Romania Pushing For Permanent NATO Presence In Black Sea
Romania is pressing NATO to create a regular Black Sea flotilla in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea, Romanian media have reported.
NATO, and in particular the United States, substantially stepped up their naval patrols in the Black Sea after the Crimean annexation, but thus far it's been done on an ad hoc basis. The Romanian proposal would create a regular "flotilla" reportedly also consisting of ships from Germany, Italy, Turkey and the United States, Romanian television station Digi24 reported.
Warships of countries not on the Black Sea are restricted from spending more than 21 days at a time there by the 1936 Montreux Convention. 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.
The increased NATO presence on the Black Sea has already been a major irritant to Russia. At the same time Russian naval vessels' use of the Bosphorus straits, which pass through the middle of Istanbul, to supply the war effort in Syria has become a flashpoint in the Russia-Turkey conflict.
Romania will try to bring the proposal up at the alliance's next summit, in Warsaw in July, Digi24 reported.
In November, presidents of nine eastern European NATO members signed a declaration, citing "the aggressive posture of Russia," calling for the alliance to strengthen its eastern flank. The group called for "new allied commitments for assurance and adapting to NATO procedures, structures, forces and defense infrastructure" to be agreed at the Warsaw summit.
NATO has already established small new outposts, called "Force Integration Units" in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, in order to coordinate logistics of moving materiel into those countries.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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