The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Sunday, August 24, 2008
The "Blue Water" US Presence in Black Sea hovers off Georgia
Just be glad that John Kerry is not in the White House right now.
The allied naval flotilla now in the area is a blue-water force and may in certain respects be superior to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, whose flagship the cruiser Moskva was reported damaged in combat by the Georgian navy. A Burke-class destroyer is considerably more powerful than anything the Georgian Navy could have deployed. While it is extremely unlikely that any actual naval confrontation will occur (Cold War Rule Number 1) there could be a return to Cold War era harassments between the two forces. At any rate, the Russians have sought to impede the ships not by naval means, but by denying the ships access to the land. The AP reported: “Around Georgia’s main Black Sea port city of Poti — outside any security zone — signs seemed to point to a prolonged presence. Russian troops excavated trenches, set up mortars and blocked a key bridge with armored personnel carriers and trucks. Other armored vehicles and trucks parked in a nearby forest.”
But the game can be played both ways. Since the port is technically Georgian, one wonders whether Russian supply ships would be allowed to dock there without permission from Tbilisi. In the end, neither side might have the port. And the presence of a possibly superior US naval force in the Black Sea, which carries a third of Russian seaborne commerce can only be disquieting to Moscow. Especially if the current naval force is only a harbinger of more to come. As previous posts have noted, the Georgian crisis will essentially be a Naval and Air game. OIF, while it soaked up the ground forces, actually liberated US Naval Forces from having to blockade the Gulf, spared the USAF from having to enforce a No-Fly Zone and gave them bases within flying range of the Black Sea.
The arrival of the USS Mount Whitney is interesting because it implies that the “relief operation” might get much larger. By exploiting the fear generated by the Russian incursion into Georgia, the USN may position a presence in the Black Sea than heretofore, something Russia probably doesn’t want. But how will they stop it without directly confronting the US? Maybe they should consider cashing in their chips and remove their forces from Georgia proper. Moscow has made its point but to carry things further may no longer be to Russia’s advantage.