again. The domestic mass media did not pass by the theme of the Bosporus with the Dardanelles.
“Turks can close the straits for Russia!”, “Ankara is conducting exercises to block the Bosporus!”, “The Ottomans blocked the way to the Mediterranean Sea!”, “Russian vessels that do not allow to enter the straits accumulated at the entrance to the Bosphorus!” a selection of headlines that have appeared on the pages of domestic newspapers and Internet resources for the last week.
The problems that await Russia in the event of a ban on the use of straits are obvious. First of all, it is the impossibility of transporting important cargoes from the Black Sea ports abroad - our grain, metal, fertilizers, oil, as well as a significant increase in the supply arm of the group of our videoconferencing in Syria.
Over these nuances, as well as over the very possibility of closing the straits for us, experts have been constantly breaking their spears for the past week with varying degrees of authority: from professional lawyers to so-called couch experts. Federal Agency News decided to ask questions about the straits not to theorists, but to practices. That is, to the sailors.
How our navy goes through the straits
- Is it possible to briefly comment on the significance for the Russian Federation of the Black Sea Straits and the procedure for the passage of our warships through them?
Pavel Vishnyakov, captain of the 1 rank of the reserve, in the past - the flagship navigator of the 130-th brigade of anti-submarine ships, deputy chief of staff of the 2-th division of anti-submarine ships in combat training:
- I think in our time the straits have already lost their strategic importance. But of course, they still lock the Black Sea Fleet in the Black Sea. Our ships walk through this narrowness in a notification order. This procedure provides for notification of the Turkish authorities about the passage of at least one day. At the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, they have already bypassed this matter a long time ago by submitting a daily notice of a standard pattern, including in it all ships of the first line of constant readiness and ships engaged in combat service in the Mediterranean. The application indicates the name and the side number of the ship.
- Under what circumstances can the straits, in accordance with the Convention on the Regime of the Black Sea Straits, be closed to the passage of Russian warships and civilian vessels?
- If we talk about merchant ships, then in accordance with articles 4, 5 of the Convention, this question arises when Turkey is a belligerent. In short, the courts of a country fighting with Turkey will not be allowed to pass through the straits. Ships of non-warring countries pass the straits only during the day and along the paths determined in each individual case.
There is an interesting formulation of the status of Turkey as a state “that considers itself under threat of military danger” (article 6). When this status is declared, the regime is tightened as follows: pilotage is obligatory, passage only along designated paths. How this relates to the courts of the country that is the source of the military threat is not defined by the Convention.
The restrictions imposed on the passage of warships also depend on the status of Turkey in the war. So, if Turkey is not a belligerent, then there are no obstacles to the passage of ships of the warring countries. Although vague language related to the obligations of Turkey under treaties on mutual assistance, may serve as a basis for toughening the passage of military ships.
In the event Turkey is a belligerent, Article 20 of the Convention gives it the right to regulate (prohibit) the passage of warships of any power, Black or non-Black Sea, at its own discretion without additional explanations and overtures. The same right arises in her case of "the threat of immediate military danger."
- This is about article 21 of the Convention. It says that Turkey can close the straits in case of the very “threat of immediate military danger” for itself. But if at the same time the ships of our Black Sea fleet If they are inside the straits or in the Mediterranean, then the Turks will be obliged to give them the opportunity to return to the Black Sea. More precisely, they will be obliged to do this if the UN Security Council votes for it. So?
- Yes sir.
- Accordingly, if the States at the same time impose a veto on the result of the vote, the Turks with a clear conscience on the article 21 spit?
- It turns out, so.
Is it possible to close the straits bypassing the Convention
- Does Turkey have the opportunity, without violating the Convention, but without declaring war on Russia, to close the straits for us for a sufficiently long time? For example, declaring a medical quarantine or staging a state of emergency on the fairway, the consequences of which will have to be eliminated for a long time: oil spills, environmental hazards, etc.?
Ivan Anisimov, in the past - a PDSS swimmer (anti-sabotage forces and means) and a steering signal-gunner atomic underwater "Pikes" of the 671-RTMK project:
- Quarantine, according to the Convention, is no reason to ban the passage of the straits. There, under article 3, there is simply a requirement to take on board the medical overseers during the passage. If we talk about the state of emergency ... In the case of an emergency, you will have to block the straits for everyone. Or you will have to admit that the abovementioned state of emergency is dangerous only for Russian courts, which is nonsense.
Yevgeny Irza, captain of the 1 reserve rank, in the past - the commander of the 2 th division of anti-submarine ships of the Northern Fleet:
- If desired, the Turks, of course, can do anything. Without declaring war, close the straits, come up with some kind of environmental disaster, etc. But we need a credible reason. If the “catastrophe”, then such that was “dangerous” for all, and not just for Russia. What does it mean to close the fairway? This means that no one will pass. And how then to be with the passage of NATO ships to the Black Sea? .. No, if they decide to close, then, rather, with the help of legal casuistry.
- I would share the answer. On the one hand, merchant ships may be restricted in the passage in cases where it is necessary to stop at the sanitary station and take on board the medical overseer. It is easy to imagine a situation where there will be no such, which will be politely reported on the 16 channel. In case of doubts about the cleanliness of the sanitary patent or the validity of the sanitary declaration, the time can be prolonged indefinitely, despite the reference to the “maximum possible speed” of the sanitary inspection.
On the other hand, there are several conditions for the unimpeded passage of warships. We will not dwell on the limitations of the total tonnage and the number of ships that are simultaneously in the straits (up to nine) - with the current state of the Black Sea Fleet it is almost impossible to break these restrictions. The main condition, the fulfillment of which is strictly and strictly monitored by the Turks, is the timely and complete forewarning of the Turkish authorities. It is served diplomatically and contains information about the destination, names, type and number of ships, as well as the date of passage in the original direction, and if possible, on return. A change in the date of passage must be notified at least three days in advance.
The date of passage is valid for five days, that is, by announcing the date of passage on December 10, we can go through December 11, 12, 13, and 14. When approaching the straits, the squad leader without stopping notifies the station of the exact number of squad ships. When passing, ships are prohibited from using Aviation and exceed the passage time. In the case of the presence of plague, cholera, yellow fever, typhus and smallpox on board, the necessary preventive measures should be applied by ship's means, which exclude the possibility of infection of the straits.
It is obvious that the possibilities of the Turkish side to restrict the transit and navigation of the Russian side to the Russian side are limited by the provisions of the Montreux Convention.
And now about unconventional restrictions. Back in 1982, Turkey unilaterally announced the Regulations of the Port of Istanbul, extending it to the whole zone of the straits. After the objections of a number of countries, the Turks declared it valid only for Turkish ships and foreign ships entering Turkish ports located in the straits.
In 90, the Turkish government repeatedly tried to restrict the passage of oil tankers through the straits, forcing Russia and other countries in the region to accept the transportation of Caspian oil through pipelines laid across Turkey.
In 1994, Turkey submitted to the session of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) a document “Regulation of maritime navigation in the straits of Turkey and the Marmara Sea region” (Regulations on Navigation in the Straits). This document is based on the requirements of international conventions and the Istanbul 1994 Port Regulations. As a result of a wide discussion, he was voted out. However, this did not prevent Turkey from 1 July 1994. Unilaterally introduce new rules for regulating shipping in the Black Sea straits, according to the above-mentioned document.
These rules provide the right of the Turkish authorities to suspend navigation in the straits during construction work, including underwater drilling, fire fighting, research and sports activities, acts of rescue and assistance, measures to prevent and eliminate the pollution of the marine environment, operations to investigate crimes and accidents and in other similar cases, as well as the right of the Turkish authorities to introduce compulsory pilotage where they deem necessary.
Turkish innovations touched, firstly, ships longer than 200 m - they must pass the straits during daylight hours and always with the Turkish pilot (these are, as a rule, tankers or military ships of the Russian Navy). Secondly, the Turkish authorities had the right to inspect merchant ships, primarily tankers, for compliance with national and international operational and environmental standards. Thirdly, fines and other sanctions were imposed for non-compliance with these standards - up to sending the vessel back, parking restrictions (refueling) in the adjacent ports, etc. Fourth, for problem ships and cargo, the cost of pilotage and port parking was increased repeatedly.
In addition, in 1998, Turkey unilaterally introduced new rules for navigation in the straits, which provide for significant restrictions on the transit of large oil-loading vessels.
It should be noted that these rules reflect Turkey’s desire to revise the fundamental concept of “international straits” and replace it in relation to the Black Sea straits to the status of internal and even intra-port waters. In particular, instead of the names “Bosphorus Strait” and “Dardanelles Strait” in the Regulations the names “Strait of Istanbul” and “Strait of Canakkale” are used.
It should be noted that the ships and vessels of the Russian Navy never fulfilled the requirements of these unilateral documents regarding mandatory pilotage, but we had to agree with the requirement of passage of the straits during daylight — the reaction of the Turkish side to attempts to non-compliance was extremely acute ...
In October 2002, the Turkish authorities announced a new instruction on the application of the rules of navigation. The concept of “vessel with dangerous cargo” appeared and the need to notify about its passage in 72 hours, as well as the 9 rule of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 of the Year (sailing in narrowness), fully and completely corresponding to the theater of the Black Sea Strait Zone, was excluded from the navigation mode . In return, the Turkish side applied the 10 (b) rule - navigation in traffic separation systems, designed for circumstances that preclude navigational hazards (shoals, critical proximity to shores, etc.). In addition, it declares the possibility of restricting the movement of all ships and ships for reasons other than force majeure, for example, in connection with sports events.
Summarizing, we can say that the domestic legislation of Turkey allows the country's leadership to impede, and in some cases restrict the transit movement in the Black Sea straits of both the merchant ships of Russia and its warships. The abolition of these restrictions in each specific case will be associated with intense diplomatic and military-diplomatic activities, and this can be delayed for a very tangible time - up to several days. Violation of the requirements of the Montreux Convention will be condemned by the world community, but only that.
- Would it be correct to assume that Turkey mentioned regulations and other internal documents came into conflict with the UN Convention on International Law of the Sea?
- Yes, I did. But she did not sign it.
Possible provocations of the Turks
- So, Turkey has a hypothetical opportunity, without violating the Montreux Convention, but without declaring war on Russia, to make it difficult for our ships to move in the strait zone. And even these straits for us to close. Will Turkey, in your opinion, realize this opportunity in case of further aggravation of Russian-Turkish relations?
- Of course. I believe that the media hype around this issue was inspired by the Turks, in order to test the public reaction to the possible closure of the straits.
“I consider such actions of Turkey absolutely real. Even in the context of political rapprochement that began in the 90s after many years of confrontation in the Cold War, Turkey did not miss the opportunity to impede the passage of the Russian Navy ship, which I repeatedly witnessed. The former commander-in-chief of the Navy, Felix Gromov, paid an official visit to Turkey in 1993, one of the main goals of which was precisely consultations related to these difficulties. When he shared his personal impressions of this event, one could understand that the goals of these consultations were not achieved.
- Did the Turkish official representatives then stumble upon the cabin of our ship for a portrait of Admiral Ushakov, who had repeatedly beat the Turks, and were presented with a model of the Russian brig "Mercury", famous for, in battle with the Turks?
- I would not say that it was an otvetka ... Rather, a coincidence of random circumstances. But it was, yes.
- How great, in your opinion, is the probability of Turkish provocations against Russian warships and civilian ships passing the straits at the moment? If it is great, then what can these provocations be expressed in? Delay of permission to pass the straits, dangerous maneuvering with the threat of a collision, the requirement to take an inspection party on board a civilian vessel? ..
- Very large. All the Turkish authorities you mentioned have already done before. Or tried to do. And not even in a period of strained relations, as it is now.
- Well yes. I remember that 10 on April 2003 of the year, when passing through the straits with our large landing ship "Caesar Kunikov", a boat of the Turkish coast guard blocked his path in front of Ataturk Bridge. After that, the Turks demanded from BDK to stop the course and present the ship for inspection. That is, the Ottomans aimed to conduct a search of a warship of a foreign state, which, of course, was already beyond the bounds ... The commander of the BDK captain 2 of the rank Sergey Sinkin played alarm. On deck lay down with weapons Our marines are at the ready, and the nasal 57-mm "Spark" took the boat on sight. After that, without changing the course, "Kunikov" went to the ram. Here the Turks' nerves could not stand it, and they fled, clearing the fairway. However, let's return to the question of possible Turkish provocations.
- Separate the concept of "provocation" and "difficulties." The difficulties, as I have already said, will be organized on the basis of the above-mentioned norms of Turkish legislation, not recognized by IMO and the international community. This is expected and calculated. I think that certain compensating actions, which have both technical and organizational nature, have already been adopted and implemented. For example, the transfer of civilian dry cargo ships that are transported according to the plans of operation of the HQS in Syria falls under the category of auxiliary ships of the Navy, which, in accordance with Article 10 of the Convention, extends to them the legal status of a warship in terms of the passage rules of the pouring zone. Delay of permission to pass - this, apparently, should be attributed to “difficulties” as categories of violations of the legal regime of the straits established by the Montreux Convention. And it is the delay that is quite likely to be realized without explaining the reasons both at the stage of document flow, that is, upon receiving a formal notification of receipt of the advance notice / application for the passage of warships, and at the stage of approaching the straits and communication with the Turkish station.
Provocations do not have a legal basis, even such dubious, as the Regulations of the Port of Istanbul. Dangerous maneuvering, demands to stop, delay movement for receiving an inspection batch, including flying a helicopter, a drone at unacceptably low altitudes, their hanging on the ship’s course, detecting the work of firing radars of coastal missile and artillery complexes - all this is possible without a doubt. The ships of the Russian Navy have repeatedly encountered such things. There is a wealth of experience, handed down from generation to generation, which allows you to think in advance about the actions in these cases. This experience is realized both in orders, manuals, manuals, and in a verbal form - with briefings of commanders / captains, during shipboard exercises on navigation in narrowness, exercises of calculations "GKP-BIC-navigator".
For example, numerous stories of officers of the Soviet Navy about helicopter provocations by NATO forces, as a rule, ended with a description of a pictorial painting of a rocket launcher shot in the direction of a provocateur, followed by a rather quick retreat. Dangerous maneuvering is fully compensated by the watchful carrying of a signal watch and other activities stipulated in the 155 article of the Navy's Ship Charter, starting with the words “Floating in narrow places, near hazards ...”
Turkish flag on the Russian mast
- Judging by the photos, the ships of our Navy, previously regularly raising the national flag of the host country during the passage of the straits, have now stopped doing this. Is it up to the commander of our ship to lift when passing the straits of the Turkish flag is it voluntary or, according to international laws, mandatory?
Igor Ryabko, captain of rank 1, in the past - the commander of the Russian crew of the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya built in the Russian Federation for India:
- As for the flag, this is marine etiquette and ceremonial. The absence of the Turkish flag on the mast of our ships should be read like this: “You are nobody, and you can’t call you!”
- Raising the flag of a foreign state by a warship when it is located in the territorial / internal waters of this state is not governed by international maritime law, but is a tradition, the observance of which is not necessary. In cases where the ship makes an official visit, this circumstance is specifically negotiated through military-diplomatic channels.
On alert # 1
- It is clear that during the passage of the straits on Russian warships the service is carried in a reinforced mode. What is this “gain” usually expressed in? Is the number of watches on the upper deck increasing? Is the number of signalers increasing? On the upper deck are exhibited posts from among the marines? Is a combat alert announced? In what? ..
- Strengthening the protection of the ship - this is the decision of each commander separately, depending on the threats in a particular period of time.
- The passage of international torrential zones by the ships of the Russian Navy is carried out on alert # 1 in the variant of the ship schedule “Navigation in narrowness”. In accordance with this schedule, the signal watch is amplified, the watch is set up, the watch on the anchors recoil is carried, the reserve and emergency ship control devices are launched. In addition, the so-called "watch of vigilance" is exhibited - all hatches and doors leading to the upper deck from the interior are watch-keeping. Depending on the nature of the (friendly / unfriendly) zones, armed watch crews can be set up on the upper deck, observing the water area around the ship. This may be the Marines, if available on board, or sailors from naval combat units - as a rule, warhead-3 (mine-torpedo warhead). The nature of the alarm - combat or training - is determined by the ship’s commander or the senior on board. The combat service is the fulfillment of a combat mission, therefore the declaration of a combat alarm is quite logical and justified.
Our BDK and watch with MANPADS
- Let's return to the already famous "friendship" with the Turks "Kunikova". More recently, photographs of this BDK passing through the Bosphorus with a crew member armed with MANPADS are posted on the Internet. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt авavusoglu has already declared this a provocation by Moscow and almost an act of aggression by Russia. As far as MANPADS on the superstructure of the ship fits into the regular mode of passage by our warships straits? Does this not violate the Convention on the Regime of the Black Sea Straits?
- In the normal mode, it clearly does not fit. If only because earlier this was not noticed on our ships in the straits. But a direct violation of the Montreux Convention watch with MANPADS is also not.
- The convention does not mention such actions. Directly there is a ban on the use of aircraft from warships. However, such an action (placing a watch on MANPADS) can be interpreted as a violation of generally accepted norms that define the legal status of a warship in the territorial / internal waters of a foreign state, and can be interpreted as a violation of the spirit of the Montreux Convention. It is assumed that the right of innocent passage, implemented, in particular, in the extremely simple order of the warships of the Russian Federation by the Black Sea Straits (under the Montreux Convention), excludes the lifting of the SAM / RK launchers, reversing artillery installations, changing the elevation angle of the guns, feeding bombs to the RBU guides etc. I think that the appearance of the watch with MANPADS in the open at the ready is an oversight of the first maid. He (watch air defense with MANPADS) is always - and not one - but must keep the watch out of the reach of prying eyes.
- The Federal News Agency thanks all the participants in this conversation and wishes you seven feet under the keel!