What is the Montreux Convention?
Australia, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Japan, Romania, Yugoslavia, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and Turkey signed the international agreement, which has been in existence since November 1936. The Montreux Convention on the Straits Regime supplies Turkey with jurisdiction over the sea passage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula is home to Russia’s largest Navy Base. However, ships must transit through 2 straits controlled by Turkey under the Montreux Convention to go to and from the Mediterranean and beyond.
It limits civilian ships and military warships from transiting the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits. The following are the essential aspects of the Montreux Convention: In the case of a war, the accord allows Turkey, the authority to limit naval warship transit and to close the straits to warships from the conflicting countries.
Any country with a Black Sea coastline – Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, or Ukraine – must give Turkey 8 days’ notice before sending warships across the straits. Other countries that do not border the Black Sea are required to give Turkey fifteen days’ notice.
Convention in Current Scenario
The Montreux Convention is now playing an essential role in the situation in Ukraine. Ukraine has requested that Turkey should seal the straits to Russian warships, emphasizing Turkey’s role in regional peacekeeping. On February 28, 2022, the Turkish government reached an agreement. In early February, however, additional Russian warships entered the Black Sea. Turkey also stated that it will not block Russian warships from entering the Black Sea if Russia claims that they are going home.
Four key elements in the Montreux Convention regulate which vessels may enter the Black Sea in wartime:
- Times of war, or when Turkey is a party to the conflict or is threatened by assault from another country, Turkey might restrict the straits to vessels from belligerent parties.
- Turkey has the ability to limit the straits to trade ships from countries at odds with Turkey.
- Countries with a Black Sea coastline – Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, or Ukraine – must give Turkey eight days’ notice before sending warships across the straits. Other countries that do not border the Black Sea are required to give Turkey 15 days’ notice. Only Black Sea nations are permitted to ship submarines via the straits, and only with warning and if the vessels were built or purchased outside the Black Sea.
- Only 9 warships are authorized to sail through the straits at any given time, and the size of the ships, both individually and collectively, is limited. A group of ships cannot weigh more than 15,000 metric tons. Modern warships are massive, with frigates weighing over 3,000 tons and destroyers and cruisers weighing around 10,000 tons. Modern aircraft carriers are too large to pass through, and they aren’t allowed in Turkey anyhow.
Convention used by Turkey in Past
Turkey has previously made use of the convention’s powers. During World War II, Turkey closed the straits to combatant nations’ vessels. As a result, the Axis nations were unable to dispatch vessels to invade the Soviet Union, and the Soviet fleet was unable to participate in the action in the Mediterranean.
The Turkish government is in a tough position at the moment, as both Ukraine and Russia are major partners in critical energy and military trade agreements. Turkey, which has been a member of NATO since 1952, seeks to enhance ties with the West without disturbing Russia. Its control over these critical straits may put its balancing act to the test.
How Russia or any other country can use its ships at Wartime?
Article 19 of the treaty makes an exception for Black Sea countries that might effectively undermine Turkey’s authority by preventing Russian vessels from entering or exiting the Black Sea. Warships belonging to belligerent nations, whether Black Sea Powers or not, that have become separated from their bases are allowed to return. This exception allows Russia to make use of the Montreux Convention in a different way, by reassigning some of its ships to the Black Sea.