As NATO prepares for the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Bucharest suggests the creation of a Black Sea fleet EurasiaNet reports. However, according to the 1936 Montreux Convention, warships of countries that are not littoral to the Black Sea cannot spent more than 21 days in the area. In this scheme, if a NATO Black Sea fleet were to be created, NATO members other than Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey would have to rotate their ships out regularly.
NATO has increased its presence in the region following the annexation of Crimea, mostly by sending small flotillas for training. However, a Black Sea fleet in a region that Russia regards as “Near Abroad” – a term implying sphere of influence – would call officially into question an understanding between Euro-Atlantic partners and Russia. Some NATO members feel this is inevitable following the annexation of Crimea, others feel there is room for rapprochement.
The Summit in Warsaw is expected to witness a fierce debate between old and new members. Poland is asking NATO to take a more assertive role in the region, abandoning a 1997 pledge to avoid deploying troops and strategic weapon systems in Central Eastern Europe. Older members, especially Germany, have been speaking about reviving the Russia-NATO Council and sticking to the 1997 commitment. An intermediate approach entails the setting up of command and control units made up of local troops in the Baltics and the Black Sea that will become operational in 2017.
The Romanian approach is in line with this interim and by now mainstream position. Since September, NATO partners have agreed on consolidating the interoperability of regional forces. Military exercises in the Baltic Sea have seen tighter cooperation with non-NATO members, Sweden and Finland. Similarly, in the Black Sea, Ukraine and Georgia have been cooperating more closely than ever before in regional NATO exercises.