Category Archives: Europe

Analysis related to USEUCOM

Ukraine: Sink or Swim

Ще не вмерла України і слава, і воля

Ukraine has not yet perished, nor her glory, nor her freedom
Upon us, fellow Ukrainians, fate shall smile once again.

These words of the Ukrainian National Anthem are full of passion, but they are a key to understanding the dynamics of the events and determination in Kiev. What pushed thousands of people to remain in Majdan Square for 3 winter months in spite of more than 70 victims? Clausewitz’s trinity of passion, chance, and reason is in some way applicable to today’s situation in Ukraine. There is clearly passion, and chance was evident in that this was the second opportunity for revolution – the first being the Orange revolution of 2004-2005. Now reason must govern a way forward full of compromises. For those in the U.S. public who would like to be more informed about these events, a series of questions arises:

– What Happened and Why?
– What Comes Next?
– What is the Larger Meaning for U.S. Interests and Strategy?

The direct cause of the protest was President Yanukovich’s rejection of the European Union Association Agreement. Aleksander Kwasniewski, former president of Poland, said that protests were predictable as one half of Ukraine wants to join the EU and the other half was persuaded by Yanukovich for three years that the agreement should be signed. So nearly everyone was surprised when the agreement was discarded.

Commenters often talk about two parts of Ukraine that are very different. This is true, there is a difference in culture, religion, and business preferences, which comes from history. But both parts want to live in independent Ukraine, without neighbors interfering in domestic matters, and they want to have a chance to realize their ambitions. For many of us this sounds natural, sentimental, or simply trivial. This is a very old nation but very young state. Ukraine gained independence for a brief period between 1918 and 1920 and most recently again in 1991. Not surprisingly they are very sensitive to problems of national independence. Nationalism is strong and could be equally constructive or destructive. The fact that Ukraine was and continues to be very important to Russia, doesn’t help. And it makes a difference. We speak about the vital interests of a former hegemon and a country that has the ambition to regain its status as a world-class power.

So what comes next? We should start with the simple statement that the situation is unpredictable and volatile. There are at least two reasons for that. One is the pace of change and dynamic course of action, full of unexpected turns. Using an analogy to Boyd’s OODA Loop, Majdan acts inside the decision loop of any potential opponent. The second reason is that given the history of the country and the very short period of independence, Ukraine needs time to work on the many soft elements constituting a state: well-crafted law and respect for the rule of it, transparency, accountability, democratic traditions, mature political elites, and so on. This alone is challenging without speaking of external circumstances. The biggest and most immediate threat to Ukraine’s stability is the legitimization of the new President and the economic situation. Such arguments have already been raised by Russian Federation officials, according to Reuters:

“We do not understand what is going on there. There is a real threat to our interests and to the lives of our citizens,” Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

“There are big doubts about the legitimacy of a whole series of organs of power that are now functioning there.”

Russian naval vessels in Sevastopol, Ukraine.
Russian naval vessels in Sevastopol, Ukraine.

Strong rhetoric is not a mere ghost from the past. It is a sign that other tools from the Soviet epoch could also find their way into the hands of state leaders. We could witness subtle diplomacy interweaving with hard politics. The references to Russian citizens are especially worrisome. It seems natural, but we shouldn’t forget that there is a strong ethnic Russian minority in Crimea [who reportedly “elected” a Russian citizen as mayor this week] and that Sevastopol is a major naval base for Black Sea Fleet. The situation seems to be serious enough to cause a series of public statements by officials from both the United States and Poland.

Bronisław Komorowski, President of Poland considers honest and transparent presidential elections, producing an undeniable outcome, as a top priority. This was quickly countered by Russian Federation Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, who stated, “We consider it premature to hold presidential elections in Ukraine in May, as it contradicts the agreement dated February 21.”

On Feb 23rd, the U.S. State Department on Twitter said “US expects Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, democratic freedom of choice to be respected by all states”.

Prof. Stanislaw Koziej, Chief of BBN (Poland’s National Security Counsel) expressed his concern more directly: “Intervention in Ukraine by foreign power would have significant consequences for international security”.

In order to facilitate strategy shaping for dealing with Ukraine, Prof. Zbigniew Brzezinski offers his long-term vision in an article titled “Ukraine Should Join EU, but No Military Alliance” and says “In brief, the Finnish model is the ideal example for Ukraine, and the EU, and Russia.”

From the geo-strategic point of view, the big problem is that any formal or institutional link of Ukraine with the EU drastically limits Russia’s options and potential to influence this country.

What does this mean for the United States? Even if it doesn’t seem to be a priority, Ukraine’s future could have many indirect and strategic consequences. If the United States really believes in its values, it needs to respect the sovereign decision of Ukrainians. However, any chance of a scenario in which a weak Ukraine becomes a satellite state to Russia, would certainly resonate in all of Central Europe. That means adapting strategy, military modernization programs, and priorities at the NATO Summit in Wales, UK. A Strong or stronger Russia in this region is also an argument in favor of the “Three-Hub Navy” proposed by Brian McGrath.

But even then the hub in the Mediterranean still wouldn’t be among the top strategic priorities until we will assume that a powerful Russian Federation is a link between Europe and Asia. Russia is absent from most discussions about the Rebalance to the Pacific or events in China’s Near Seas, perhaps because the focus is on South China Sea. The way the Russian Federation is going to protect their interests in the Far East and Arctic, and interact with major players there, is likely to impact perceptions of security at least in Central Europe if not in the whole of Europe.

Any discussion about the future of Ukraine is impossible without considering the broader context in which Russia plays a key role. It has been this way for centuries. Poland is ready to offer its own experiences with the transformation process, which was long and painful, but the U.S. is probably the only power capable to persuade an assertive Russia.

Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland. His area of interest is the context, purpose, and structure of navies – and promoting discussion on these subjects in his country.

Escape from Sochi: Montreux Convention Considerations and the Moneyball Fleet

Snake Plissken: A good solution for a 1 person rescue, not a 10,000 person NEO.
Snake Plissken: A good solution for a 1 person rescue, not a 10,000 person NEO.

The Russians are not ready to host the Olympic Games.  Everything from the hotel roofs to the perimeter security leaks like a sieve.  10,000 American Citizens are going to be in town for the games and will need to get out quickly in the event of a terrorist attack or public health emergency.

We are one day from the Opening Ceremonies of the 22nd  Winter Olympics and the early reporting from Sochi is damning: active kinetic security operations against Chechen forces are underway, wanted posters of known terrorists litter public places and the tap water has been deemed unsafe to bathe with, let alone drink.  In response to the potential threat against Americans visiting Sochi for the games—and recognizing the constraints of warship tonnage permitted to cross the Turkish Straits by the Montreux Convention—the United States’ European Command (EUCOM) has deployed the 6th Fleet Flag Ship, USS Mt. Whitney (LCC-20) and the guided missile frigate, USS Taylor (FFG-50) to the Black Sea. While bolstering the regional command and control (C2) / multi-agency liaison capability, the deployment of these two ships does little to provide additional sources of emergency egress to American citizens in Sochi due to their limited passenger capacity, small flight decks and absence of well-decks.  There is, however, a way to meet both operational requirements and the requirements set forth in the Montreux Convention: THINK MONEYBALL

Montreux Convention Primer


“The Montreux [Switzerland] Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits” was a 1936 agreement (subsequently amended) giving Turkey sovereign control of the Bosporus Straits and Dardanelles—the waterway passages from the Mediterranean Sea (Aegean Sea) to the Black Sea.  The agreement was negotiated by Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, the USSR, the UK, Turkey, and Yugoslavia as a strictly enforced body of regulations for vessel transits of the straits replacing the previously unrestricted navigation protocol under the 1923 League of Nations Treaty of Lausanne.  The convention places limitations on the number, types and tonnage of warships, overall tonnage of merchants / warships permitted to cross into the Black Sea by non-Black Sea bordering countries both individually and as a whole at any one time.

The Sabermetrics of Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO)

Distilled to its essence, NEO is concerned with the removal of civilians from an at-risk location and transporting them somewhere more secure as expeditiously and safely as possible.  In order to achieve the speed and safety requirements, naval task forces engaged in NEO should have the following capabilities:

2006 Lebanon NEO during Israel – Hezbollah War, USS Nashville (LPD-13)
2006 Lebanon NEO during Israel – Hezbollah War, USS Nashville (LPD-13)

– Surge-ready command and control spaces sufficient to plan and execute a joint, multi-agency (potentially multi-lateral), multi-axis NEO

– A flight deck capable of landing CH-53s, MV-22s, CH-47s, MH-60s – a variety of versatile helos

– A well deck capable of embarking Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) / Landing Craft Utility (LCU)

– A fleet surgical team with operating rooms, triage, and isolation

– Overflow berthing / open spaces to erect large numbers of cots

– Messing and sanitary capacity for hundreds of evacuees

– The ability to embark Naval Expeditionary Combat Command / special warfare personnel for the conduct of security operations and / or special operations

Moneyball: Deploying the Right Ships for Sochi (and Building Smarter Task Forces for the Future)

Turkey has been an extremely unreliable partner over the past eleven years.  As demonstrated by their reneging on a commitment to allow the US Army’s 4th Infantry Division to attack Iraq in 2003 as well as their preventing the USNS Comfort from entering the Straits to deliver Georgia humanitarian aid during the South Ossetia War with Russia in 2008, the United States should not count on Turkey to waive Montreux Convention limitations on tonnage and numbers of warships in the event of an evacuation contingency.  The 6th Fleet Commander (COMSIXTHFLT) needs to plan with forces on station in the Black Sea without an expectation of reinforcements.

Moneyball: Major surface combatants that are Montreux Compliant look sexy and deliver “Credible Presence,” but lack the sabermetrics necessary to conduct a large scale NEO.

Whereas “Moneyball” is usually tied to limitations of budget, in this case it is tied to limitations of tonnage and numbers of ships.  COMSIXTHFLT needs to squeeze the maximum NEO sabermetrics into his Sochi Task Force.  To that end, I have highlighted the LCS-1, LPD-17, JHSV-1 and MLP-1 as ideal candidates for a Sochi NEO.  While the LCC-19 is an ideal C2 platform for coordinating a multi-lateral, multi-agency, Joint NEO—it lacks a sufficient flight deck / well deck to make a large contribution to the transport of evacuees.  Single mission ships went out of vogue generations ago, and make even less sense for a Sochi NEO—especially when you consider that command / liaison elements can embark an LPD-17, JHSV-1 or MLP-1 to exercise C2 while the respective ships are actively participating in LCAC / helicopter  transport of evacuees.

Beaches and piers provide prime egress points for a Sochi NEO
Beaches and piers provide prime egress points for a Sochi NEO

A good NEO plan is all about options of egress (i.e. fleeing in an orderly fashion).  Sochi International Airport features only two runways and is highly susceptible to uncooperative wind patterns that routinely halt flight operations.  In the event that the 2014 Winter Olympics turns into “Escape from Sochi,” the 6th Fleet ships on station in the Black Sea will need to exercise an organic NEO capability beyond C2 and liaison.  Going forward, NEO Task Forces should organize and plan around a sabermetric list of requirements that is agnostic to hull types and otherwise irrelevant traditional warfighting mission sets.


Nicolas di Leonardo is a member of the Expeditionary Warfare Division on the Chief of Naval Operations Staff, as well as a graduate student of the Naval War College.  The opinions expressed here within are solely his, and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Expeditionary Warfare Division or the Naval War College.

The Albanian Navy in Action

The Republic of Albania, which joined NATO together with Croatia in 2009, has had an interesting relationship with its own maritime forces over the past two decades. Until the onset of economic crisis in 1996, the Albanian Naval Force consisted of approximately 145 vessels, many of which were obtained from China or the Soviet Union for the sole purpose of coastal defence. Illustrative of this focus on countering outside aggression, 45 of the Albanian Naval Force’s vessels were Huchuan-class torpedo boats manufactured in China.

With the onset of economic crisis in 1996, much of Albania’s maritime forces were decommissioned. Even prior to the collapse of the country’s communist regime in 1990-1991, the navy had entered a state of decline. The pride of the fleet – four Whiskey-class submarines obtained from Soviet benefactors – had essentially been mothballed by the end of the 1980s. Albania, despite its commanding position at the point where the Ionian Sea meets the Adriatic, had become a non-factor in naval affairs.

But the Albanian Naval Force has begun to experience a profound resurgence in recent years. Even prior to the country’s NATO accession, Albania committed in 2007 to participate in Operation Active Endeavour. This maritime operation is responsible for monitoring traffic in the Mediterranean Sea, intercepting illicit arms or narcotics shipments and enhancing the security of legitimate shipping in general. Since joining NATO, Albania has ramped up the modernization and expansion of its maritime forces as well. Whereas the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania once deployed sleek torpedo boats and predatory Soviet submarines in its defence, the Republic of Albania is actively acquiring patrol vessels to police Albanian waters and combat organized crime groups.

The mainstay of the new Albanian Naval Force is the Damen Stan 4207 patrol vessel, designed in the Netherlands but built for the most part in Albania. As of 2013, four vessels of this class are now in service on Albania’s coasts. It is worth noting that this design was the inspiration for the Canadian Coast Guard’s own Hero-class mid-shore patrol vessel, and that 35 vessels of the Damen Stan 4207 design are currently operated by 13 countries. The Albanian Naval Force backs up these four quality patrol vessels with an additional 27 vessels of various classes, most of which are patrol boats obtained from either the United States or the Italian Coast Guard.

But why is Albania dedicating so much of its resources toward the development of its maritime forces? The total cost of procuring the four Damen Stan 4207 patrol vessels is estimated to have been $45 million alone. The reason for this significant investment may be South Eastern Europe’s growing role as both a source of, and a transit point in, the trade of illicit narcotics. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Albania has emerged as the fourth most common country of provenance for heroin, behind only Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. Lazarat, located in the far south of Albania, has emerged as one of Europe’s most significant centres for cannabis cultivation and the production of such cannabis-related products as hashish. Another UNODC report estimates that Albania itself is home to only 3,000 to 5,000 injection drug users, indicating that heroin entering Albania is hardly meant to remain there. Rather, the 2012-2015 UNODC Regional Programme for South Eastern Europe pegs the market value of heroin trafficked from this region to Western Europe at approximately $13 billion a year.

While some quantity of cocaine, heroin, and cannabis may take a circuitous route by land through Albania, Montenegro, and other South Eastern European countries until it reaches the territory of European Union member states, Albania’s geographic position opens up other options. The Albanian city of Vlorë is less than 100 kilometres from the Italian port of Otranto, separated only by the narrow strait that lies between the Ionian and the Adriatic proper. There are likely other sea routes which can be employed by organized crime. The Albanian Naval Force of the past would have not been well-disposed toward the interception of criminal elements transporting narcotics between these ports and others. But new patrol vessels have enhanced Albania’s capacity to address this security challenge and, with the enhanced cooperation NATO membership brings, Albania is better able to coordinate patrols and interdictions with its Italian partners.

The substantial increase in drug seizures along Albania’s coasts since 2006 is a positive sign. There is still some room for improvement in the area of inter-agency cooperation, however. On the eve of its NATO accession, Albania established an Inter-institutional Maritime Operations Centre (IMOC), intended to foster close cooperation between the Defence and Interior Ministries (as well as military and law enforcement personnel by extension). As noted in a recent review of Albania’s National Security Strategy though, IMOC has thus far been constrained by overlapping legislation and bureaucratic friction. Reforming the Albanian Maritime Code and other relevant aspects of the country’s legal framework may be necessary to ensure the efficiency and efficacy of Albania’s maritime operations.

Fortunately, the momentum is with the Albanian Naval Force in the struggle against regional narcotics trafficking. Continued support from NATO and its member states will further discourage organized crime, ending the exploitation of this proud country as a transit point for harmful drugs.

This article was originally published by the NATO Council of Canada.

Paul Pryce is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada. With degrees in political science from universities in both Canada and Estonia, he has previously worked in conflict resolution as a Research Fellow with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. His research interests include African security issues and NATO-Russia relations.

Flashpoint: South Pacific – Vanuatu and New Caledonia


Who knew that France is still involved in a conflict over South Pacific maritime boundaries? Tell the French that their opponent in the conflict is Vanuatu and many will answer “What’s a Vanuatu?”

Few French even know that France claims one of the biggest aggregate maritime territories in the world. Indeed, due to its numerous overseas departments and territories, France possesses the second largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the world, covering 11,035,000 km², just behind that of the United States, with 11,351,000km².

Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, even said in June 2013, that “France is a big maritime power,” and that France and Japan should collaborate for security issues in the Asia-Pacific region. Following up this sentiment, during Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Paris, the two nations agreed to closer military ties.

Funny enough, France is never mentioned in Australia’s Defence White Paper 2013. And yet Spain is, despite lacking any territory in the South Pacific. France on the other hand retains French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, and New Caledonia, a territory with an EEZ as big as South Africa’s.

One of New Caledonia’s neighbors, Vanuatu, then known as the New Hebrides, was a Franco-British Condominium (a territory with shared sovereignty) from 1906 to 1980. Nowhere else on earth were two colonial powers sharing an island. (Well, they of course first competed for it, before deciding to rule it jointly.)

While the former colony maintained formal relations with France after gaining independence, two little inhabited rocky islands known as Matthew and Hunter became the cause of a maritime boundary issue between the two nations.

In 1976, prior to Vanuatu’s/New Hebrides’ independence, France annexed Matthew and Hunter islands to New Caledonia rather than keep them in the New Hebrides condominium.
The Vanuatu government of the time rejected French sovereignty over the islands and planted the Vanuatu flag on Hunter Island in 1993 but a French patrol vessel prevented the party from reaching Matthew Island. France nowadays maintains a naval presence and an automated weather station on Matthew.

In 2009, the Vanuatu Prime Minister and the independence movement of New Caledonia, the FLNKS, signed a document – with no legal value – recognizing the Vanuatu sovereignty over Matthew and Hunter islands. This gesture is all the more surprising given that France has always stated that the two islands belong to the territory of New Caledonia, and that Vanuatu’s economy is largely supported by French development aid, as well as aid from Iceland, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and others.

But in Vanuatu, the legends associated with these southern islands demonstrate the importance of these two islands in the Ni-Vanuatu (Vanuatu people) tradition. Matthew is known as the “House of the Gods” where the spirits of the dead go rest. Ni-Vanuatu speak of traveling regularly from the islands of the Vanuatu archipelago to Hunter and Matthew, singing and dancing when they were on one or the other of the two islands in dispute today. On the other hand, there is no known legend of these islands in New Caledonia.

Vanuatu claims that the two islands are part of its archipelago based on its offered geological and cartographic evidence. Those two islets are even being fought for before the UN under terms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

The dispute spilled has also unsettled relations with neighbors. In 1982, for example, Fiji and New Caledonia signed an agreement on mutual recognition of their maritime boundaries, in which Fiji recognized French ownership of the Matthew and Hunter Islands. The action upset Vanuatu, which demanded that Fiji recognize Ni-Vanuatu sovereignty over the islands, stating that failure to do so would be a blow to peace in the region, but Fiji did not revoke its signature.
Oh, I almost forgot: Hunter Island is also unofficially claimed by the micronation Republic of Lostisland, which undertook an expedition to the island in July 2012. Lostisland is an international project generally classified as a micronation, with citizens from all over the world aiming to achieve the independence and sovereignty of the Hunter Island. But the likelihood of it impacting New Caledonian or Ni-Vanuatu claims is nil.

For all the fuss, the Matthew and Hunter Islands are two little volcanic islets that look pretty boring from above. See for yourself:

Nor are they big – Matthew is 0.1km² and Hunter 0.4km². So why are they so important for France? Is it because they are a sanctuary for the terns and playground for the studies of meteorologists and ornithologists? Of course not. France dreams of extending its sovereign rights over an additional 2,000,000km².

But it is serious business – at stake are the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons and rare metals, as well fishery resources. The exact resource contents of these areas will have to be determined by further scientific studies. It is clearly a bet for the future.

To take advantage of these potential riches, France filed extension requests for fourteen geographical areas with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf of the United Nations in 2009. A special French interdepartmental program (steering committee composed of seven departments) called Extraplac was created in 2002 to prepare for all potential expansion areas, without studying fisheries or mineral resources. Extraplac could also present common issues with other coastal states sharing the same continental shelf.

But the extension of the continental shelf would involve substantial financial resources to ensure the protection and control of the newly acquired areas, but the deep cut in the finances of the Ministry of Defense does not make this possible at the moment.
A final problem exists. Article 121 of UNCLOS states that “rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own, have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.” However, the story of the inhabited Clipperton islet in the North Pacific with its 431,015 km² big EEZ shows that France, like many, has a broad interpretation of the ability to sustain economic life.

At the same time, Article 47 of UNCLOS states that an archipelagic State may draw straight baselines “joining the outermost points of the outermost islands and drying reefs of the archipelago provided that within such baselines are included the main islands.” As such a state, if Vanuatu can also claim Matthew and Hunter islands as part of its territory and archipelago, it would be able to draw its baseline to the islands and thereby extend its EEZ from the islands without concern for Article 121.

It’s important to note that the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf is charged with making recommendations to states, based on scientific evidence, on demarcating continental shelves (thereby conferring rights) when these shelves exceed the standard 200nm EEZ. However, it is up to the states themselves to enact the recommendations and settle the territorial claims.

Pretty interesting stuff happens in the South Pacific, huh?

Alix is a writer, researcher, and correspondent on the Asia-Pacific region for Marine Renewable Energy LTD. She previously served as a maritime policy advisor to the New Zealand Consul General in New Caledonia and as the French Navy’s Deputy Bureau Chief for State Action at Sea, New Caledonia Maritime Zone.