According to a press release issued by the Romanian Ministry of Defense, the two officials discussed the security situation in the Black Sea region (including the drifting mine threat) in the context of the Ukrainian war, NATO summit decisions, and measures to consolidate the Alliance’s defense and deterrence posture, as well as cooperation within the EU and bilaterally.
The Romanian Defense Minister highlighted the one-of-a-kind significance of NATO’s extraordinary Summit on March 24, when alliance leaders approved historic decisions aimed at solidifying the allied deterrence and defense posture on the Eastern flank, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
The statement’s most notable aspect is Romania’s receptive attitude toward Italy’s intention to provide Mine Countermeasure Vessel to assist with the recently found drifting sea mine threat.
“In this context, minister Lorenzo Guerini announced Italy’s intention of sending, in the near future, two maritime minesweepers to act in the Black Sea, together with the Romanian Naval Forces in order to discover and neutralize the mines.”
Romanian MoD press office
A Romanian military diving team destroyed a mine detected by fishermen some 72 kilometers off the coast of the Black Sea on March 28.
By an official notice dated February 28, Turkey closed the Istanbul (Bosporus) and Canakkale (Dardanelles) straits to warships from any country covered by the Montreux Convention, whether or not adjacent to the Black Sea. The notice didn’t specify whether the banned vessels were combatant or non-combatant military vessels.
This decision was welcomed by all sides and has been carefully implemented by Turkey ever since. After the closure of the strait, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Russia asked Turkey to send several warships through the strait to the Black Sea, but Turkey refused, and Russia didn’t object to this refusal.
As a result, Italy’s aim does not appear to be applicable at this time. MCM vessels are not offensive ships, but they are military ships and are unable to pass through the straits due to Turkey’s implementation of the Montreux Convention. Such a maneuver will almost certainly be opposed by Russia, which does not want NATO to be present in the Black Sea during the war.
On the other side, Russia’s supporters say that Ukraine released the drifting mines in order to invite a NATO or EU effort to undertake an MCM operation in the Black Sea, so eroding Montreux’s standards. As a result, if Italy sends MCM warships to the Black Sea, Russians may file speculative claims louder.
The drifting sea mine threat is real, and without any doubt, the necessary measures should be taken. In order to protect merchant shipping against such a threat and prevent unwanted casualties, even warring states should come to a consensus to clean these mines. It is very difficult to find the truth in the fog of war, so if the sides insist on their own claims and refuse to take necessary measures on an international scale, the consequences might be devastating.