06MOSCOW13074, BLACK SEA FLEET RELOCATION: A PORT TOO FAR

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW13074 2006-12-22 14:30 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO2683
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #3074/01 3561430
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 221430Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6049
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 013074 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/22/2016 
TAGS: PREL MARR MCAP RS UP
SUBJECT: BLACK SEA FLEET RELOCATION: A PORT TOO FAR 
 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Daniel A. Russell for reasons 1.4 b an 
d d. 
 
1. (C)  SUMMARY:  Nearly ten years after the 1997 bilateral 
agreement with Ukraine to use Sevastopol as a base for its 
Black Sea Fleet, Russia is doing little to plan for the 
Fleet's possible relocation after the agreement expires in 
2017.  While the Black Sea Fleet will be on the agenda for 
the Putin-Yushchenko summit December 22 in Kyiv, it will be a 
low priority.  The Russian government's overall approach to 
the fleet's future seems simply to wait and see if improving 
bilateral relations will allow the fleet to remain in 
Sevastopol.  The only credible option appears to be 
Novorossiisk, but its modest naval facilities and growing 
commercial importance make it a poor choice.  END SUMMARY. 
. 
-------------------------- 
BSF: LOW ON GOR-GOU AGENDA 
-------------------------- 
 
2. (C)  Ambassador Vladimir Dorokhin, MFA's Special Advisor 
on the Black Sea, confirmed to us that, officially, in 2017 
the GOR will be prepared to vacate Sevastopol and relocate 
the BSF to a Russian port as per the 1997 bilateral agreement 
with Ukraine.  While the BSF will be on the agenda of the 
December 22 Putin-Yushchenko summit, Dorokhin told us the BSF 
negotiations were a low priority.  Dorokhin said Ukrainians 
dramatized Black Sea negotiations, citing two recent 
incidents -- demands on the GOR to pay higher rent in 
Sevastopol and increased fees for ecological damage caused by 
the BSF.  Though these issues were not spelled out in the 
1997 agreement, Dorokhin emphasized that Russia was working 
with Ukraine in good faith to resolve these differences and 
had consistently met its financial obligations. 
 
3. (C)  Dorokhin, however, condemned the seizure of 
lighthouses based on local Ukrainian court decisions. 
(Russia has staffed and operated twenty-two lighthouses in 
the Crimea since the break-up of the Soviet Union. 
Stewardship of these lighthouses was not addressed in the 
1997 agreement.)  Dorokhin claimed that a judicial decision 
on the lighthouses was not within the competency of local 
courts -- the issue must be resolved between the GOR and GOU. 
 Dorokhin feared Ukraine would use ambiguities in the 1997 
agreement to gain leverage on other Russia-Ukraine bilateral 
issues. (NOTE: The Ukrainian Embassy rebutted this analysis, 
noting that under international law, Ukraine must properly 
maintain (and staff) such facilities, since they are located 
on Ukrainian territory.) 
. 
---------------------------------- 
2017 TOO FAR AWAY: NO DECISION YET 
---------------------------------- 
 
4. (C)  Alla Yazkova, specialist on the Mediterranean and 
Black Seas at the Institute of Europe, said 2017 was too far 
away to predict whether the BSF would pull out of Sevastopol. 
 She cited recent contradictory statements by Yushchenko and 
Yanukovych -- the former declared that in 2017 there would be 
no legal grounds for the continued presence of the BSF on 
Ukrainian territory, while the latter suggested it might be 
possible for the BSF to remain beyond that date.  Yazkova 
opined that such uncertainty encouraged Russia not to take 
action and to wait for an opportunity either to extend or 
modify the 1997 agreement.  The GOR sees BSF relocation as a 
last resort; only when other options are exhausted will the 
process of relocating the BSF start.  Sergey Markov, 
pro-Kremlin Director of the Center for Political Studies, 
recently told us that the GOR fully expected the BSF to 
remain in Sevastopol after 2017. 
. 
------------------------ 
FROM FLEET TO FLOTILLA ? 
------------------------ 
 
5. (C) Aleksandr Golts, editor of the on-line "Weekly 
Gazette," told us that the BSF has no future - the BSF will 
become a flotilla like the Caspian Sea Fleet.  Golts 
dismissed Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov's recent comments 
that Russia intends to upgrade the BSF and adapt it for 
combat missions in the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans as 
"rubbish."  Golts pointed out that most BSF warships are old 
and in desperate need of repair and upgrade; moreover, there 
currently are not any ocean-going naval ships under 
construction earmarked for the BSF -- the few blue-water 
warships now under construction for the Russian Navy are 
slated to go to the Pacific or Baltic Fleets. 
. 
-------------------- 
A TALE OF TWO CITIES 
 
MOSCOW 00013074  002 OF 002 
 
 
-------------------- 
 
6. (C)  The naval facility in Sevastopol is one of the city's 
largest employers, and BSF activities contribute 
significantly to the local economy.  Sevastopol is also home 
to many BSF personnel, who maintain deep roots in the city 
which has been home to the fleet for over 200 years.  During 
his October 25 interactive call-in show, President Putin 
promised that Moscow would provide for the relocation of 
sailors and their families to Novorossiisk or elsewhere in 
R
ussia.  Institute of Europe Director Sergey Karaganov 
identified this as the toughest domestic political issue 
related to the BSF.  Putin also reminded Ukraine of the 
negative economic impact that departure of the BSF and its 
personnel would have on the Crimean economy.  Yazkova said 
that as 2017 approached, the GOR would increasingly emphasize 
the economic impact on the region of the BSF's withdrawal. 
 
7. (C)  While Novorossiisk's commercial facilities are 
well-developed, its naval facilities are modest and would 
require major investment to host the BSF.  Embassy's Naval 
Attache estimated that, at a minimum, Novorossiisk would need 
seven years to prepare for the Fleet's relocation.  Golts 
noted that Novorossiisk, upgraded with the proper naval 
facilities, would still be too small to support the 
complement of ships currently in the BSF.  The Russian Navy 
has a limited presence -- several coastal patrol boats and a 
destroyer.  Competition for space is also keen because 
Novorossiisk is one of Russia's two main ports for oil 
exports.  With nearly a million barrels a day leaving the 
port now and a likely increase in seaborne energy exports via 
the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, displacing commercial 
facilities to make room for the BSF makes little economic 
sense. 
. 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
8. (C)  While 2017 seems a long way off, the Russian 
government and military appear to be doing little to 
modernize the Black Sea Fleet or to plan for a possible new 
home port.  While the fleet (and the Crimea) will continue to 
be populist hot buttons for Russian politicians, fiery 
rhetoric alone is not going to maintain the Black Sea Fleet's 
blue water capability in the future. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

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