December 2015 – TURKEY – The Russian Defense Ministry has terminated all cooperation with the Turkish armed forces after Turkey’s air force shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber on the Syria-Turkey border on Nov. 24. What are the potential implications of this break in military relations between the countries, and could it affect the ability of the Russian fleet to enter and leave the Black Sea? However, the interruption of cooperation with the Turkish military carries a certain risk where the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits in the Black Sea are concerned. Nations wishing to use the straits linking the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, which are entirely in Turkish territory, are required to follow the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits. The convention, which was signed on July 20, 1936 in the Swiss town of Montreux and is regularly extended, had a duration of 20 years. In peaceful times the convention limits the passage of military ships belonging to non-Black Sea countries through the straits. When entering the waters ships are limited to a weight of 15,000 tons.
Moreover, there are limits on the collective tonnage of vessels present in the Black Sea: 30,000 tons for all non-Black Sea countries together. There is also a limit on the time that a ship can spend in the waters: three weeks. In many cases countries with Black Sea coastlines are free to send their submarines through the straits, as well as large ships without a weight limit, as long as they abide by certain conditions stipulated in the convention, the responsibility for maintaining which lies with Turkey. If Turkey finds itself at war or threatened by war, it has the right to permit or forbid any military vessels to pass through the straits. If Turkey is not participating in the war, then the straits are closed to ships belonging to the warring countries.
“The conditions of maritime navigation through the Black Sea straits are regulated by international law, by the Montreux Convention, and obviously here we count on the constancy of the norms concerning free navigation through the Black Sea straits,” said Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov on Nov. 27. According to Lieutenant General Yevgeny Buzhinsky, former head of the international treaty directorate at the Russian Defense Ministry, Turkey is “very vigilant about the implementation of the Montreux Convention. I don’t think that Turkey, even in these tense conditions with Russia, will want to violate the Montreux Convention, because if Turkey begins violating it, it will be very difficult to restore it. We can ask the question: can Turkey close the straits to Russia? Theoretically, yes. But to do so, it must declare war on Russia, since the Montreux Convention states that only in the event of a war can Turkey close the straits,” said Buzhinsky. –Russia BTH
Closing the Straits – Bosphorus Naval News: The Montreux Convention dictates an 8 day notification period for the Black Sea Powers. This means if any Black Sea nation wants to move their ships through Turkish Straits, they have to notify Turkey 8 days prior this crossing. Therefore if Russian Navy has decided on 24th November after the shooting down of Su-24M, to send more warships to Syria, 2nd December 2015 is the earliest day these ships can pass through Turkish Straits.
Russia must have an unlimited access to Turkish Straits. The so called Syrian Express deployments of Russian Ropucha and Alligator class landing ships and auxiliaries are vitally important to keep Russian troops inside Syria supplied. If Russia cannot send its ships through Turkish Straits for any reason, the Russian soldiers deployed in Syria may find themselves in a very similar position of General Paulus’ Army. This is an important reason, why the Russian counter aggression to the shooting of its plane is (and will remain) asymmetrical. This is why Russians are trying to hurt Turkey with diplomatic and economical responses rather than military actions. –Turkish Navy