Friday, January 7, 2022

Montreux Convention Moscow Relies Now a Dead Letter, Retired Naval Officer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 17 – Vadim Kulichenko, a retired Russian naval captain, says Russia is losing its dominance on the Black Sea because others are ignoring the provisions of the 1936 Montreux Convention and Moscow lacks the allies needed to press for the revision of that accord to bring it into correspondence with contemporary conditions.

            This past summer, the former naval officer says, the international community ignored the 85th anniversary of this agreement just as most countries are ignoring its provisions and treating the Black Sea as another Mediterranean rather than an internal sea and the straits as offering free passage for almost all (

            Those attitudes and behavior, Kulichenko continues, gives other powers new abilities to challenge the national interests of Russia, and Moscow’s failure to do more than express concern not only is likely to lead them to press their new advantage but highlights Moscow’s diplomatic weakness given its inability to defend or seek to modify the convention.

            Turkey now holds the straits as “the key” to the Black Sea, and there is no reason to think that it might not use them again as it did in 1904-1905 when it bottled up the Russian fleet at the time of the Russo-Japanese war. If that happened, Kulichenko says, “all our military objects in Syria and the Sudan, in which we are so proud, would be cut off from the metropolitan center.”

            Given the changing international situation and the expanding capacities of navies of various countries, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the Montreux Convention should be renegotiated and brought up to date. But unfortunately, Moscow appears to lack the capacity to do that or even to insist that the 1936 accord’s provisions be observed.

            As a result, in Kulichenko’s view, Russia is losing the Black Sea to others, something that Moscow will bitterly regret at a time of future crises.


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