Monday, August 25, 2008

US Flotilla Transits Turkey Arrives In Georgia

I'm going to go into some detail on the ships which is interesting in and of itself. However, the most interesting part to me is that the warships had to transit Turkey to arrive in the Black Sea. That I believe is the most critical development in the region of Georgia. Turkey is supporting Georgian independence from Moscow. By treaty they are supposed to allow small warships to transit the Straights of Bosporus. However, they made no diplomatic representation such as "We deplore the build up of Naval power in the region". I must say that it is a most welcome yet unexpected development. It also means that flights from Turkey to Georgia are also assured. Further it means that the Ukraine can be defended from Russian moves.

Here are the ships involved according to The US Navy.

BATUMI, Republic of Georgia (NNS) -- USS McFaul (DDG 74) pulled into the port of Batumi, Georgia, Aug. 24 to deliver humanitarian relief supplies to the country as part of the larger United States response to the government of Georgia request for humanitarian assistance.
There will be a total of five ships including the USS Mount Whitney and USCGC Dallas.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas (WHEC 716) and USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) have also on-loaded humanitarian supplies destined for Georgia. Dallas left Souda Bay, Crete on Thursday with more than 76,000 pounds of relief supplies and will arrive in Georgia within a week. U.S. Navy C-9, C-40 and C-130 aircraft have flown tens of thousands of hygiene kits into the country over the past week.
The USS Mount Whitney is a rather interesting ship. Here is a description given by the US Navy:
MOUNT WHITNEY (MTW) serves as the Command Ship for Commander, SIXTH Fleet/ Commander, Joint Command Lisbon/Commander, Striking Force NATO and has a complement of 150 enlisted personnel, 12 officers and 150 Civilian Mariners from Military Sealift Command. MTW was the first U.S. Navy combatant to permanently accommodate women on board.

MTW carries enough food to feed the crew for 90 days and can transport supplies to support an emergency evacuation of 3,000 people. The ship makes 100,000 gallons of fresh water daily and carries over one million gallons of fuel, enough for a round trip, 16 knot, 35 day voyage from Norfolk, Virginia to Mozambique in the Indian Ocean. The ship's two anchors weigh 11 tons each and are attached to 180 fathoms (or 1,080 feet) of anchor chain. Each chain weighs almost 25 tons. Total electrical capacity is 7,500 kilowatts, a sufficient amount to power a small city.

The ship's afloat communications capability is second to none. MTW can receive, process and transmit large amounts of secure data from any point on earth through HF, UHF, VHF, SHF, and EHF communications paths. This technology enables the Joint Intelligence Center and Joint Operations Center to gather and fuse critical information while on the move. As the most sophisticated Command, Control, Communications, Computer, and Intelligence (C4I) ship ever commissioned, MTW incorporates various elements of the most advanced C4I equipment and gives the embarked Joint Task Force Commander the capability to effectively command widely dispersed air, ground and maritime units in an integrated fashion.
If it was refueled before entering the Black Sea it could support operations independent of land based supplies for quite some time.

Note that with the length of anchor chain supplied it could anchor in 250 to 350 feet of water. i.e. it doesn't need to be in a harbor to anchor.

So what kind of ship is it? In simple terms it is a floating command post. What does it represent in strategic terms? A challenge to Russian supremacy in the Black sea.

Want to hear a Russian General whine about the American forces being moved into the Black sea? I knew you did.
The deputy chief of Russia's general staff suggested that the arrival of the ship and those of other NATO members would increase tensions in the Black Sea. Russia shares the sea with NATO members Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria as well as Georgia and Ukraine, whose pro-Western president also is leading a drive for NATO membership.

"I don't think such a buildup will foster the stabilization of the atmosphere in the region," Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn as saying Saturday.
If by "stability" he means Russian Control I think he is totally correct. However, had Russia wanted stability I don't think they should have gone around whacking their neighbors.

What would the Russian objective have been? Control of the pipeline passing through Georgia. They didn't get it. That means they spent a fair amount of military resources and are not going to get any long term profit from it. In fact they will have the cost of maintaining their troops in a hostile territory. The odds are they will be pulling out as soon as they can do so without losing much face.

How do the Georgians feel about the arrival of the American Navy?
At dockside in Batumi, with the McFaul anchored offshore, U.S. Navy officials in crisp white uniforms were met Sunday by Georgian officials, including Defense Minister David Kezerashvili.

Speaking to The Associated Press on the aft missile deck of the McFaul, anchored a mile offshore, Kezerashvili said Georgians would feel safer now.

“They will feel safe not because the destroyer is here but because they will feel they are not alone facing the Russian aggression,” he said.
And how about the US Congress? Do they get it? Indeed they do. At least a little bit.
In another sign of U.S. support for Georgia, Republican Senator for Indiana Richard Lugar met with the nation's leaders in Tbilisi. He urged European leaders to cut their dependence on Russian energy imports.

``It is imperative that the EU minimize energy dependency upon Russian gas and oil resources, even at this point, it is important for the United States to maintain a dialogue on the energy resources,'' he said.
Indeed it is a necessity. So where will the supplies come from to support Europe down the road? It seems to me that it is critical for the US to start exploiting its vast untapped oil reserves. Drilling, mining and refining US oil is way more profitable than fighting wars over it. Besides, better the Euros spend their money with us than with the Russians or Iranians. Oil at $70 a bbl. will lead to a much more peaceful world than oil at $140 a bbl. Now all we have to do is get the Democrats on board or replace them.

In the long run we will have to get off oil. In the mean time there is no point in fighting wars over it.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

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