Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Imagine such a scene: the American “Eisenhower” aircraft carrier enters the Sea of Azov, bombers take off from it, and, flying over Mariupol, they go to bomb Donetsk. This isn’t just a fantasy. This is the plot of the first task of the computer game of USNF (US Navy Fighters) released in 1997 under the name of Jane’s corporation known for its combat catalog.
It seems that in Ukraine the generation that at the time over-enthusiastically played this computer game grew up, but they didn’t play it enough. Otherwise, how else can the idea of NATO ships entering the Sea of Azov be explained? Moreover, ideas that were sounded at a high level, in particular — by Georgy Tuka, the deputy minister of Ukraine “concerning the temporarily occupied territories”.
This is the same official who, at the end of June of this year, on the air of the Lvov TV channel “ZIK” stated that Ukraine has nothing to counter “Russian aggression” in the Sea of Azov — maybe just show them “fig“. Tuka literally said the following: “Our army in the Sea of Azov has only fig. And you know this very well. But for real, we have nothing to show resistance to the Russian Navy”.
This slipped out in the heat of a discussion about how to react to routine border examinations of vessels going through the Strait of Kerch to the ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol, which are controlled by Ukraine. According to Kiev, these examinations allegedly became frequent after the Ukrainian side without any grounds seized the Russian “Nord” vessel (and the “Mekhanik Pogodin“ tanker was detained in Kherson later). On the other hand, Kiev’s officials constantly repeat that after the Kerch Bridge was opened, the visits of vessels to the mentioned ports reduced to a minimum. I.e., vessels don’t navigate, but examining them allegedly became more frequent.
One and a half months passed, and on August 12th this same Tuka hinted at a military secret: the Ukrainian authorities are considering the forceful scenario of “unblocking” the Sea of Azov (as if someone blocked it). At the same time, the deputy minister specified that this “doesn’t make a provision for the use of international legal standards”, with which he intrigued everyone even more.
Two days later Tuka revealed the secret. However, with the use of “international standards”. “It is theoretically possible to consider two possibilities,” he said. “The first one is to appeal to the UN Security Council with a request to organise a UN sea escort. And the second one – the involvement of NATO forces for accompaniment in the Sea of Azov”.
And the deputy minister admitted that he poorly trusts the scenario involving NATO forces. This once again shows the tremendous logic of Ukrainian officials. I.e., they believe much more that the UN Security Council (where Russia, remember, has a veto) will allocate combat ships to accompany Ukrainian trade vessels to to defend them against “Russian aggression”. The imagination paints how the representative of Russia votes for this epoch-making decision…
But let’s put the problem of the state of mind of Ukrainian officials to one side. Let’s ask a question: in general – theoretically speaking – can Ukraine hope that one day the combat ships of NATO or some other country will proceed through the Strait of Kerch? By the way, the deputy from the nationalist “Svoboda“ party Andrey Ilyenko expressed hope also for support from the fleet of Georgia. Don’t laugh.
The answer is: no. Even if Ukraine enters NATO, the question of any foreign combat ships entering the Sea of Azov, which is officially recognised as the internal sea of two states, must be solved by the mutual consent of Kiev and Moscow. This is a clear requirement of the treaty on cooperation concerning using the Sea of Azov and the Strait of Kerch. The document was signed by Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma in December, 2003 and ratified by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in April of 2004.
Paragraph 3 of this contract says: “The warships and other state vessels of third states operating for non-commercial purposes can come into the Sea of Azov and pass through the Strait of Kerch if they go on a visit or business trip to the port of one of the parties at its invitation or with permission coordinated with the other party”. Thus, without the consent of Russia Ukraine can’t invite to the Sea of Azov any warship of a third country. Just like how Russia can’t do this without the consent of Ukraine — in this we are equal.
And it is for this reason that Ukrainian radicals have demanded to tear up this treaty long ago. In July, 2015 the draft law on denunciation was introduced personally by the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Andriy Parubiy. And, it seems, the consent of all profile committees was received, all legislative obstacles were overcome, but the Rada still hasn’t risked to disrupt the agreement hated by it.
The matter is that the mentioned treaty is the only thing that now allows Ukraine to navigate its vessels through the Strait of Kerch, which is nowadays entirely Russian. By denouncing it, Kiev in general will lose such a right until a new agreement is made. No, of course, they can even appeal to the UN Security Council, NATO, or even the league of sexual reforms for a military escort for their ships. But what madman will decide without Russia’s consent to enter its military fleet into Russia’s territorial waters? Even American analysts are forced to recognise that it is impossible to win against Russia.
That’s why for Tuka and those similar to him, who dream of the “Eisenhower” aircraft carrier in the Sea of Azov, it is only left to dig out the USNF-97 computer game from the store rooms and enjoy the flight of the mad fantasies of its developers. Ukrainians don’t have any other way of seeing an American flag in this region.
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