Staunton, April 7 – Discussions in Turkey about the possibility that Ankara will denounce the 1936 Montreux Convention governing naval transit through the straits have attracted far more attention in Russia than in other countries because Russia would be the big loser if that were to happen, Andrey Nikulin says.
The Convention provides both limits and predictability concerning the presence of foreign naval vessels in the Black Sea, and Russia could easily find itself confronted by a far greater naval threat there if the 1936 accord were annulled and Ankara decided to allow more Western ships in, the Moscow analyst says (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=606D32437D925).
That Turkey should want to do away with the convention is no surprise. It was imposed on a weak Turkey by outside powers that did not want Ankara to have the power to decide on its own which ships and how many could transit the straits. But because its denunciation would destabilize the situation, many Turks still oppose eliminating it.
Most recently, with the plans to construct a canal bypassing the straits set to take off, both those who would like to denounce the Convention and thus who believe that doing so would trigger conflicts with other powers and Russia in the first instance have become more vocal, with 100 retired admirals opposing the change and political leaders flirting with the idea.
This conflict has been intensified by reports this week that the US wants to send warships into the Black Sea in response to Russia’s increasing threats to Ukraine, reports that have not been confirmed by Washington as yet, and by the insistence of Turkish officials that the new canal will not be subject to Montreux limits.
Ankara does not seem likely to denounce the Convention anytime soon, but even the discussion of the possibility of limiting its application or ultimately doing so is ringing alarm bells in Russia, where analysts and politicians are expressing concern about what that would mean for Moscow (iarex.ru/articles/80414.html).
And that in turn suggests that what happens next may have less to do with Turkey’s own amour propre or its complex interaction with NATO and the West more generally than with Russia’s response which may take a variety of forms including but not limited to protests against such ideas in Turkey itself.