August 29th, 2008
| | http://www.globalsecurity.org/milita...ntrol-1936.htm
The Turkish Straits and the Montreux Convention, which once served primarily to protect the Soviet Union from superior hostile fleets, now also seem to have limited what would otherwise be a major Soviet advantage: proximity of a large fleet and its bases to a major theater of crisis and potential war. In this respect the Montreux Convention was a potential problem for the Soviets since 1964, when they began maintaining a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean. |
By the 1960s entire classes of ships and weapons moving about on the world's oceans today were unheard of in 1936 and thus were unaccounted for in the Straits regime. The Soviets developed several unique types, combining the attributes of an aircraft carrier with the awesome power of a missile cruiser. The weapons and sensors aboard these ships contributed as much to their capabilities as did their aircraft.
The two Moskva class ships were introduced in 1967 and were homeported in the Black Sea. They deployed to the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. They were designated as "aviation cruisers" at least in part to avoid problems with the 1936 Montreaux Convention, which prohibited passage of "aircraft carriers" through the Dardanelles. Many Western analysts concurred with an anti-submarine definition of the ships’ purpose.
In 1976 and again in 1979, Turkey allowed Soviet aircraft carriers to transit the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits in violation of the 1936 Montreux Convention. Some NATO states voiced strong opposition to these moves, since the Soviet carriers posed a significant threat to the US Sixth Fleet and NATO forces. But others argued that over the years the Montreux Convention had been amended de facto to provide for the transit of Soviet Kiev-class aircraft carriers. Turkey, which was solely responsible for the day-to-day interpretation of the convention, had challenged neither the Soviet classification of these ships nor their transit rights. No other signatory raised any formal objection, and since the United States was not a signatory to the Convention, the US Government had no standing in the matter.
The original designation for the Kiev class was Large Antisubmarine Cruiser [Bolshoi Protolovadochnyi Kreizer]. The Kiev, launched in 1975, carried a complement of 12-13 Yak-38 STOL aircraft and 14-17 Kamov Ka-25 helicopters and was designed to locate and destroy US ballistic missile-carrying submarines. When the Kieve transited the straits in July 1976 under this designation, there were accusations in the West that Turkey itself was violating the convention by going along with this subterfuge.
The second ship of this class was launched in 1978. The the Kiev-class sister ship Minsk was originally assigned to the Soviet Pacific Fleet. Minsk, was called a Tactical Aircraft-Carrying Cruiser [Takticheskoi Avionosnyi Kreizer] on her initial voyage. in 1979 When Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Petrovsky provided data on the size and composition of the Soviet navy at a news conference on 01 July 1988, he refered to the Kiev-class as Aircraft Carrying Ships [Avianesushchie Korabli) [this same term was sometimes used to describe Western aircraft carriers, although the more common Russian term is avianosets.]
China's third acquisition of Ukrainian carrier assets occurred in 1998, when a Chinese company submitted the winning US$20 million bid for the hulk of the USSR's 65,700-ton Varyag. The Varyag (formerly named the Leonid Brezhnev and then Tbilisi), had been laid down at the Nikolayev shipyard in 1985. Western naval analysts had called her the Soviet Navy's first "real" aircraft carrier, more than 300 meters long. She was significantly different from the earlier Moskva and Kiev classes in both appearance and weapons -- she had a flight deck extending from stem to stern and carried more aircraft and fewer missiles. Due to conflicts with Turkey over the issue of the Montreux Convention governing the passage of carriers through the Turkish Straits, the Varyag, stripped of its electronics and engines, did not depart the Black Sea for China until 2001, once again, supposedly to serve as an entertainment complex.
We are more often treacherous through weakness than through calculation. ~Francois De La Rochefoucauld