Ukraine: Black Sea Fleet Dispute Apparently Over

THE LATEST ACCORD IN THE THREE-AND-a-half-year dispute over the Black Sea Fleet settles the major outstanding controversy between the two sides – the issue of basing. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, met on 10 June in Sochi, a Russian resort town on the Black Sea, to sign the agreement. Both sides had to compromise their political principles. Previously, Russia had demanded Sevastopol as a solely Russian base, while Ukraine insisted that its own navy must also use the port. Under the new Sochi accord, Sevastopol will be the main base of the Russian navy; where Ukraine will base its navy was left unclear. This leaves open the possibility that the port will be shared. In reality, it was a forgone conclusion that the two navies would have to share Sevastopol, the only port on the Black Sea with bays deep enough to hold the fleet’s larger vessels and submarines. It is also highly unlikely that either side would have been able to dislodge the other from the base without resorting to force.