The March 12-13 incidents in the Black Sea, in which Russian warships attacked Turkish fishing vessels in Georgian waters and a Ukrainian warship acted similarly in Ukraine’s economic zone (though short of killing any fishermen), highlighted both Ukraine’s increasing ability to protect its own waters and Georgia’s helplessness in that regard. Tbilisi’s weakness stems from Russia’s refusal to allot Georgia a share of the ex-USSR’s Black Sea Fleet. Ukraine, however, has recently begun aiding Georgia to form a naval force.
According to a senior officer speaking on background at the Ukrainian naval command, Kiev is willing to train Georgian naval officers at Ukraine’s naval academy in Sevastopol and to allow Georgian officers and lower ranks to receive practical experience aboard Ukrainian ships. Kiev aims to "develop a Ukrainian-Georgian naval partnership in the Black Sea," according to the officer. He estimated that Georgia has a claim to at least 25 ships, including at least 10 warships, which were stationed at the Poti naval base in 1991 but were appropriated by Russia afterward. (Interfax-Ukraine, March 12)
Ukraine last year endorsed Georgia’s claim to a share of the Black Sea Fleet. President Eduard Shevardnadze this week described that share as "symbolic" — a statement reflecting Tbilisi’s plan to develop no more than a coastal guard force, to be subordinated to the border troops’ command, rather than acting as a navy in its own right. Georgia is about to receive a first coastal guard ship from Ukraine, which is currently completing the training of that ship’s Georgian crew. Captain of the First Rank Otar Chkhartshvili, who served until recently on Russian missile cruisers, has just been appointed commander of Georgia’s nascent naval force. (BGI, Kontakt, March 10. See also Monitor, March 11)
NATO Leader Visits the Region.