Tony Abbott’s threat to shirt-front Putin has resulted in an unexpected visit by the Russian Pacific fleet.
The Australian PM’s less than diplomatic and repeated bracing of Vladimir Putin over preceding weeks has seeded what appears to be a machismo laden confrontation now taking place. 4 Russian capital ships including the Guided missile cruiser Varyag, the Flagship of the Russian Pacific fleet are currently heading towards Brisbane.
But as the ships approach Australian waters uninvited and shadowed by an Australian Orion recon plane and a naval Frigate, its clear that the Russian president is well and truly upping Abbott’s shirt-front led bracing over the MH17 issue.
The Russian ships are still currently in international waters and are permitted under United Nations UNOS TERRITORIAL SEA AND CONTIGUOUS ZONE Articles section 3, article 18 to 20 to the right of ‘innocent passage’ through the territorial sea should the Russian ships enter Australian Territorial waters.
So if the ships enter Australia’s waters those rights to innocent passage expressly preclude:
(a) any threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of the coastal State, or in any other manner in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations;
(b) any exercise or practice with weapons of any kind;
(c) any act of propaganda aimed at affecting the defence or security of the coastal State;
Arguably, a slava class battle cruiser like the Varayag, its destroyer escort plus two support ships, though intimidating, is hardly an invasion force. But its worrying enough force with the Varyags 16 P-500 Bazalt (SS-N-12 Sandbox) long range missiles to be steaming in under right of ‘innocent passage’ into Australian waters. Particularly without any prior notice, arrangement or invitation.
This blunt kind of projection of power is not unusual for President Putin whose style as a political leader relies on such demonstrations of superior fire power and an almost eager willingness to wade into the deep water to prove a point.
And its such a point the Australian Prime minister will have to take on board for the upcoming G20 meetings.