A big gap in Turkish diplomacy that spares Russia while supporting Ukraine

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Turkey recognized the “war situation” on Sunday and allowed it to block the passage of warships into the Black Sea. A new episode of the Ukrainian crisis explaining the complex relationship between Turkey’s diplomatic ambiguity and Moscow and Ankara.

These are two very strategic maritime locks for Russia. Pressured by Kyiv since Russia’s invasion to close the Straits of Dardaneres and Bosphorus, Ankara finally decided to do so in the voice of the Foreign Minister on Sunday, February 27. “The situation in Ukraine has turned into a war. Turkey will implement all the provisions of the Montreux Convention transparently,” Mevrut Kasvogur said in an interview with CNN-Turkey.

The Montreux Convention, signed in 1936, gives Turkey the role of guardian of the straits. This treaty guarantees the free movement of merchant ships, especially in peacetime, but in the event of a dispute, the State is empowered to deter warships wishing to cross, unless on the way to its homeport.

Proof of the importance of these routes in the current situation: At least six warships and Russian submarines returning from the Mediterranean have passed through the Bosphorus and Dardaneres Straits in the last two weeks.

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“Turkey said it would apply the Montreux Convention rather than blocking Russian warships. It’s a very subtle diplomatic language and a way behind international law,” Sciencepo said. Teacher Jean-Marcoux joined France 24. “Once again, Turkey is trying to be on the side,” added a researcher associated with the French Anatolian Institute (IEFA) in Istanbul.

Turkey, a NATO member, has made a clear pledge to Ukraine, which has been approaching since 2014, taking care not to offend Russia.

Strengthening military cooperation with Kyiv

However, playing in every aspect of this crisis is promised to be dangerous to Ankara. Ankara is in an unprecedented slump, squeezed by a surge in inflation.

Turkey is still economically dependent on Moscow. In particular, 40% of the gas was imported from Russia, and last year it welcomed more than 2 million Russian tourists. The challenge for Ankara is also strategic, in maintaining Syria’s cooperation with Russia.

If Ankara has repeatedly condemned the “unacceptable” invasion of Ukraine, it is careful not to over-support the sanctions imposed by Western nations. “Turkey would not have closed its airspace to Russian planes, especially withholding a vote to suspend Russia’s representation in the Council of Europe,” recalls Jean-Marcoux.

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Turkey, which is dependent on Russia, is also anxious to deepen its ties with Ukraine’s neighbors. Separated by the Black Sea, the two countries have certainly grown quite close in recent years.

Since 2019, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Volodymyr Zelensky have met five times to strengthen their military cooperation. Symbol of this partnership: the purchase of Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones, and the signing of an agreement permitting Ukraine to produce them in its soil.

For Turkey, this new market will benefit from the acquisition of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system in 2019, followed by sanctions on the defense industry against NATO’s advice and a war in Nagorno Karabakh in the fall of 2020. I am.

But this cooperation is a source of tension with the Kremlin. In October 2021, a Turkish drone attack on the Separatists in Donbus caused Vladimir Putin’s wrath. Vladimir Putin has decided to postpone his scheduled visit to Turkey in early December after these events.

Black Sea rivals

According to military experts, this strengthening of relations with Ukraine is partly explained by the rise of Russia in the Black Sea. Russia currently has 49 warships and 7 submarines in the region, according to Navy News, a specialized site.

After the discovery of a large gas field in the Black Sea in August 2020, the Turkish eyes seem to have an increasing need to curb Russia’s appetite. Turkey, with its ambition to become an energy superpower, wants to free itself from its dependence on hydrocarbon imports.

Therefore, in the face of increasingly threatening Russia, Turkey has no intention of letting go of Kyiv and annexes the Crimean Peninsula, the original land of the Turkish-speaking Muslim Tatars who once ruled the Ukrainian Peninsula. I have no intention of admitting.

The war in Ukraine may reaffirm the ambiguity of Turkey’s diplomacy, but Ankara seems determined to strike a balance between Moscow and the Western nations.

“We are in front of a cautious country, and its attitude shows its diplomatic line. As a member of NATO, Turkey remains mobile and provides services to negotiate and discuss with all parties. I want to continue, “analyzes Jean-Marcoux. “The big question is whether the country can continue this policy of the big gap in this increasingly polarized world.”