Romania Wants Permanent NATO Black Sea Force

January 18, 2016

Transitions Online:

Amid heightened tensions over the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of its Crimean peninsula, NATO temporarily beefed up its presence in the Black Sea region last spring.

NATO dispatched a flotilla to train with ships from the Romanian, Bulgarian, and Turkish navies as part of what an alliance official called a “scheduled deployment” that “given Russia’s continued assertiveness, carries an additional message of reassurance to allies in the region.”

Another flotilla was deployed early in December. But Romania wants to have such a multinational naval rapid reaction force be a permanent fixture on the Black Sea, local media report, EurasiaNet writes.

The Romanian proposal would create a regular flotilla including ships from Germany, Italy, Turkey, and the United States, Romanian television station Digi24 reports.

However, under the 1936 Montreux Convention, warships of countries not bordering the Black Sea are prohibited from spending more than 21 days at a time there.

“So if a NATO Black Sea fleet were to come to fruition members other than Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey would have to rotate their ships out regularly,” EurasiaNet says.

Romania will propose such a system at the alliance’s next summit, in Warsaw in July, according to Digi24.

In September, NATO members agreed to open command and control units in the Baltics, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria, due to become operational in 2017, to help the military alliance deploy troops faster to those regions.

  • Romania, along with Poland and the Baltic States, have been pushing NATO to station forces permanently in their territories since the conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
  • “To the east, the fear of Russian aggression is a unifying factor to some degree as well. Romania and Lithuania share Poland’s views when it comes to Russia, supporting stronger ties with NATO in the region and the existing regime of sanctions,” intelligence group Stratfor writes.
  • In October 2013, an installation of U.S. missile interceptors was placed in Romania, elements of an anti-missile defense system whose components were originally to be located in Poland and the Czech Republic. President Barack Obama scrapped those plans in 2009 under pressure from Moscow.
  • In May, Ukraine’s National Security Council secretary, Oleksandr Turchynov, said Kyiv was open to hosting missile defense systems against the background of possible threats from Russia.

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