The Murky Sea of Azov 618


Prima facie, it is Russia which is acting illegally in the Kerch Strait. As I wrote when it was the Russians who were being harassed in the English Channel:

Contrary to Article 44 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which the UK and Russia are both party, the UK has engaged in extensive illegal harassment of a Russian naval submarine engaged in fully lawful transit of the Dover Strait.

A Russian naval vessel en route between the Baltic and Black Seas is fully and specifically entitled under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea Articles 37 and 38 to the right of passage through the strait. This is in addition to the general right of passage through the territorial sea at Article 17. The Russian navy was in full compliance with the provision at Article 20 that, while in territorial waters, the submarine must be on the surface and displaying its flag, and in compliance with Articles 29 to 32 on warships.

Not only does the Russian Navy have every right to sail through the Dover strait on passage, it has been exercising that right – along with many other navies – for over a hundred years. The decision of the British government now to employ military harassment and threat is not only illegal, it is a gross and entirely deliberate act of provocation designed to sour international relations and disturb the atmosphere of world peace.

The author of this article, Craig Murray is a former Head of the Maritime Section of the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and former Alternate Head of the United Kingdom Delegation to the United Nations Preparatory Commission on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. He is a retired British Ambassador.

Russia is very definitely acting illegally in putting military personnel of another state on television to make statements, whether coerced or not (personally I found them precisely as believable – no more and no less – as Yulia Skripal’s strained statement to British TV).

Please note that Ukrainian ships have the right of innocent passage through the Kerch Strait irrespective of whether the Crimean side is viewed as Ukrainian or Russian. The coastal state does have the right to make arrangements for maritime safety which may include designating sea lanes and a notification regime akin to air traffic control. If Ukraine violated these provisions, (which seems probable), Russia had a right to take enforcement action. But that enforcement action specifically does not extend to substantive detention of vessels and crew.

The situation changes if Russia genuinely has evidence that the military vessels were engaged in a military attack. But it only changes, and the civilian rules only cease to apply, if one side or the other acknowledges that a state of war now exits. Ukraine came close to this
by demanding that its servicemen be treated as prisoners of war. There is no option to treat uniformed military personnel of another state as terrorists. But if Russia does not acknowledge a state of war, it has to let them go. Russia is certainly not entitled to impose a wider blockade of the strait to shipping to or from Ukraine – any more than Israel is entitled to blockade Gaza.

Given that Russia appears on the face of it to be very much in the wrong, the western powers have been remarkably quiet. I suspect this indicates knowledge that Poroshenko was indeed engaged in some sort of stupid stunt. In which case the Russians have played into his hands by a disproportionate reaction. Poroshenko’s own action in declaring martial law is of course also wildly disproportionate. My sense is that we have here two Presidents each with slipping popularity ratings, deliberately escalating a crisis as it suits each domestically. Such playing with fire is wildly irresponsible, far too many people have died in Ukraine already.

I expect the usual howls of protest from people for whom the application of impartial international law is anathema, who believe you must be on the side of the “goodies” against the “baddies”. I am aware that rationality and impartiality are not much valued in political discourse nowadays. I shall however stick to them with stoic resolve.


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618 thoughts on “The Murky Sea of Azov

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  • John2o2o

    That may be a fair point, but surely for example the occupation of Afghanistan by the United States for the last seventeen years is orders of many magnitude worse than this silly spat. Or do poor brown people not count for much?

    • Andyoldlabour

      @John2o2o,

      We have been doing that in the region for the past 100 years and more, and you are quite right it is a “racial” thing. Our elite and military do consider brown skinned people to be a few castes below us.
      Add to that a good splash of US “exceptionalism” and UK “poodling”, and things are not going to change any time soon.

  • certa certi

    Ratcheting up tensions

    This Russian propaganda site carried an interesting item earlier this month –

    ‘The fact that more than 3 thousand tons of products of the Alchevsk Metallurgical Plant were detained in Mariupol, said the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yury Lutsenko earlier. According to him, those involved in the incident will be prosecuted under the Criminal Code for financing terrorism. The Prosecutor General also noted that these actions are a response to the Russian sanctions imposed on November 1 against Ukraine.’

    http://www.maritimeherald.com/2018/cargo-ship-comet-detained-in-ukraine-left-the-port-of-mariupol/

    ‘1997-built, Liberia-flagged, 5,997 gt Comet is owned by Nadir Shipping Co Ltd care of manager Johann M K Blumenthal GmbH & Co KG of Hamburg, Germany. ISM manager is Blumenthal Asia Pte Ltd of Singapore. It is entered with Skuld (Hamburg business unit) on behalf of Blumenthal Asia Pte Ltd.’

    https://insurancemarinenews.com/insurance-marine-news/marine-accident-round-up-6th-november-2018/

    • certa certi

      It’s consistent with a pattern of escalating responses from both Russia and Ukraine –

      ‘Measures to implement Presidential Executive Order On Special Economic Measures in Connection with Ukraine’s Unfriendly Actions towards Citizens and Legal Entities of the Russian Federation
      1 November 2018 ‘

      http://government.ru/en/docs/34529/

    • Andyoldlabour

      @Mochyn69,

      Bullying has always gone on in schools and in my experience was largely ignored by teachers. The bullies pick on anyone who is perceived to be “different”, in this case it was the two poor Syrians.
      In my case, it was because I had a Northern accent, had ginger hair and had a slight physical deformity.

  • MFB

    Obviously the Ukrainians have, and should have, the right of innocent passage through the Kerch Straits into the Sea of Azov. However, if the passage is not innocent, or even if the Russians just suspect that the passage is not innocent (as in warships behaving strangely and not responding to communications or following protocols) then surely this invalidates the right of innocent passage and the Russians have, and should have, the right to stop and search the vessels involved.

    The matter is of course complicated by the fact that the Russians view both shores of the straits as their own, whereas the Ukrainians claim to own the western shore and just to have been temporarily deprived of access to is by Russian aggression. But I don’t think the matter is as clear-cut as Mr. Murray claims.

    Meanwhile, subsequent developments appear to have vindicated the Russians (most particularly the very weird declaration of martial law in parts of Ukraine where the government’s writ largely does not run).

    Also, Mr. Murray’s conclusion — that both sides are trying to boost their popularity — seems a little forced. I really doubt that most Russians care tremendously much about the Russian Navy being able to subdue a couple of Ukrainian coastal motorboats, or being capable of defending Russian infrastructure if appropriate. (I mean I don’t think anybody in St Petersburg loses a lot of sleep over the Ukrainian menace in the way that so many Britons and Americans seem to cry themselves to sleep over Putin’s looming peril.) Meanwhile, the Poroshenko government’s motives seem extremely seedy, and in their case I think Mr. Murray is largely correct. So this is a rather spurious “both sides do it”, whereas in fact one side is doing something foolish, and the other side is doing something more or less legitimate (if arguably heavy-handed).

  • That's what they want you to think....

    Having read the full article posted at the time, I have yet to see any evidence of “harassment” by Royal Navy ships/submarines or even aircraft. Perhaps Craig could explain why shadowing a submarine through the Dover Strait is “harassment”? Is gathering intelligence in plain view harassment?
    Here is another incident when a broken-down Russian “SSBN” Severodvinsk (K-329) transited the same region with it’s tug boat despite protests from Greenpeace and CND. Presumably by the same logic Greenpeace too are guilty of “harassment” of the disabled Russian submarine.
    https://www.rt.com/op-ed/345996-russian-sub-uk-media/

    Maybe you (Craig) could explain the rules of the sea regarding defective nuclear armed and nuclear powered submarines operating their Nuclear Plant within a couple of miles of a third parties coast? Let me help, the IAEA (of which the Russian Federation is a member) requires permission should a reactor need to be operated within 5 miles of a third parties coast.
    https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/Pub1624_web.pdf

  • Jacob

    International law dictates that the Kerch Strait has been territorial Russian water since Crimea voted to join Russia, and ‘innocent passage’ is allowed when you follow the laws and regulations of the territorial country. Poroshenko would only dare this provocation upon orders from or – at least – after receiving the green light from the US Deep State. Poreshenko’s primary goal was likely to introduce martial law in his own country and cancel the elections he would surely lose. It has been a long time since the US or its vassal states cared about the rules of international law anyway.

    • That's what they want you to think....

      And there you have the reasoning behind the annexation of Crimea. You can effectively blockade the Eastern Ukraine from the sea, simples! Invade from the East, tanks and artillery are already there, meanwhile there are now travel restrictions on Russian males, expect expulsions from Ukraine now.

      • Andyoldlabour

        Following the coup (US backed) in Ukraine in 2014, the Crimean Council ruled that the interim government led by Yanukovytch was illegitimate, and that their referendum was a direct result of that.
        The voter turnout was 83%, and 96% voted to join the Russian federation.
        The present governemnt in Kiev is a very hard right wing collection of militias, some of whom have direct links back to the Nazis. Kiev hates Russia, but there are large numbers of Russians living in Ukraine, particularly Eastern Ukraine in the Donbass area. This is where Poroschenko intents to implement martial law.

      • Tom Welsh

        @Kempe:

        “Russia’s annexation of Crimea has not been recognised internationally”.

        First of all, what do you mean by “internationally”? Everyone knows that the “international community” consists of the USA and its bitches (of which there are very many, owing to the widespread popularity of money).

        The UN General Assembly voted pretty heavily to condemn Crimea’s rejoining Russia, but there was rather more to the voting than you might think at first sight.

        Look at the map on https://www.quora.com/Has-any-country-recognized-Crimea-as-a-part-of-Russia

        Note that, if you count “absent” as the same as “abstained”, most of Asia either voted against the motion or abstained. (Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Japan being the main exceptions). Most of Africa abstained, with a few countries voting against but more for. Most of South America abstained, with about as many countries for as against.

        That represents by far the greater part of the human race mostly abstaining. The nations that voted for the motion are almost all those that are controlled by the USA, or those whose rulers are heavily dependent on the USA and could be got rid of if they try to assert any independence. (As, for example, Rafael Correa of Ecuador was).

        • Borncynical

          Tom

          Put quite simply “the international community” recognises referendums that suit its agenda but rejects referendums that don’t. “The international community” as you correctly define it thinks that they are entitled to pass judgement on behalf of the whole world and woe betide anyone who disputes this.

          • Borncynical

            Tom (at 20.42)
            In some ways I wish it could indeed be described as a “clever propagandistic coinage”. Unfortunately, and more disturbingly, I think TPTB actually genuinely believe that they have the right and the superiority over all other countries to justify giving themselves the nomenclature without a second thought. I recall Samantha Power – whilst promoting her autobiography on Radio 2 (Steve Wright Show, would you believe) a couple of years ago – declaring in total seriousness that she “cannot imagine a world where the US didn’t take the lead”.

  • nevermind

    I expect the Ukrainian elections to get more coverage here than any other EU elections, I expect there to be a ‘Russian election interference’ story to feature in the BIBICE, anything will do. Porous Choclenko is third or fourth in the popularity charts and these sort of shenanigans don’t do the trick for him anymore, so who will get our western backing in this bare back contest of fascinistas.

    After the first 5 bn dollars of subversion monies there is much more to come I feel, Trumpmerica is feeling epic and great again , so the destabilisation of Russia will carry on.
    Onward’s. towards our Victorian ideals, let the grand chess game commence.

      • Sharp Ears

        GG had Norman Baker, ex LD MP, in the studio discussing the strange death of Dr David Kelly. Calling for a proper inquiry so unlike the Hutton farce. He seems to be making a film as he mentioned crowd funding.

        His Twitter refers.

        Pinned Tweet https://twitter.com/georgegalloway/status/1067800356632100864
        George Galloway
        @georgegalloway
        Nov 28
        URGENT and IMPORTANT: last night we moved mountains -including financial ones – on Social Media. NOW we need to do the same for #JusticeForKelly I need pledges of £28k in 28 days or the truth stays buried. #KillingKelly by George Galloway — Kickstarter

        Sputnik Orbiting. The episode was shown on Freeview Ch 234 at 9.30 and will be repeated at 1.30pm GMT I didn’t have time to watch the second half so do not know what came up.

        The website is out of date btw.

  • Ewan Maclean

    Mr. Murray,
    You judged that, on the face of it, Russia appeared to be the one breaking the law.

    As I understand: Ukraine did not notify Russia before sending its vessels. The vessels sought to avoid Russian interception and drew weapons on the Russians. The Russians then had the right (did they not) to go aboard and take control of the vessels. The Russians temporarily obstructed navigation under the bridge (given that Ukraine had repeatedly threatened sabotage, it seems to me that to do otherwise would have been negligent). Russia had a right (did it not) to detain the Ukrainian sailors and security service operatives (although not to parade them). It had the right to publish the orders the vessels were operating under (which required the poor mariners to attempt a clandestine passage through Russian waters! – I don’t think Kiev particularly wanted its mariners to survive.)

    On closer inspection, do you still think that it was Russia breaking the law, and not Ukraine?

    • Jo

      Yup…and the head of ukraine navy clearly confessing that while Kiev was hosting an international conference on maritime security they decided that they must test the effectiveness of their gunboats..against Russia….clearly false bravado…clearly provocative..fulfilling many objectives to keep up tensions…extend or increase sanctions…trying to ensure that this non nato or eu country can call upon both of those to escalate the situation….uk idiot says uk must send a warship…plus usa reps of some sort saying similar….see the photos of the ships were carrying machine guns explosives….whole tugboat could have been loaded with explosives inside or under the hull….other shipping has been captured by ukraine.and innocent operatives incarcerated and ships being auctioned off…ukraine itself says it has seized 15 ships and has another 450 being kept an eye for possible seizure….note Kiev hosts major arms fairs and would do anything that they would dumfoundedly believe bolsters their position as an authoritive historic arms supplier…..hopefully their delusionalism will bring them down even sooner…..and yes note day of the incident was also a date when Minsk meeting was supposed to take place in Berlin and we know ukraine will do everything to avoid that implementation….and acknowledge the recent elections in Donbass. Mr Murray….yours profoundly disappointed in your post. Though regularly following and commenting on your website and I thank you for those opportunities God help us if you are truly representative on the standard of uk diplomatic service.

    • Carl

      “It is now becoming abundantly clear that the provocation was not only breathtakingly stupid and irresponsible, but also breathtakingly poorly planned and executed”

      The Poro hallmark.

      • Loftwork

        Even more than the journalist who was ‘assassinated’ by Russia but suddenly rose from the dead? Poroschenko is another deceitful, left-over oligarch, his instincts are no different from all the other Ukrainian oligarchs who profit by feeding off the people. If it wasn’t for NATO support for warlords of convenience I suspect the Ukraine would be well on its way to rebuilding and democracy.

        • Tony_0pmoc

          Loftwork,

          When I was a kid, The Ukraine was The Intellectual Powerhouse of The World. They not only developed the best, and cheapest photographic technology ( I still have my Zenith 35mm SLR, and my Zenith Enlarger) bought 50 years ago – designed and built in The Ukraine (at the time it was better than the German and Japanese competetion). The Ukraine also developed the most productive, and successful oil exploration and drilling technology, turning Russia from an oil poor state, to one of the most productive oil producing Nations in The World.

          So I find it so sad, that the people of The Ukraine, are again going through such atrocious times, and being incited to fight each other, and their once very fertile lands being destroyed, by the USA and its European lapdog governments who are a Complete Disgrace to the Human Race.

          I also like Moldovians and Latvians. They hate their Fascist governments too, and are embarrassed by The Polish, who also used to be brilliant, and always very welcome in England. I grew up with them.

          Join The Club.

          Tony

          • Duncan B

            Hi Tony
            You are probably a bit older than me, but I remember Ukraine as the breadbasket of the USSR, although not an particularly rich place academically. I never heard “Intellectual Powerhouse of The World” being used in the same breath as Ukraine before.

            I do remember Zenit cameras, and a friend bought a Zenit E with a 58mm Helios lens from Jessops in the early 80’s, I think. It was rubbish: heavy as fuck, shutter speeds inaccurate, and a woefully inadequate flash sync speed. It wasn’t even very cheap really, and east German Prakticas were a much better bet. I’ve just had a look on Wikipedia, and notice that they were made in Krasnogorsk, near Moscow and in Belarus, so no Ukrainian connection I can see. In comparison to the far more costly Nikons and Canons from Japan they really were just primitive bricks. I don’t remember enlargers, though I do have somewhere in the loft a meopta which was made in Czechoslovakia when it was behind the Iron Curtain.
            I didn’t know that Ukraine “developed the most productive, and successful oil exploration and drilling technology, turning Russia from an oil poor state, to one of the most productive oil producing Nations in The World” either. I thought Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and other middle east countries had orders of magnitude more oil reserves and production?
            I agree with you the fate of Ukraine since the break up of the USSR has been a tragedy. I know a Ukranian man called Krywonos to have a drink with, who has lived in the UK for decades. He told me ages ago that back home there has been a big resurgence of ether drinking because it’s cheaper than alcohol. Some kind of indicator of the terrible poverty there, apparently, although historically it has been a popular intoxicant, uniquely in the World. Ukraine has the highest ether abuse in the Worl.
            I didn’t understand your last paragraph at all though. Sounds as if you might be on the ether yourself?

  • Ralph

    Craig, there is a report that the kiev regime is planning on using chemical weapons in the Donbass (former eastern ukraine), as a pretext for attacking the independent republic(s).

    And guess who is planning on helping them? No less than the British military!!! No wonder williamson went to the front there in June this year, AND military specialists from UK reported to be near the front there this month.

    What contacts have you got in the British Government to prevent this from happening?

          • Tom Welsh

            I wonder what the world looks like to someone who immediately believes any report from a distant area, by people who live there, to be “propaganda”.

            Whereas no doubt you would claim that articles on the topic written in London and New York would be perfectly accurate and completely unbiased.

          • Ralph

            You obviously don’t understand the nature of the warfare in that region. If you knew the people reporting it, and contrasted them with the people attacking them, you would much sooner come to a more sober and informed rather than off-hand and glib, comment like that. Those demented attacking idiots had no qualms about shooting at a water purification plant, with chlorine stores, and just maybe you could comprehend what would have happened if a chlorine gas cloud was released on the civilians living nearby.

          • Tom Welsh

            @Ralp[h:

            “…just maybe you could comprehend what would have happened if a chlorine gas cloud was released on the civilians living nearby”.

            I am pretty certain that the US government and its catamites would denounce the local city government for using chemical weapons against the Ukrainian army.

            How do I know that? Well, there’s this place called Syria…

          • Kempe

            The report comes from the Russian backed opposition. The possibility that it might just be propaganda, or preparing the ground for a “false flag” chemical attack, can’t be ruled out.

    • laguerre

      I wouldn’t have thought Ukrainian forces were in a state to launch an offensive. They’re all freezing without heating, aren’t they, what with 13 cities being without heating, as they haven’t paid the bills.

      • Ralph

        You’re using logic and reason, which doesn’t work in ukraine. They have bat-shit crazy people there, especially in the Government (which includes radicals/neo-nazis). poroshitko is quite willing – and has done so – again to use ukrainians as cannon fodder, as well as allowing the US controlled IMF to demand increased gas and electricity prices beyond anything reasonable, otherwise kiev won’t get IMF loans, which more than likely get laundered back into Western bank accounts, while the public is saddled with the debts. Those affected are over 1 million people, which includes people who have paid, yet if there are any non-payers in a block of flats, *everybody* in it has their energy cut off.

      • Tom Welsh

        A tank engine keeps you fairly warm – as long as it has fuel.

        Of course a tank that has just been struck by an anti-tank missile becomes even warmer – for a while.

    • Borncynical

      In the first episode of the BBC documentary on the FCO, shown two weeks ago, the British Ambassador was filmed talking to a senior Ukrainian military official close to the Donbass ‘frontline’ and she casually and openly asked him to let her know what they might be in need of in fighting against the separatists as the UK would do what it could to support them and help them out. She wasn’t to be seen meeting with the unfortunate civilians or separatists suffering at the hands of the Ukrainian Govt and neo -Nazi militias to hear their story. And the West has the audacity to accuse the Russians of ‘meddling’ in the Ukrainian civil strife.

  • GFL

    Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and Crimea all had elections to decide who the people wanted to govern them. Two were the democratic wishes of the people the other was annexed, Bet you can’t guess.

    • Ralph

      Or, why was Scotland allowed to have a referendum on independence – which would have been recognised by the British Government – yet the people in the former eastern Ukraine do not have theirs recognised?

      • Tony_0pmoc

        Ralph,

        I recognise it, and suggest that most people, who know anything about it do too.

        The fact that the completely repugnant Western CIA controlled governments don’t recognise it, should give ample opportunity for the populations supposedly under their control, to not recognise them, and if eg Scottish, the majority of the Scottish people clearly demonstrate their wish for Scottish Independence, to not recognise the discredited SNP government, attempting to control them with a bunch of complete lies and threats, and declare their own Independence, form their own central bank, issue their own currency, and tell these idiots supposedly in control to F’ck Off.

        I don’t think they will do a Spanish style Catalan job on them. The Scottish people would beat them to a pulp if they tried. I know what they are like. I am amazed they didn’t realise the Scottish Referendum was bent. I am convinced the Scottish voted for Independence and want to escape what is close to being a British Police State controlled by lying incompetent globalist morons, who long ago stopped making any sense.

        Tony

      • Tom Welsh

        Ralph, I think it may be because some people are more equal than others.

        That’s why nearly 3000 Americans and Europeans killed on 9/11 (by whom?) needed over 3 million Asians to be killed in revenge. It’s pretty clear who matters more, and by how much – in this case about 1,000 to 1.

        But we’re not racists. Oh no. Perish the thought.

        • Ralph

          Tom, this is also why I mentioned PNAC earlier on, which stands for the Project for the New American Century (written in 1998), the neocon doctrine of keeping the USA the number one and sole super power for the WHOLE of this century.

  • Loftwork

    As usual a clear and concise setting out of the applicable rules. I can’t speak to the arrest and detention of the Ukrainian ‘sailors’ but as a sailor I’ve often worked in narrow straits with defined channels in shallow banks. It doesn’t take a genius to see why there are passage lights and why enforcement action is required if you start navigating like a lane-swerving drunk on the M25 during rush hour. Apparently there were additional notification protocols in force which were ignored without warning? So it was certainly a provocation, and I’m not sure what enforcement short of arrest would have been appropriate or possible. The Russian reply was probably excessive and the sailors could have been discharged with an unenforceable fine. But Poroshenko’s well-reported plea for NATO intervention and the supportive G6 reply is, sadly, reminiscent of the NATO-inspired Maidan rebellion that brought this repugnant oligarch to power.

    • Tony_0pmoc

      Loftwork,

      We once ran aground in The Thames. My wife was driving the boat. I found it completely hilarious. We ended up with about 20 people on board rocking the boat. Eventually it floated agin, when the tide came in.

      Tony

      • Loftwork

        I once spent several months with a captain on the inland waterway in the Eastern US getting stranded on every sandbar in the canal. Lost three anchors in the process. But it was warm and sunny!

  • Sharp Ears

    Published on Nov, 30, 2018
    US Military Contractor Is Hiring Personnel To Support Classified ‘Contingency Operations’ In Ukraine

    A US contractor accidentally revealed a US military specialist deployment in the combat zones in Ukraine via an Job Advertisement on LinkedIn.

    Similarly to the Atlantic Council’s report on independence of Eastern European countries, as well as the meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, the posting comes days before the escalation in the Sea of Azov.

    /..
    https://off-guardian.org/2018/11/30/us-military-contractor-is-hiring-personnel-to-support-classified-contingency-operations-in-ukraine/?

    Apologies if already posted

    h/t TLN

    • Jo

      This job spec seems to confirm that persons recruited will be trained as spies and saboteurs in Donbass and Crimean regions….at the least to support them…..and even possibly support terrorist actions in Russia. Ye gods.

    • bj

      If it was accidental, we may assume such hiring is going on all the time, unbeknownst to us.
      If that assumption is correct, there is no reason to link this particular job advert to the Sea of Azov-incident.

  • Tom Welsh

    Oddly enough, it took an article by Pat Buchanan to focus my attention on an intriguing fact. All marine access to and from the Black Sea is controlled by one nation: Turkey. There is a treaty laying down rules for access, but essentially Turkey holds the master switch. If the Turkish government says “No”, on the whole “No” it is.

    Yet, as Craig and others have pointed out, Turkey is only one of six nations bordering the Black Sea. (The others are Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Rumania and Bulgaria).

    Contrast that situation with the laws and treaties governing the Kerch Strait, which allow ships of all nations to come and go unless in exceptional circumstances.

    Isn’t it odd that the far larger and more strategic Black Sea is subject to a choke point owned by Turkey – whereas, in normal conditions, all nations have access to and from the Sea of Azov? (Provided, of course, they can get to the Black Sea to start with).

    • Tony_0pmoc

      Tom,

      The Bulgarians did a full inspection, and there was lots of mindless bureaucracy, form filling in, going from one office to the next, to do the same thing. The Greeks were much the same. The Turkish were no problem whatsoever. He just kept on going. Neither were the Italians, the Spanish, The Gibraltarians The Portuguese, The French, nor The British. He made lots of very good friends on the way, and no one gave him a hard time. He has done a similar thing in SE Asia mainly on land.

      Mind the gap?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flUxmdlhiHY

      Tony

  • Tom Welsh

    A number of comments have criticized Craig’s article for sticking too closely to the letter of the law, and thereby overlooking its spirit.

    It seems to me that the article and almost all the comments on it have focused on the trees, missing the wood completely.

    What is the wood, then? The fact that all the trouble in Ukraine – like the trouble in Georgia and Syria and Iraq and Libya and Afghanistan and Yugoslavia and many other countries – was deliberately stirred up by the US government in pursuit of what it considers its own interests.

    Before the illegal and very bloody coup d’etat which took place in Kiev in 2014 – when the legitimate and democratically elected President had to flee for his life to avoid the fate of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qadafi – the US State Department’s very own Victoria Nuland openly bragged that she had spent $5 billion of US taxpayers’ money to bring about the illegal coup. She then also openly discussed who should become the new prime minister of Ukraine. (When I say “openly”, I mean that she was apparently unaware that mobile phone conversations are not as private as an ignorant politician might hope).

    This, might I point out, from a senior official of a government that complains mightily about “Russian interference” in its elections! The government that had overthrown the legitimate governments of Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and (earlier) almost every country in Latin America, often killing the incumbent presidents and ministers and reducing those countries to ashes and ruins. The government that spent $5 billion to overthrow the legitimate, democratically elected government of Ukraine and did its very unpleasant, highly lethal, merciless best to overthrow the legitimate, democratically elected government of Syria.

    Every drop of blood that has been spilled (and every human body that was mercilessly fried) by the supporters of the Ukrainian coup is on the head of the US government. It is responsible for the return of Crimea to Russia, and for all the legal complications that arose thereby.

    So worrying a lot about chapter and verse of the Law of the Sea while ignoring Washington’s key role in this attempted genocide is a lot like Nero fiddling while Rome burned. Especially as Washington ignores international law, domestic law, and its own constitution whenever it chooses.

    • Republicofscotland

      Contemporary historian and chronicler Tacitus, claimed that Nero was in Antium during the fire, and it’s widely speculated that Nero fiddling whilst Rome burned was Flavian propaganda, probably put out by Vespasian.

      Interestingly after Nero’s death in 68AD, three imposters at different intervals claimed to be Nero, stirring up rebellion in the process. Two were hanged and the third fled to Rome’s enemy Parthia.

    • jjc

      I agree with Tom Welsh’s perspective. Further, a political compromise had been reached, brokered by several European states, whereby new elections in Ukraine would be moved up to December 2014. This would have allowed for a debate within the country as to the best way forward – EU Association, Russia’s counter-offer, or some form of compromise between the two – and a democratic vote expressing the will of the people. The response to this agreement by the more radical players was to storm the parliament and chase out the sitting democratically elected government. And then the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada promptly recognized this unconstitutional illegal act as somehow “legitimate”. Those three countries are the true destabilizers of Ukraine.

      Note that, in Ukraine’s federal election in 2012, the political figure most aligned with EU Agreement and membership in NATO polled less than 6%. Yet two years later, such policies found new life undemocratically and amidst a polity of crisis. That is, frankly, a coup. Also, NATO had commissioned a report during the so-called “Orange Revolution” in mid-2000s which concluded that Russia would likely respond to attempts to bring Ukraine into NATO by asserting control over Crimea and its naval bases. The policy would be pushed forth anyway, ten years later, with predictable result – yet with NATO spokespersons expressing “shock” and “surprise” at the resulting events.

  • Nick

    Whether you love him or hate him (or just know that his opponents are even worse) Trump’s platform for election (a plank or two at least) was a promise to pull out of costly, useless, destructive foreign wars. Something I think normal folks on both sides of the aisle support. We’ve seen so many disastrous, wrong, hateful wars for clearly bogus reasons.

    We’ve also seen plenty of leaders get elected on this promise only to turn round and do the opposite.

    What if Trump, for all his egregious faults, wanted to keep his word? What if he thought the course humanity seemed to be headed meant a war to end all wars? What if he realised our wars for all those purportedly noble reasons were a scam? It’s occurred to many of us.

    I would hope everyone on this blog knows the counter narrative on Ukraine. A western putsch, a real jab at the bear. Even the G started reporting it like journalists, only for it to be quickly “re-messaged”. (Anecdotal, sorry).

    Now Russia knows what it is like to extend its hand to the West. But here we have a leader in the West that is a puppet to some and Russophobe to others. We all know what the current UK govt (in line with the establishment) think. Trump appears to be at odds with that.

    I’m pretty certain a Trump-Putin rapprochement would seriously annoy all manner of folks.

    • Dungroanin

      Trump and Putin do obviously communicate bypassing the State Dept/CIA claims to foreign policy. I presume Trump is capable of bolstering his own and his family’s personal security. Just to back-up the one provided by the US secret services you understand..

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