Turkish games in the Straits

Turkish games in the Straits

Turkey is seeking to pack as much as it can into the agenda of the crucial NATO Summit in Vilnius in July. It is not just the trade-offs Ankara hopes to get for agreeing to Sweden’s induction into the Alliance or its claims concerning the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus.

According to the usually well-informed AI-Monitor, Ankara is also planning to demand that the Straits – as foreseen under the 1936 Montreaux Convention – which connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, be renamed the “Turkish Straits.” You don’t need to be a geopolitics expert to understand that Ankara is seeking control over the entry and exit points of the Bosporus and Black Sea, with everything this entails for maritime trade and military movements in the area.

The allies will not be eager to hand over the keys to Turkey when the situation in the Black Sea is as stormy as it is due to the war in Ukraine, Russia’s expansive ambitions and the increasingly close ties between Moscow and Ankara. Giving Turkey control of the Straits – and through them, Russia – would be suicide for Western interests in Southeast Europe and the Caucasus. It would raise the risk of the Black Sea becoming a “lake” of Turco-Russian interests and of the countries near its shores having to submit to them. But NATO’s reluctance to shoot itself in the foot means that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will likely leverage the issue to negotiate some other of his many demands with the Alliance.

Either way, the issue of the Straits’ status will have made it onto the international agenda. It is imperative, therefore – and not just for Greece – to create an overland corridor via Alexandroupoli to the Black Sea’s shores and further into the Baltics, bypassing the Straits.

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