A US reconnaissance drone crashed over the Black Sea on March 14. The US claimed that Russia’s ‘unsafe and unprofessional’ actions caused the incident while Russia accused the US of collecting data and delivering it on to Kyiv.
We interviewed on the issue with two experts: Deniz Kutluk, retired rear admiral in the Turkish Naval Forces and Prof. Dr. Fahri Erenel, retired brigadier general and head of the department of political science and public administration at Istinye University (Istanbul).
Retired Rear Admiral Deniz Kutluk made the following comments:
How do you evaluate the downing of the US MQ-9 reaper drone in the Black Sea?
First of all, one should know this: In principle, warring countries declare a restricted airspace close to the war zone and shoot down whoever enters this zone without permission. There is also an Air Defense Interception and Identifications Zone (ADIZ), a notification zone in the airspace. Air objects are not allowed to enter these zones without identification.
It seems that the Americans brought an armed drone into those areas, having turned off its transponder. The Russians conducted a reconnaissance flight (‘interception’ in technical terms) and caused this drone crash.
Here it should be noted that the law on unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned maritime vehicles has not yet been established in international law. It is still working as it was done in the Chicago convention in 1944. So it is not easy to interpret this case.
‘What is the US business there?’
The mechanism I have described is a defense mechanism used by the warring parties to prevent any harm to third parties. First of all, what is the US business there? And why did it enter this area without identification? Moreover, Russia had previously lost the Slova-class Moscow ship, which was shot down two hundred and twenty kilometers off the coast. The Americans later admitted that an American vehicle like MQ-9 reaper drone provided the target intelligence. So Russia already has such a negative case in hand. Therefore, it is a legitimate reason for Russia to prevent the US from collecting intelligence in this region and giving it to the Ukrainians.
Did Russia do this knowing that the armed drone was a US drone?
Probably not. But Russia surely must have realized that it was a hostile act. So they did what was necessary.
US is not happy with Türkiye’s position in the Black Sea
Could this development have consequences in terms of the security of the Black Sea?
Warships are not allowed to enter the Black Sea according to Article 19 of the Montreux Convention. Türkiye has set a principle in the preamble of the Montreux Convention to limit the activities of warring parties in the region and ensure the security of the Black Sea. Accordingly, it is not possible for the US to bring warships to the Black Sea at this stage.
Possible US moves in the Black Sea
On the other hand, a draft bill submitted to the US Congress last week suggests that the US will make certain moves in the Black Sea. This resolution accuses Türkiye of not participating in the US sanctions against Russia. Türkiye rightfully declares that it does not accept any restrictions other than the resolutions of the United Nations on this issue, because by what authority does America impose sanctions?
The bill draft gives instructions to the relevant institutions to establish a permanent NATO naval force in the Black Sea. They want to implement that in the next one-three years.
Consequently, it becomes clear that the US is not happy with Türkiye’s position as a security provider in the Black Sea. In fact, this is already known, not a secret.
In order to understand the possible developments in the Black Sea in the coming period, these points should be carefully analyzed.
Prof. Dr. Fahri Erenel made the following evaluations:
US intervention tactics
The US made every effort to get the armed drone shot down. This is one of the tactics the US uses to find an pretext for intervention in a region. We have seen many examples of this kind all over the world.
China’s emergence in the region as a rational and constructive actor is causing panic in the US. These are kind of moves made in panic.
The US ‘Greater Black Sea’ project involves encircling Russia from the south. The US tried to impose this two-year old concept on NATO, but Türkiye met this with resistance. Thanks to Türkiye’s close cooperation with Russia, the Black Sea is one of the few seas without conflict in the world.
Violation of the Montreux Convention
With this project, the US seeks to establish a power in the Black Sea in violation of the relevant articles in the Montreux Convention. Russia’s Black Sea neighbors Ukraine and Georgia are completely acting US-oriented. As you know, there have also been some protests in Georgia recently and Russia has announced that it has deployed some of its forces in the Caucasus. We also know the pressure from the US and France to disrupt Armenia’s relations with Russia. As for Bulgaria and Romania, they are under the full control of the US.
Russia has few ships in the Black Sea and is relatively weak. It is possible that NATO ships could be integrated into the Bulgarian and Romanian navies over time. The headquarters could be based in these countries.
US distrust of Türkiye
The main reason for the US to build a power center here lies in its distrust of Türkiye for the control of the Black Sea. This also means encircling Türkiye from the north. The US wants to limit us not only in the East Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean, but also in the Black Sea. Therefore, Türkiye, together with the countries of the region, must never, ever allow the US attempts.
In this respect, the invitation for China to join the Astana Quartet as the fifth member is very important. The Black Sea should never be a sea under US control. China’s support is also important here.