Turkey continues to play the role of the “bad guy” in the North Atlantic Alliance. Recently, the country’s leadership decided to correct the organization’s plans and canceled some of the bloc’s exercises, referring to the provisions of the Montreux Convention on the Prevention of Warships in the Black Sea, as reported by the country’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in an interview with Anadolu agency.
“We introduced the Montreux Convention, we are forced to leave the airspace open. Even going beyond the Convention, we ask Russia about the ships, there were NATO exercises that were planned in advance. We have canceled them and postponed them. That is, we play an important role,” Cavusoglu said.
Back in May, the head of the Turkish Ministry of Defense Hulusi Akar in an interview with Haberturk TV, he said that Russia and Ukraine comply with the requirement on the Bosphorus and do not send warships through the strait. “We conveyed to all parties that within the framework of Montreux there should be no crossing of the Bosphorus by warships. Until now, there was no passage through the Bosphorus,” the minister said.
In April, Akar told reporters that Ankara was keeping NATO allies from having a military presence in the Black Sea because it would create “heightened sensitivity.” At the same time, after the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, Turkey closed the straits for the warships of the two countries, which, however, could cross them in order to return to the ports of their permanent residence.
It is worth adding that in April the Turkish side refused to let NATO minesweepers into the Black Sea after the discovery of anti-ship mines there. “We have a suspicion about the deliberate placement of mines. Perhaps they were released as part of some plan to put pressure on us,” Hulusi Akar said.
As is known, the Montreux Convention, adopted in 1936, preserves the freedom of passage through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles for merchant ships both in peacetime and in wartime. At the same time, it limits the stay in the Black Sea for warships of non-Black Sea states to three weeks. However, in emergency situations, Ankara has the right to prohibit and restrict the passage of warships through these straits.
According to researcher of the Turkish sector of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Amur Hajiyev, the cancellation of NATO exercises does not at all indicate any demonstrative behavior of Ankara.
– Still, this state adheres to a restrained and, in my opinion, a fairly balanced position. She refused the sanctions pressure on Russia, to which Western countries called her to join. Moreover, she even acted as an intermediary – both between Russia and Ukraine, and between Russia and the West. And this line was announced immediately. As for the Montreux Convention, Articles 19, 20, 21 give it the right, in the event of a threat to its security, to restrict or prohibit passage through the straits. The leadership of the country saw such a threat and took measures, exercised their right. Everything fits into the overall strategy of the state.
“SP”: – It’s just that the passions around the Turkish demarche to agree on the admission of Sweden and Finland to NATO have not subsided yet, and here follows a new statement, unpleasant for the authorities of the military bloc.
– It is no secret that Sweden and Finland have not complied with the requirements to stop funding and various support for the Kurdish self-defense units in Syria and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) associated with them. Moreover, the PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization both in the European Union and in the United States. Here, the Turkish authorities are dissatisfied with the fact that the leadership of the alliance, in the process of accepting new members, took the side of the applicants, and not the participating country. Although theoretically, the bloc was supposed to make a statement that Ankara’s opinion should be taken into account.
“SP”: – This is not the last discrepancy.
– There is also the question of arming Greece by the Americans. It is clear that the United States is creating a counterbalance to Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, but Ankara is clearly not happy with this. And one more claim, perhaps the most important – the United States and NATO cut off Turkey from the latest military-technical developments within the organization. For example, they refused to sell Patriot missile systems, after which the Turkish side turned its attention first to similar Chinese models, and then to the Russian S-400.
The situation is similar with the F-35 aircraft, which Turkey decided to replace with others, including Russian ones. That is, the collective West makes it clear that, of course, it needs Turkey, since it provides security on the southeastern flank, but it is pursuing a duplicitous policy on some important issues.
“SP”: – How can such behavior towards Turkish partners turn out for NATO?
– It is unlikely that in the near future this will lead to Turkey’s withdrawal from NATO – so far, with all the costs, the parties suit each other and no one wants to make any sudden moves. But the anger builds up. What will happen next – we’ll see.
Military political scientist, Associate Professor of the Department of Political Science and Sociology of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics Alexander Perendzhiev I am convinced that Turkey’s actions reveal contradictions within the North Atlantic Alliance.
– Ankara’s disagreements are not so much directly with NATO, but with Washington. For example, in Syria, the United States supports the Kurds, to whom they have been breathing unevenly for a long time. This causes criticism in Ankara. After all, the Kurds represent a serious problem in Turkey itself as separatists. Hence the harsh position regarding the entry into the military bloc of Sweden and Finland.
But Turkey is not only in conflict with the United States, of course. There are still contradictions with France and Greece. They appeared in Libya when everything was on the verge of military clashes. Then there was a conflict over the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. Moreover, these clashes were often presented by the Western press as confrontations between the EU and Turkey, although they kept silent about the fact that all participants are members of NATO.
“SP”: – In Ankara, judging by the cancellation of the exercises, conclusions are being drawn.
“They increasingly understand that being friends with NATO sometimes comes out more expensive for themselves. Therefore, Turkey somewhere shows the West that it is ready to develop cooperation with other countries. Particularly with Russia. We do not have close military cooperation – we do not conduct joint exercises, but military-technical cooperation is developing, there is an arms trade. At the same time, our countries have an interesting mediator – Azerbaijan.
As is known, Azerbaijan and Turkey signed the allied Shusha Declaration. And on February 22 this year, Russia and Azerbaijan signed the allied Moscow Declaration, which also provides for military cooperation. So, the Turkish side often, albeit not directly, but through Azerbaijan, cooperates with us. By the way, a joint Russian-Turkish monitoring center operates in Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition, the military of Russia and Turkey were engaged in mine clearance in this territory.
“SP”: – It is unlikely that Turkey canceled the exercises in order to please Moscow.
– We value our cooperation, we are not trying to limit Turkish sovereignty, to put pressure on our partners so that they, say, leave NATO. We say that the sovereign right of any country to be part of various organizations. We have normal interaction. However, it is worth paying attention here to a recent interesting statement by China, whose foreign minister Wang Yi proposed to expand the composition of the BRICS.
This was a clear message to Turkey, which was given to understand that if it finds NATO membership unacceptable, it may well join another influential and growing alliance. And thus the Turkish role in world politics will not only not fall, but even grow. There is no doubt that Turkey understood this message.