On April 3, Russia lodged a complaint with Turkey for the presence of American warships in the Black Sea in violation of the Montreaux Convention. In 1936, as the world moved towards war, the nations that bordered on the Black Sea entered into a diplomatic accord, the Montreaux Convention, that generally provides that non-Black Sea Power states may enter ships of a limited total tonnage and gun size but must give 15 rather than the 8 days notice for Black Sea states.
The Convention recognizes Turkey’s right to militarize or just stop the application of the Convention. It also makes clear that no non-Black Sea Power war ship may stay in the Black Sea more than 21 days, in any event. The Russians were upset and raised the issue with the Turkish government after two U.S. Naval warships sat 20 miles off the Russian coast while during the Sochi Olympics. The announced purpose was to protect against terrorist attack. While the USS Mount Whitney, a command and control vessel, and the USS Taylor,a soon-to-be decomissioned missile frigate were on station they both activated the ships’ transponder system that allows the ship to be tracked by GPS and pushed to the internet. It was interesting to monitor the ships’ position on MarineTraffic.com while watching the Olympics. I figured it would infuriate the Russian president at the time.
The well publicized grounding of the Taylor forced it to stay in the southern Black Sea Turkish port of Samsun. The Russian Government complained that it stayed longer than the allowed 21 days. Turkish Government politely disagreed.
Today, news was released that the USS Taylor had apparently completed repairs on Crete and was again transiting the Turkish Straight heading back into the Black Sea. The U.S. presently has the DDG-75 USS Donald Cook, a US Naval Aegis Guided Missile Destroyer, in the Black Sea. Under the Montreaux Convention, the U.S. can generally have total warship tonnage not to exceed certain tonnage or certain gun size. The Convention was written in 1936, the Battleships Era. The control mechanisms of the Convention were ultimately concerned with ship gun size and number. Under the Convention, a ship the size of the Donald Cook with a single 5 inch deck gun would barely qualify as a capital ship but, its total fire power, in real terms, exceeds the fire power of a fleet of WWII battleships, of any size.
It will be interesting to see if the Russian seizure of Crimea has brought a permanent U.S. force in the region. With a number of smaller littoral warships of significant fire power like the Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ship of 3,000 tons and a variety of Special Operations vessels of small displacement the U.S. Navy may keep the Russians guessing for a long time.