Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 154

President Leonid Kuchma yesterday forwarded to the Verkhovna Rada for ratification the Ukrainian-Russian agreements on the partition of the ex-Soviet Black Sea Fleet. The documents were signed by Kuchma with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Kyiv on May 28, 1997 after five years of negotiations. The three agreements deal with, respectively, the legal status and conditions of the Russian fleet’s presence on Ukrainian territory, the quantitative division of the ex-Soviet fleet’s forces and assets, and settlement of financial issues. The agreements are valid for a term of 20 years and are prolonged automatically for five years, unless denounced with one year’s advance notice by either side.

The second document is of particular interest because it stipulates the actual levels of the Russian naval forces to be stationed in Ukraine. The Russian fleet shall have a manpower of 25,000, including 2,000 in the marine infantry and the fleet’s land-based aviation. The fleet shall deploy 338 ships and 106 aircraft of various types. Coastal installations in the fleet’s use consist of six command and control posts, twenty-two communications stations, nine rear-service support facilities, five ammunition depots, and three repair docks. Russia will use these installations on the basis of lease contracts. Under this agreement, Russian may not deploy nuclear-armed weapons with its forces in Ukraine.

According to the same document, the ex-Soviet fleet had possessed, prior to the partition: thirty command and control posts, seventy-nine communications stations, fifty rear-service support facilities, sixteen ammunition depots and seven repair docks. Most of those installations have been decommissioned and turned over to Ukrainian civilian authorities. Some have been taken over by the Ukrainian fleet. (Ukrainian agencies, August 10)

Those figures underscore the decline of Russian naval power in the strategic Black Sea region. The Russian fleet is reported to have moved its nuclear warheads from Crimea to nearby Novorossiisk. That harbor is being turned into the base of an “eastern echelon” of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. However, the harbor is unsuitable, the sea notoriously rough owing to strong local winds and the space limited, because Novorossiisk is Russia’s main oil export terminal and is earmarked for further expansion in that role. Moreover, Russia currently lacks the funds for building a major naval base at Novorossiisk. This means that Russia will dig in at its main naval base in Sevastopol if only for lack of alternatives.