"We will not go too far" or instead of a preface
In the summer of 2019, the Turkish publishing house Dolion Yayınları published a book "Memories of the American Ambassador in Soviet Russia", a book about four lengthy conversations by Ambassador Smith with then-Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. The intriguingly titled Turkey and the Straits Question offers a very interesting dialogue.
Bedel Smith: I finished my words this way: "Everything you have said so far is interesting and encouraging, but it does not answer the question I asked at the beginning and which, as I said, occupies the most important place in the minds of the entire American people. My question was this: "How far will Russia go?"
Stalin looked at me and replied, "We will not go too far. I assured President Truman and said publicly that the Soviet Union did not intend to attack Turkey, there was no such intention, ”Stalin said. - But Turkey is weak, it does not have enough strength to protect the straits. And the Soviet Union is fully aware of the danger that will arise if the straits fall under the control of any foreign state. The Turkish government is unfriendly to us. So the Soviet Union demanded a base in the Dardanelles. The issue is related to our own safety. "
By the way, Stalin told a lie, the Soviet Union was preparing to attack Turkey, which resulted in Turkey having to be divided. In addition to the straits, "restoration of historical justice" was being prepared with the accession of large pieces of territory in eastern Turkey.
The issue of straits, that is, the issue of Black Sea security, has been a key issue in Russian politics since the Russian Empire stepped to the Black Sea, causing the sea to cease to be an internal "Ottoman lake". It was this question that became one of the main motives for Russia's entry into the Great War of 1914, which led the empire to collapse. Even against the backdrop of disintegration and disintegration after February 1917, the then Foreign Minister Pavel Miliukov continued to talk about the Straits, as the main motivational component of the continuation of the war, for which he was nicknamed the Dardanelles…
To what all these historical opuses, you ask, are different now. About other times, here is another episode from history, this time quite recent. Excerpt from the article Valery Aleksin «Blue Fleet Guard Fleet»: In November 1999, at a meeting of the Security Council, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin noted that "Russia is being squeezed out of the World Ocean." He pointed to "the deterioration of the positions of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea and Baltic directions." It is natural to expect that, implementing the decisions of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, the government will in the shortest possible time decide to relocate to the Black Sea Fleet (in Sevastopol) connections from 5-7 diesel-electric submarines of project 877 from the Northern Fleet.
At that time, Russia was "just getting up from its knees", and now times are really different ...
Forces in the region
At first glance, neither the European Union nor NATO can be particularly worried about Black Sea security. The Alliance is home to more than 68% of the coast, while the Russian Federation owns less than 10% of the Black Sea coastline - from Taman to Adler - within the internationally recognized borders. Thus, more than 90% of the coastline belongs to NATO bloc members along with aspirants to join it with Ukraine and Georgia.
However, in practice, things are quite different. The occupation of Abkhazia and the annexation of Crimea very seriously expanded the Russian territory on the Black Sea. It is about 867 kilometers of coast of Crimean peninsula and 210 kilometers of coast of Abkhazia. The geography of the region is such that with the help of military bases in Sevastopol and the use of the port in Ochamchir, Russia already controls much of the Black Sea.
However, that's not all. The Russian Federation uses both military and political-economic methods to establish its hegemony on the Black Sea. All the more so because the overall situation is extremely favorable. First of all, we are talking about Russian-Turkish rapprochement. It is clear that it is not possible to tear Turkey away from NATO of the Russian Federation. However, Ankara and Washington are doing everything they can to present Moscow with such a gift.
Despite the fact that President Recep Erdogan has been trying for a long time to pursue an independent policy that often contradicts the interests of the Allies, even a few years ago to imagine such characters as the Turkish Rear Admiral in the resignation of Jem Gürdeniz was decisive. . For those who have not yet heard the name, we will explain that the retired Rear Admiral is publicly speaking for Turkey's break with NATO and rapprochement with Russia. And it is impossible to treat him as an urban madman. Gourdeniz expresses the position of certain circles of Turkey, which are committed to cooperation with Russia. And it is not only the S-400 complexes that Turkey has bought only after it has long refused to supply the Patriot complexes, or in the negotiations on the supply of the Su-35 and Su-57, after Turkey was removed from a similar American F-35 project. , which was spent a lot of money from the Turkish budget.
The Russian-Turkish cooperation today is really impressive - from the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant and the Turkish Stream (the second stage of which is scheduled for January 8, 2020) - to the famous Turkish tomatoes, which are known to be "round, red and delicious" .
Finally, most importantly, in the last five years, Ankara has solved its political problems solely with Moscow, while relations with Washington are built on a "step forward, two step backward" scheme, regardless of who in the White House, Barack Obama or Donald Trump. As the cherry on the cake, one can recall the unsuccessful visit of R. Erdogan to the United States, the resolutions of the House of Representatives and the US Senate on Armenian Genocide and sanctions against Turkey, talks about possible response measures - such as the recognition of the genocide of Indians and the closure of the Ingirlik military base. While for political dividends, Moscow is prepared to pay an economic price and share technology. And the place of Turkey in the priority list on Smolenskaya Street is much higher than in the list of preferences on the banks of the Potomac.
Under such circumstances, it is somewhat problematic to regard Turkey as a complete counterbalance to Russia's policy on the Black Sea.
Equally interesting is the situation with another Black Sea NATO member, Bulgaria. And it's not that Bulgaria is still very warm to Russia. In Bulgaria, blocking the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline was very painful. Construction of the gas pipeline began in 2012, and by 2015 gas had to go through it. However, in 2014, the European Parliament adopted a resolution recommending that the pipeline be abandoned and construction stopped.
According to the European Commission, there was no direct directive on the freezing of the construction, but the logic of the political struggle of the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's party with the socialists, who are considered pro-Russian in Bulgaria, dictated the refusal of the gas pipeline. Until recently, this issue was constantly raised by Borisov's political opponents, however, after the decision to join the Turkish Stream, the claims to the Prime Minister seemed to be smaller.
In addition, Bulgaria blocked the issue of establishing a NATO flotilla on the Black Sea. Add to this the presence of a powerful Russian lobby and the huge presence of Russian business in Bulgaria, and the picture will be complete.
Thus, treating Bulgaria as a reliable ally in counteracting Russia's policy on the Black Sea is also problematic.
Unlike Bulgaria and Turkey, there are no such issues for Romania, but Romania is the one exception that confirms the rule. Of the three members of the Black Sea North Atlantic Alliance, only one is ready to oppose Russian policy. Naturally, Ukraine, de facto at war with the Russian Federation, has the toughest resistance to the spread of Russian influence in the Black Sea. However, it is also clear that without support from Washington and Brussels, Kiev's capabilities in this direction are limited.
Georgia. The occupied territories factor
Like Ukraine, Georgia is the target of Russian aggression, but there is a nuance. And this nuance is that the hot phase of the war with Georgia was completed in August 2008 by the "recognition" of Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia as independent states. The "Independents" immediately formalized contracts for the deployment of Russian military bases and healed "beyond friendly bayonets."
The value of the occupied territories is far from uniform. Located in eastern Georgia, the occupied Tskhinvali region is a very convenient base for pressure on Tbilisi. The immediate proximity to Georgia's critical infrastructure has led to a policy of "borderisation" by the Russian Federation. In fact, the line of occupation that runs along the Soviet administrative border of the South Ossetian Autonomous Okrug is simpler to trace. It would take Russian border guards no more than two to three months. But the whole point of the process of "borderisation" in demonstrating the capabilities of the Russian Federation at any moment is to destabilize the situation in Georgia.
Unlike the so-called South Ossetia, the value of Abkhazia for the Russian Federation is immeasurably greater, and in many respects it is determined by coastline control. Georgia's entire coastline is 310 kilometers, most of which 210 kilometers are controlled by occupying forces. In 2008, in preparation for the aggression against Georgia, Russian specialists deepened the port of Ochamchira, which in August entered the rocket cruiser "Moscow", based in Sevastopol. There was no military necessity to use a rocket cruiser - Georgia did not have a fleet other than guard boats. But the Russian Federation needed to demonstrate its hegemony in this part of the Black Sea, which was done.
It is clear that after registration of the occupation in the form of "recognition", in the item. Gudauta and Ochamchir located 7th Russian military base (military unit 09332). According to the data Georgia Fund for Strategic Studies and International Studies GFSIS, a military contingent stationed in Abkhazia includes: four mechanized battalions, a tank battalion, a reconnaissance battalion, a sniper company, two battalions of self-propelled howitzers, a jet artillery battalion, an anti-tank artillery battalion, a battery of howitzers.
More than 40 T-72B3 tanks, more than 170 armored personnel carriers, 36 self-propelled howitzers 2C3 "Acacia", 18 rocket launchers BM-21 "Grad", 12 mortars 2C12 "Sani", 6 howitzers D-30, 12 self-propelled are in service with the base anti-tank missile systems, C-300 and C-400 anti-aircraft missile systems.
Obviously, the Russian Federation already has excess power in the area, able to take control of the entire coastline of Georgia - from Anaklia to Sarpi, if necessary. Georgia does not have the ability to counter this kind of actions by the Russian Federation. Moreover, both technical and political. The current leadership model of the current leadership of Georgia is not to irritate the Russian Federation as much as possible and not to create an occasion for relapse of aggression. This model may seem extremely reasonable to some, but the practice of relations with the Russian Federation shows that Moscow does not need an excuse for aggression. If necessary, the occasions are created quite simply and quickly. Therefore, the actual refusal to create a system of deterrence of the aggressor by military means puts Georgia in an extremely vulnerable position.
Regional projects - benefits and threats
It is clear that Georgia is unable to defend itself against possible recurrence of aggression by the Russian Federation. But there is scope for prevention, and political will is important here. Due to insufficient competence, I will not consider a purely military deterrent component. In the end, solving national security issues is a whole set of tasks, among which the military component is far from the only one.
One of the main components can and should be the interest of world and regional players in preserving Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. And this interest can be maintained and enhanced through the implementation of a number of regional infrastructure projects. Some of them have already been implemented. First of all, we are talking about such projects as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, the Southern Gas Corridor. But there is a nuance here as well.
Initially, the Russian Federation treated these projects extremely negatively and even took measures to counteract their implementation. Today the position has changed. In Moscow, the desire to join them has been repeatedly expressed. However, the leadership of the Russian Federation believes that it is enough to agree with Baku and Ankara, and Tbilisi's opinion can not be asked. Even with the current authorities, it is extremely uncomfortable to negotiate with Georgia for the Russian Federation. The realities are that, left alone with Moscow, with the interest of Azerbaijan and Turkey, Georgia has virtually no opportunity not only to oppose the plans of the Russian Federation, but also to try to extract at least some political dividends. Dividends are likely to be offered to individuals who depend on the resolution of specific issues, with personal dividends.
In 2004, Georgia, on the recommendation of Washington, refused to sell the North-South gas pipeline to the Russian Federation, which marked a sharpening of relations between the then leadership of the two countries. The current authorities, without receiving security guarantees from Georgia's partner countries, are unlikely to risk rejecting proposals such as the Trans-Siberian Railway connection to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway.
Even more complicated is the implementation of regional projects, which are perceived by the Russian Federation as contrary to its interests. The most significant fate of the White Sream project, which was originally conceived as a gas pipeline project from Georgia to Ukraine (Crimea), and in 2007, after Romania's accession to the EU, the pipeline route was adjusted from Georgia to Romania. Despite the approval of the European Commission, this project has never been implemented.
Ports of Georgia
To date, Georgia has two ports on the Black Sea: the port of Poti and the port of Batumi, as well as the Kulevi oil terminal owned by the Azerbaijan State Oil Corporation SOCAR.
According to Georgian media, the port of Poti is among the ten most expensive ports in the world. Operation of the berths during the storm is almost impossible. In the last twenty years the depth of the port has decreased from 11 to 8,4 meters. The port requires constant dredging, as the Rioni River deposits sediment into the water area of the port.
Due to the features of the port, only feeder container vessels come there. The lines operate with vessels with a maximum capacity up to 1200 TEU. The port is the main port of container shipments to Armenia, which has no access to the sea and the rail linking the country to the rest of the world.
The Poti Oil Transshipment Terminal (Channel Energy) is owned by the Petrocas Energy group, whose major shares are controlled by Rosneft (49% equity) and Russian businessman David Jakobashvili. In April 2011, 80% of the Port of Poti shares were sold to RAKIA by the Danish company APM Group (Maersk), a subsidiary of APM Terminals. On January 12, 2018, APM Terminals Poti and the Consortium of New Poti Terminals (PNTC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding which involves the construction of a new bulk cargo terminal.
The Batumi port is owned by the Kazakh company KazTransOil. The port has a container terminal, however, the overwhelming part of the cargo turnover of the port (80-90 percent) is the transportation of oil and petroleum products. Earlier this year, the US corporation Trammo signed a contract with the port of Batumi to build a mineral fertilizer terminal.
The cost of building the new terminal is more than $ 20 million. An interesting fact is that a month after the announcement of the conclusion of the contract for the construction of the terminal in Batumi, activists - “ecologists” suddenly appeared, protesting against the construction of a “chemical terminal that will poison the whole city”. Many experts then suggested that the "hand of Moscow" could be behind it, however, this case was not examined by anyone, and therefore no specific evidence is available. In recent days, unconfirmed information has emerged about the possibility of buying the port of Batumi by Armenia (managed to get a rebuttal).
And finally, the most interesting case is the story of the construction of the deep-water port of Anakliya. The construction of a new deep-water port in western Georgia was conceived in recent years by the Saakashvili Party of the National Movement. However, after 2012, the new authorities have abandoned this project, just like many other projects initiated by previous authorities.
Returned to the project in 2015, the then-resuscitator of the project was then Prime Minister Georgi Kvirikashvili, with political support from the United States. In 2016, the Anaclius Development Consortium was founded. This company was founded by the Georgian company TBC Holding and the American company Conti International LLC. To date, the consortium also includes SSA Marine (US), British Wondernet Expres (Central Asia) G-Star Ltd. (Bulgaria).
However, following the resignation of Kvirikashvili in the summer of 2018, the Georgian authorities have made every effort to freeze the project. As a result of the uncertainty, the initiation of a criminal case against the founders of the TVS group Mamuki Khazaradze and Badri Dzhaparidze (the criminal case is not related to the construction of the port) and the authorities' refusal to provide guarantees, the project left the main investor - American company Conti International LLC.
By the end of the year, the Anaclius Development Consortium was to provide credit agreements signed with banks. The financial deal involves receiving $ 400 million from international financial institutions - EBRD, EIB, OPIC and NDB, but they require certain conditions that the government has disagreed with. The closing of the financial transaction was postponed six times. And there are almost no hopes for a favorable outcome. The government, represented by the Minister of Economy, Natiya Turnava, has already stated that as soon as the official deadline expires, it will present its plan to exit the situation.
The construction of the deep-water port of Anakliya is of utmost importance, both for Georgia and for the security architecture of the entire Black Sea region. The fact is that after the implementation of this project, Georgia will be able to take vessels with large displacement, which is important not only from an economic but also from a military point of view. It is no coincidence that the US State Department, NATO representatives have expressed their concern about the situation surrounding the project, not to mention many Western politicians and experts. In spite of all this, there is still a car there, and it seems there will be an indefinite time there.
Despite the fact that the reasons for the freezing of the project of construction of the port of Anaklia are not one or two, the fact that the Russian authorities do not like this project and consider it as a threat to their commercial and security interests is a fact that is beyond doubt.
1. The Russian occupation of Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia, the annexation of Crimea and hostilities in the Donbass have created a new political reality in the Black Sea region, in which the Russian Federation already controls much of the Black Sea, and, if necessary, can put the whole region under its control.
2. The Russian Federation has succeeded in building relations with Turkey and Bulgaria (two NATO members located in the region) in such a way that the political motivation of Sofia and Ankara to resist the spread of Russian military influence is minimized.
3. Opportunities to counteract the aggressive actions of the Russian Federation in Georgia and even in Ukraine are extremely limited. In the case of Georgia, the situation is aggravated by the lack of political will of the authorities to resist the aggression of the Russian Federation and the introduction of an attempt to appease the aggressor by way of concessions. At the same time, more than 70% of the population of Georgia support the course on the Euro-Atlantic integration of the country.
4. Russia's accession to the regional projects of Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan objectively contributes to the growth of Russian influence in the South Caucasus, which accordingly affects the Black Sea security as a whole.
5. The project to build the deep-water port of Anakliya is strategically important not only for Georgia but for the entire security system in the South Caucasus. 6. The assistance of Georgia's Western partners is an important component in enhancing the country's defense capability, but without a full-fledged Georgia membership in NATO or a treaty on the status of a non-aligned US ally with strong security guarantees, it is not possible to speak of a complete security architecture on the Black Sea.
Gela Vasadze, Leading Expert of the Georgian Center for Strategic Analysis (GSAC)