Placed onlin in French : 14 April 2014
While the USA and other NATO allies are deploying their ships in the East Mediterranean as part of "Operation Active Endeavor", Russia is deploying or repatriating some of its own in the Black Sea. Turkey for its part is conducting naval manoeuvres there involving three frigates, a corvette, two submarines and some other vessels.
And France is active too. Not content to participate in Active Endeavor, she is pushing her pawns up towards the coasts of Ukraine and Russia. Three of them, two more than the US.
As in the days of Napoléon III (the 1850s)
The French people don’t know this, but for the last fortnight the French Navy has been actively showing itself in the Black Sea. So say several sources (Turkish, Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian...) including the Turkish site "Bosphorus Naval News" of Cem Devrim Yaylal, who systematically reveals the passage of all warships through the Bosphorus.
At the end of March (26th or 28th according to the sources), the French frigate Alizé, "a diving support vessel", passed through to take part officially in a joint naval exercise off Varna (Bulgaria).
The Alizé is 60 metres long and displaces 1500 tonnes. It has a crew of 18 men and can take up to 230 passengers. It is equipped for all kinds of diving missions, including information-gathering abroad and support for combat divers. Its current location is unknown, but it has not been seen leaving the Black Sea, and the Courrier de Russie has just affirmed that it is still there.
On April 10, in the wake of the American destoyer Donald Cook, the surveillance ship Dupuy de Lôme passed through the Dardanelles and entered the Black Sea also.
At the same moment, the French Vessel BCR Var (A608), a command and refuelling ship of the Durance class, stopped at Marmaris (South-Eastern Turkey, East Mediterranean). Besides its role as logistical support for other ships, the Var can carry a naval headquaters of 70 men.
And one makes three !
Today April 14, it’s the anti-submarine frigate Dupleix that is expected in the Black Sea, and likely to remain beyond May 1.
The Ministry of Defense, which to our knowledge has not yet published a communiqué about sending it or any other French ship into the Black Sea, describes its missions thus:
• Conceived originally for priority anti-submarine defense of an air-sea group, the combat anti-submarine frigates (FASM in French) have recently had their surface action capabilities reinforced.
• The installation of optronic sensors, with powerful weapons and very fast implementation, now enables the FASM not only to identify with certainty any threat before countering it, so as avoid any mistake, but also to maintain the greatest discretion before engagement, in order not to heighten the level of a crisis.
• The FASMs, a modern high-performance combat ships, are a powerful military tool, able to intervene alone or with a varied national or multinational force at any point where France has decided to act to maintain or restore peace.
Silence in France, marching boots elsewhere
In Paris the grand manœuvres of our Navy, carefully cloaked in silence by the government, are unknown to the press, the broadcast media, and consequently to public opinion, that is to say the French people.
They are not unknown in Moscow or Kiev.
In Moscow, Izvestia published an édito on 14 avril about the arrival of the Dupleix in the Black Sea.
In Kiev, Vesti, in its online journal in Russian, did the same. As for Deutsche Welle, this German radio station for listeners abroad, has spoken of it in its Ukrainian language edition. Thus Russians and Ukrainians, even those not speaking Russian, are better informed than the French people about what France is doing.
In the current context of tension, every military "gesture", even if it seems no more than "diplomatic gesticulation" and does not infringe international law, can provoke a squabble. A naval incident in the Black Sea could very easily occur and degenerate into armed conflict. In other words war. We hope this doesn’t occur. But if it is, the French people would once again have to confront a fait accompli.
They are already facing one, because of the silence of government and media, keeping citizens and MPs in ignorance of what their navy is doing under the flag of France and in the name of the French people.
This is what we may call a very moderated form of democracy.
Jean-Marie Matagne, ACDN
+33 6 73 50 76 61