CONTROVERSIAL INNOCENT PASSAGES IN THE BLACK SEA, 1982 - 2021
Albert, Matthew D.
Sheehan, John M.
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How and why has Russia disputed innocent passages by Western warships in the Black Sea since the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) in 1982, and how has the West justified conducting these passages? This thesis focuses on the historical, geopolitical, and legal context surrounding four instances of innocent passage conducted by USS Yorktown and USS Caron (1986 and 1988), HMS Dragon (2020), and HMS Defender (2021) within 12 nautical miles of Crimea, in order to explain the broader implications that these innocent passages have for operations in the disputed waters of the Black Sea and the South China Sea. Whereas the 1986 innocent passage was met with Soviet naval interference and diplomatic protests, the 1988 innocent passage escalated to an infamous shouldering or “bumping incident.” A similar pattern of escalation took place after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. In my thesis, I provide a historical context for the innocent passages, and I explore U.S. and UK reasoning for conducting the innocent passages as well as Russia’s objections to the passages. Finally, I assess what the disputes suggest for similar maritime disputes with China in the South China Sea and propose a template for Navy-Wide Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) guidance.
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