The Big Black Sea Region
The escalation of the military-political situation in the Black Sea region against the backdrop of recent developments in the Kerch Gulf is a continuation of the exacerbation of the Russian-Western confrontation. Among the main economic factors contradictions in Russia and the West can be identified competing projects for the transportation of Caspian energy carriers to Europe. Thus, the EU, with the support of the United States, is implementing the Southern Gas Corridor (SUGC) project and seeks to ensure the delivery of Azerbaijani and Turkmen natural gas to Europe. In contrast to the European energy strategy, Moscow is promoting a Russian project for the transportation of Russian natural gas to the EU countries - "Turkish Stream" and "Northern Stream-2", which allows the Kremlin to abandon the Ukrainian route.
It should be noted that the bundle of the Black Sea with the South Caucasus and the Caspian regions is due to the significance of this geopolitical space, which is a corridor through which Moscow, among other things, can strengthen its geopolitical influence in the Middle East.
In Ankara, the Black Sea is considered a transit corridor, which should become an area of alternative transport and trade routes to Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. And the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits control provides Ankara with diplomatic leverage to strengthen Turkey's strategic position on the Black Sea. The Strait of Ankara, even as a NATO member, seeks to adhere to the provisions of the Convention, since this factor guarantees the preservation of the geopolitical influence of Turkey in the Black Sea region, making it closed. And in this the Russian and Turkish interests coincide.
In other words the vulnerability of the south-eastern flank of NATO is evident on the background of the rapprochement between Russia and Turkey, as well as the implementation of the "Turkish Flow" project, which will pass through the Black Sea bypassing Ukraine. As a result, Kiev will lose transit fees, which will negatively affect the economy of Ukraine. Although, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia benefit from the construction of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline. It is anticipated that through their territory a second thread of the "Turkish Flow" will pass through which natural gas from 2020 year will be delivered to the countries of Central Europe. True, talks are still in progress, but if successful, this will further weaken the South-East flank of NATO. Especially since Ankara and Moscow do not welcome the permanent naval presence of non-regional forces in the Black Sea region. The strengthening of the US naval group does not need to be Ankara, which monitors and observes the Montreux Convention, has its interests in the Black Sea region and the Middle East, with which the Turkish side regularly faces disagreements with Washington.
The Turkish authorities are interested in establishing a strategic balance in the foreign policy direction, since are aware of the consequences of Ankara's geopolitical dependence on the West or Russia. Therefore, Ankara believes that the path to the continental power is through strengthening of interstate ties, both with the United States and the EU, with Iran, China and Russia. Moreover, it is EU which remains the key trade and economic partner of Turkey. Obviously, the EU has a serious economic leverage on TP pressure.
The rapprochement of Ankara with Moscow is within the framework of the multi-vector foreign policy of Turkey, which does not imply a long-term alliance with Russia. Proof of this is the rapprochement between Turkey and Ukraine. By the way, Kyiv actively uses this factor in confronting Russia, which suggests that the priorities of Ankara and Moscow do not match.
In particular, Ankara and Moscow disagree on issues of Russian annexation of the Crimea in the 2014 year and the Crimean-Tatar issues. Obviously, for Ankara the factor of Ukraine, the Crimea and the Crimean Tatars is one of the effective instruments of pressure on Moscow. It should be noted the joint role of Ankara and Washington in the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew for active participation in the creation of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Moscow, taking into account the dependence of the Constantinople Patriarchate on Ankara.
Ankara's intention to make Turkey the status of a continental power, in spite of all the complexities of the geopolitical situation in the region of the Near and Middle East, is generally ensured by the successful actions of Ankara. It is symbolic that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently stated that the development of the region is directly dependent on the achievements of Ankara. And the main place in this intention is the Turkish project to create Turkish military bases abroad. Ankara already has military bases in Syria, Iraq, Qatar, Northern Cyprus. Ankara is negotiating the establishment of Turkish military bases in Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia. But, most importantly - Ankara plans to open the ninth logistical base on the eastern coast of the Black Sea near the city of Trabzon.
The strengthening of the Black Sea Fleet of Russia has raised concern in Ankara. True, the Navy of Turkey surpasses the Black Sea Fleet of Russia by the number of surface ships and submarines. However, the Black Sea Fleet of Russia is stronger in terms of the total capacity and the number of missiles that the Russian side can release. In the middle of 2016 year, during the crisis of Russian-Turkish relations, Ankara's fears about Russia's military presence in the region were expressed by R.T. Erdogan, who, referring to NATO Secretary General, stated: "The Black Sea has become almost like the lake of Russia. If we do not act now, the story will not forgive us. " By the way, Ankara has eight military bases in four seas: the Mediterranean, Aegean, Marmara and Black, as well as the Bosphorus and Dardanelles. And the construction of the ninth logistical base is in the logic of development of the Navy of Turkey, which seeks to enter through 15-20 years as one of the leading naval powers in the world.
In other words, the strengthening of Ankara's military presence in Syria, in the context of the growth of the authority of President R.T. Erdogan within the country, in the Muslim and Arab world, as well as the transformation of the republic into the Eurasian energy pipeline hub, demonstrate the Turkish side's intention to 2023 year (the Republic of Turkey will be executed by 100 years) to occupy the place of the continental power. After all, the development of the defense potential of Turkey, part of which will be the new logistic base of the Navy of Turkey, is aimed at preserving Ankara as the leading naval power in NATO after the United States.
Ankara has the necessary potential for this: the advantageous location of Turkey, which gives Ankara the opportunity to control energy and sea transit; large population (80 million people); developed industry; powerful Sun, while in the Middle East region Israel only lags behind.
And Ankara is increasing the economic influence of Turkey in the region of the Near and Middle East. Thus, in recent years there has been a marked increase in the trade turnover of Ankara with the countries of the region. It should also be noted Ankara's military achievements in the military sphere, such as the assembly of F-16 fighters in Turkey, the creation of the Altay's own design tanks, and the development of UAVs. Obviously, the military-technical development of Turkey creates favorable conditions for the realization of the ambitions of R.T. Erdogan. Especially since 80% of the population of Turkey is Muslim Sunnis, i.e. they belong to the same branch of Islam as most Arabs in the Middle East and Middle East countries, including the Persian Gulf.
It should be noted that the strengthening of the military presence of Turkey in Syria leads to a clash with Moscow on the de-escalation of the military-political situation in the northern provinces of the country. Therefore, the relationship between Turkey and Russia can change. It is symbolic that Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has made two important statements: first, Turkey "remains an important ally of the United States and will not join any forces that would threaten other NATO countries"; secondly, "the Astana process may end." Moreover, within the framework of the Astana process, it was possible to reach agreement on the zones of de-escalation and to improve the migration processes in northern Syria.
At the same time, Ankara will continue to cooperate with Russia in the framework of such projects as "Turkish Flow" and "Akkuyu" NPP. Consequently, in the short term, against the backdrop of current relations with the US, the EU and NATO, Ankara will work closely with Russia and Iran within the framework of the Astana process. But, in the long run, Ankara will change its foreign policy priorities depending on the geopolitical forces in the region of the Middle East, the Black Sea-Caucus-Caspian and Central Asian regions.
Turkey's participation in such important projects as TANAP, TAP and Turkish Stream, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line, and other oblasts make Ankara more actively involved in reformatting the regions of the Middle East and the Middle East, the Black Sea region and the South Caucasus. Therefore, Ankara strengthens its position in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (NAR) of Azerbaijan. So, Ankara has already announced plans to build a railway in the direction of Nakhchivan. The construction of the railway will lead to the strengthening of Turkish influence, both in the NAR and in the region of the South Caucasus.
It should be noted that only the Karabakh issue with 2010 of the year remains an unresolved issue in the Azerbaijani-Turkish agenda. In particular, after the signing of two Armenian-Turkish protocols in Zurich in 2009 in Baku, the Turkish authorities blamed the Turkish authorities for a behind-the-scenes deal with Yerevan at the expense of the national interests of Azerbaijan in rigorous form. And in this situation, Ankara was forced to announce that the Turkish parliament's ratification of the Armenian-Turkish protocols would be carried out only after the withdrawal of the occupation troops from the Azerbaijani lands around Nagorno-Karabakh.
In other words The resolution of the Armenian-Turkish conflict with 2010 year is de facto tied to the political settlement of the Karabakh conflict with all political consequences for Ankara.. Ankara, on the one hand, seeks to resolve the "Armenian question" and thereby get rid of the political pressure of the USA and France, using, if necessary, the "Armenian question" and the Armenian diaspora as levers of pressure on Turkey. On the other hand, on the background of current geopolitical events in the region of the Near and Middle East, as well as around the Black Sea-Caucus-Caspian region, it is seeking, along with Russia, the US, Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia, to participate in reformatting the above-mentioned regions.
The United States is considering its military-political presence in Georgia, including possible base, as an alternative to a military presence in Turkey. In addition, the US intends to be present in the South Caucasus region as a guarantor for the protection of the main export pipelines currently in operation. The political and economic interest of Kiev in strengthening the US military presence in the Black Sea region is to prevent the implementation of the negative scenario: the obstruction by the Russian side of shipping aims to inflict foreign trade damage on Ukraine.
There are two large port cities of Mariupol and Berdyansk in the Azov Sea, through which steel and grain are exported (the two main export products of Ukraine). The blockade creates a tense situation in Mariupol, as well as in smaller settlements, whose well-being depends on fishing and maritime trade. The port of Mariupol, where the steel smelting plant is located, has already suffered losses by more than 30% due to obstruction of shipping. There is also tension on the land, part of the coast east of Mariupol belongs to the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk region of Ukraine.
Moscow, in turn, may refuse to delineate the Black and Azov seas. However, in the "Big Contract" of the 1997 of the year, it is indicated that Russia and Ukraine will strive to consolidate the status of inland waters of the two states in the Azov-Kerch water area. First of all, it was a question of recognizing freedom of navigation in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait for merchant ships and warships of Russia and Ukraine and forbidding entry there without the mutual consent of the two countries of the warships of third countries. Also meant the joint exploitation of water resources. Russia and Ukraine planned to divide potential deposits.
In other words, Russia, which has considerably more powerful military and economic potential, will become a full owner in the waters of the Azov Sea. In addition, Moscow is against the entry into the Sea of Azov of third-country vessels, primarily those belonging to NATO. And if Kiev establishes the boundary of territorial waters, everything that will be outside this border will be considered neutral waters, where according to the relevant convention there will be a right of free navigation.
Moscow believes that Ukraine has sufficient military, human and technological potential, which will significantly strengthen NATO's south-east flank with all the ensuing military-political consequences for Russia against the backdrop of the US-Russia confrontation.
Consequently, the possible deterioration of NATO's relations with Russia may be caused by the fact that the Kremlin is aware of the final loss of the prospect of regaining its control over Ukraine. Moreover, the real military confrontation between NATO and Russia is unlikely, given the catastrophic consequences for both sides. It can be assumed that such a situation of balance of forces and the inexpediency of NATO's direct military confrontation with Russia will persist for a long-term perspective.
First, the The United States believes that the deployment of Russian anti-missile defense systems C-400 on the Crimean peninsula has increased Russia's defense capability. Moscow created with the help of anti-missile defense systems C-400 several "exclusion zones" that partly cover the territories and waters of NATO countries. Thus, multilevel air defense systems were created over Crimea, the Kaliningrad region, Kamchatka and Syria. Crimean "dome" covers the Black Sea and the Black Sea countries of NATO. The "dome" over Syria covers part of the territory of Turkey. In the event of a military crisis, the presence of such "domes" can hinder the movement of NATO forces, which does not suit the Alliance.
Therefore, the United States will continue to deploy anti-submarine planes R-3 Orion and P-8 Poseidon intelligence aircraft in the region, conduct reconnaissance operations along the Black Sea coast of Russia along with the UAV along with the Crimea, to deal with the issues of the interaction of their ships with NATO allies, to create conditions for the use of Romanian and Bulgarian ports in the interests of the 6 fleet, whose ships are increasingly appearing at the Russian borders in the Black Sea.
Strengthening the presence of the US Navy in the Black Sea prompts Washington to cooperate with the countries of the region within NATO and Ukraine.
Second, the Russia will soon face more frequent visits by the US and NATO ships to the Black Sea in connection with the well-known events in the Kerch Strait. Moreover, the United States and NATO will take into account the Montreux Convention 1936 of the year, which limits the tonnage, quantity and time spent in the Black Sea of warships of non-Black Sea states. But NATO multinational forces can circumvent the restrictions by completing their fleet with ships from several countries and resorting to their rotation.
In other words, Moscow can no longer rely on the Montreux Convention, since NATO will look for ways to circumvent the restrictions and ensure the leadership of its navies in the region. However, Russia's position on the Crimean peninsula gives it a serious advantage over NATO.
therefore NATO looks at plans for the creation of a Allied Black Sea Special Command, which is supposed to include Ukraine and Georgia in addition to the NATO countries in the region (Romania and Bulgaria). By the way, the United States and NATO can help Georgia and Ukraine to create and strengthen their Navy and create a coast guard near a seaport of strategic importance in Poti to circumvent the Montreux Convention. In addition, the United States is already considering the idea of a "flag change" operation - a change in the formal nationality of a number of naval vessels stationed in NATO countries with strong fleets by including them in the navies of NATO countries and allies of the Black Sea Bloc. And in the case of Ukraine, this kind of operation can be realized - for the transfer of large military ships to Kiev. Moreover, the United States implements the so-called "NATO member states" in the border regions with Russia. "European Trust Restoration Initiative", which implies an increase in the presence of the United States Air Force and ground forces in the region. In particular, it is a question of strengthening the Black Sea rotational group of the US Marine Corps, whose airborne component will operate with the Romanian airbase Mikhail Kogelnichanu and Bulgarian Novo Selo. As a result, the creation of a special command of NATO forces in the Black Sea region will mean a significant deterioration and complication for Russia of the entire situation in the Black Sea basin, with the need to upgrade the Black Sea Fleet and all related infrastructures at an accelerated pace.
Thirdly, NATO's military engagement with Ukraine, the reform and maintenance of its Armed Forces will increase. The US and EU, increasingly drawn into conflict with Russia because of Ukraine, will be forced to strengthen Kiev not only by economic anti-Russian sanctions, but also by collective guarantees of NATO. After all, the failure of all attempts to break into a de-escalation of the military conflict in the Donbass, including the Minsk agreements, obliges Brussels to build NATO's political planning with a high probability of a negative scenario: the long-term conflict in the Donbass with the prospect of military escalation. Consequently, Brussels considers Ukraine as an important partner and ally, and therefore will assist Kiev in developing the country's defense capability.
Orientalist, Head of Analytical Center 3RD VIEW, Baku, Azerbaijan