Sunday, October 14, 2007

Working in the Background

The Baltic Sea, in recent times, has become somewhat more of a potential low-conflict zone. This, of course, because of the Joint German-Russian pipeline that is supposed to run through it, and for which construction is supposed to start next year already.

The big point for other nations is where this pipeline is supposed to run, and who will tend to it once operational. Russia has stated that the Russian Baltic Fleet will be used to protect the pipeline - something Sweden deeply opposes, as this would permanently place the Baltic Fleet just right outside of Sweden's 12-mile zone. In the south, disputed territory between Denmark and Poland in the sea has lead to the pipeline being rerouted through non-disputed waters. And in the north, of course, Estonia is refusing to have it run through its waters, so there's another detour there. And Poland of course is simply calling the pipeline "the new Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact" (aka "Hitler-Stalin Pact"), because it will make it possible for Russia to cut gas to Poland without affecting Western Europe. Finland is cooperating with Germany and Russia - they're completely dependant on Russian gas anyway, and are getting a new direct spin-off from this pipeline out of it.

Germany has so far pretty much not commented on such security and conflict considerations. However, there's work going on in the background, somewhat silently. It might also be that this actually "conveniently" drowned somewhat in news of Russia testing new bombs, reactivating naval aircraft patrols and such around the same time.

On September 14th, the German and Russian Navy signed a bilateral cooperation treaty (i.e. outside existing NATO PfP arrangements) to "improve joint operations against new threats". This was followed by a 4-day visit visit of the Baltic Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Sidenko, to the German Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Stricker, on October 10th now, with a little tour through commands and some squadrons. Of course, officially, this visit runs under NATO PfP of course, but it's an interesting coincidence.

Of course it all just ties into a bigger picture. The German and Russian Navy have cooperated closely since 2006. Germany got the Baltic Fleet into the annual Open Spirits minehunting operation since then, integrating them closer with NATO navies in the area. Ships of the Baltic Fleet have paid friendly visits to German events in 2007 - such as a Neustrashimy at the Kieler Woche - and Russian and German rear-echelon officials have exchanged concepts and ideas with regard to coastal security and environmental protection since 2006.

All little things, which don't really pop up in the news. But things that could be interesting when considering the future - post-2010 - security environment of the Baltic Sea region.

No comments: