Apr 27, 2022
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Erdogan lay down with his chest to protect the Black Sea

Erdogan lay down with his chest to protect the Black Sea

Photo: Zuma/TASS

Turkey is trying diplomatically to keep NATO allies away from the Black Sea, Turkish Defense Minister says Hulusi Akar. He urged to refrain from provocations and ambiguous steps.

“The entry and exit of NATO allies into the Black Sea will create heightened sensitivity. We have proposals for maintaining stability in the Black Sea. Our call: do not get excited, do not panic. Incorrect information can lead to misunderstandings. Let’s not cause misunderstandings or actions that can be perceived as a provocation,” he said in an interview with the Hürriyet newspaper.

In addition, speaking of proposals to NATO allies not to enter the Black Sea during the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, the minister noted that Turkey is striving to prevent “disturbance of the balance within the principle of regional ownership.”

“If the balance is disturbed here, the likelihood that everything will get out of control is very high. Let’s not turn the Black Sea into a competitive environment. This is something we talk about openly,” Akar said, noting that the entry and exit of NATO allies into the Black Sea “will create heightened sensitivity.” In response to a question from a newspaper journalist whether there are warships of countries that are not coastal at the moment in the Black Sea, Akar answered in the negative.

Recall, according to the Montreux Convention, the presence in the Black Sea of ​​ships belonging to states that do not have access to it is limited. The convention preserves the freedom of passage for merchant ships through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles both in peacetime and in wartime, but the regimes are different for everyone. The convention also limits the stay in the Black Sea of ​​warships of non-Black Sea states for a period of three weeks. In emergency situations, Turkey has the right to prohibit or restrict the passage of warships through the straits. Which was done shortly after the start of the Russian special operation in Ukraine.

It turns out that Turkey, being a member of NATO, is still playing along with us? To what extent does the position of the minister correspond to the position of the political leadership of Turkey?

“Most likely, this is indeed the position of the top leadership of Turkey,” believes Associate Professor of the Financial University under the Government of Russia Gevorg Mirzayan.

– Ankara does not want a big conflict in the Black Sea, it wants to avoid various kinds of provocations against NATO ships that the Ukrainian military will arrange. Turkey does not want a war between Russia and the West to break out in the Black Sea, in which Turkey will have to take part.

“SP”: – Is Turkey really afraid of the presence of NATO in the Black Sea? They are members of NATO…

– Turkey is not afraid of the presence of NATO in the Black Sea, but what this presence can lead to. to direct military action. Or, as mentioned above, the Ukrainian military can attack some warship of a NATO member country and say that the Russians did it. In this situation, none of the NATO member countries will be able to tell the truth, will not be able to admit that Ukraine did it. So, they will have to activate the clause on collective defense. These are the scenarios that Turkey frankly does not need.

“SP”: – How to understand the “balance in the framework of the principle of regional ownership”? What does this principle mean for Turkey?

– Perhaps we are talking about the balance of power between Russia and the West, thanks to which we did not slide into the Third World War. The balance of power, the balance of interests and the presence of adequate people at the helm of the country.

“SP”: – And what is this diplomatic path that Akar is talking about?

– The leadership of Turkey will better answer this question. What and with whom it conducts secret negotiations. Judging by the fact that no one protests sharply against the closure of the Black Sea, these negotiations are successful.

“SP”: – What does this position of Turkey mean for us? Should we approve and support it? Turkey is playing on our side here?

– Turkey plays not on our side, but on its side. She is interested in diplomatic maneuvering, she is interested in preventing a full-scale war. At this particular moment, these interests correspond to ours, which is good.

According to Pavel Feldman, Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Forecasts, RUDN UniversityTurkey considers the Black Sea as a zone of its special responsibility, where even its NATO partners cannot “poke their nose” without the approval of Ankara.

– In addition, at Erdogan a rather complicated history of relations with Brussels and Washington. It is known that their positions fundamentally differ on a number of issues. The situation in Ukraine gives the Turkish leadership an opportunity to show character in a dialogue with its Western partners.

“SP”: – The Minister is talking about “disbalance within the principle of regional ownership”? What is he talking about? Has the balance been disturbed before? What changed?

– Talk about “balance” is diplomatic curtsy and euphemisms. Perhaps the Turks believe that their own ships are enough to maintain the balance of power between Russia and NATO in the Black Sea, and attracting additional warships from Britain or the United States in this situation is not advisable. There is a feeling that this oriental verbosity masks Erdogan’s true goals. It is possible that between him and Moscow there is an informal agreement on the division of spheres of influence in the Black Sea region. Issues on the Syrian front were resolved in a similar way.

“SP”: – “If the balance is disturbed here, the likelihood that everything will get out of control is very high. Let’s not turn the Black Sea into a competitive environment. This is something we talk about openly,” Akar said. What does he mean? What is considered out of control, and what is it fraught with?

– Of course, a direct clash between the fleets of Russia and NATO in the immediate vicinity of the coast of Turkey is unprofitable for Erdogan. He is well aware that in the tense atmosphere of a special military operation, unforeseen incidents are possible, fraught with the outbreak of the Third World War. Ukrainian mines are now drifting in the Black Sea, Russian missiles are being launched from its waters, and military cargo is being transported. The presence of American or European ships directly in the conflict zone would create total uncertainty and unpredictability in this “hot” region.

“SP”: – Turkey is trying diplomatically to keep NATO allies away from the Black Sea, acting outside the framework of the Montreux Convention, the minister said. What does it mean? What is the diplomatic path, and how effective is it?

– The Montreux Convention allows Turkey to ban the passage of military ships through the straits controlled by it. Obviously, Erdogan does not want to speak the language of prohibitions with his NATO partners, so he is looking for softer and more tactful ways to refuse. Now it is more convenient for Ankara to use subtle diplomatic tools and informal recommendations to the Americans and Europeans for this. The Turkish leader has always preferred to discuss such issues with his foreign counterparts in a closed format, without extra ears. He uses similar technologies now.

“SP”: – Do you think Washington will put pressure? What leverage does he have for this?

– First you need to understand whether Washington really wants to send its warships to the Black Sea? Still, the Americans also do not need extra risks. They are well aware of the consequences of hypothetical military incidents involving the Russian Navy and NATO countries. In a sense, the blockade of the Turkish Straits is beneficial to the Americans, because it gives them a convenient excuse to ignore Ukraine’s requests for military assistance off the coast of Odessa. Biden can always refer to Erdogan’s ban, saying “all questions are now to the Turkish leader.”

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