Thursday, April 28, 2022

Return of the Black Sea Convoy?

The commercial folks sure would like it;
The world's largest shipping management firm has requested that NATO provide naval escorts for shipping in the Black Sea amid concerns that vessels could be at risk as a result of conflict in Ukraine, the Financial Times reported.

The CEO of V.Group, René Kofod-Olsen, told the outlet that NATO intervention is merited due to the region's importance for shipments of food. According to the paper, the conflict in Ukraine has made the northernmost third of the Black Sea unsafe for shipping.

"We should demand that our seafaring and marine traffic is being protected in international waters. I'm sure Nato and others have a role to play in the protection of the commercial fleet," Kofod-Olsen told the FT.

According to NATO, floating mines have been found and deactivated in the Western Black Sea by authorities of countries that border the waterway. The organization also said that "threat of collateral damage or direct hits on civilian shipping" in part of the Black Sea remains high.

V.Group did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

NATO has so far declined V.Group's request, according to the FT.
"Russia's naval presence in the Black Sea has disrupted maritime commerce even before its invasion of Ukraine," the military alliance told the paper. "Nato is not considering a naval mission to escort ships in the Black Sea, but Nato allies that have coastal borders — Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey — have deployed ships to find and neutralize any mines that may be in the area."
Let's go to the map room.

It is clear that the Black Sea is a NATO sea. Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey own almost half of its coastline ... and yet even with the mine threat long standing from the start of the war, it is also clear that NATO is going to avoid any risk to conflict by getting further in to the Black Sea outside of what the three NATO coastal nations are doing.

I can argue both sides, but given the historical habit of problems at sea translating quickly in to conflict ashore, I can understand the caution. 

The economies, and stomachs, that rely on the free flow of goods at market prices from the Black Sea will just have to absorb the cost of mitigating conflict risk.

The great irony here is that Bulgaria, and to an extent Romania, all owe their status to the military actions of Imperial Russia in the 19th and 18th Centuries against the Ottoman Empire. Now those nations are aligned with the Ottoman successor state against Russia.

History is funny that way sometimes.

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