Streetwise Professor

August 25, 2008

Talking Turkey

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia,Uncategorized — The Professor @ 8:56 am

Richard Fernandez provides some very interesting news regarding the American flotilla arriving off the Georgia coast:

Wired describes the allied flottila closing on Georgian coast, including a DDG, an SSN, the command ship USS Mount Whitney (“onsidered by some to be the most sophisticated Command, Control, Communications, Computer, and Intelligence (C4I) ship ever commissioned”) and the Coast Guard cutter USCGC Dallas. Wired describes the naval force:

“The vanguard includes the Burke-class destroyer McFaul (pictured)and the armed Coast Guard cutter Dallas. (Another Dallas, a nuclear submarine, is also in the area.) Trailing behind is the command ship Mount Whitney with, reportedly, Polish and Canadian frigates as escorts.”

The dispatch of a sophisticated 4CI vessel like the Whitney is very interesting. More interesting is the dispatch of an SSN (an attack sub, which is capable of carrying large numbers of land attack cruise missiles, and is not, to state the obvious, optimized for the delivery of humanitarian aid).

Most interesting of all is that Turkey has allowed all of this through the straits. A primary purpose of the Montreux Convention is to deny the ability of major sea powers from using the Black Sea to attack Russia. By letting a large naval force with substantial firepower (in the form of cruise missiles on the DDG and the SSN, and a command ship capable of coordinating combined air and cruise missile strikes) into the Black Sea, Turkey is putting Russia on notice that it opposes the latter’s excellent Georgian adventure.

Committing such a large naval force is also a pretty bold move on the part of the US. One wonders what is next. Although the McFaul entered the port of Batumi, rather than Russian-occupied Poti, if the Russians continue their hold on the latter port one could imagine a scenario in which a humanitarian relief ship is directed to Poti. The Russians would be forced to stop it or let it go. Either alternative would pose grave dangers for the Russians. If they stopped it using any force, or prevented it from delivering its supplies to needy Georgians, or seized the supplies, it would risk escalating the confrontation with the US. If they let it go, they would look weak. A humanitarian naval mission to Poti could be the equivalent of the US quarantine of Cuba during the missile crisis.

Richard Fernandez makes a good point in his piece about the fact that American air and naval power is essentially free from any commitment at the moment. Everybody wailing about our complete lack of military capability due to commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan is thinking only in terms of ground combat power. I’m sure the Russians aren’t. Nor are we.

As Fernandez notes, the Russians can’t be happy about the presence of powerful naval forces in the Black Sea, and the message this sends about the Turkish position. Yet another indication that the unintended consequences of the invasion of Georgia proper may make Russia the biggest loser.

In the end, the verdict on Putin’s Georgia gambit may be the same that Talleyrand delivered in response to Napoleon’s murder of the Duc d’Enghien: “It was worse than a crime. It was a blunder.” Let us hope.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 Comment »

  1. […] As I surmised on Sunday, the US Navy (or Coast Guard) will send a ship to Poti, Georgia to deliver humanitarian relief: […]

    Pingback by Streetwise Professor » In Your Face — August 26, 2008 @ 9:40 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress