The recent comments made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regarding the beginning of the Istanbul Canal construction present a “geopolitical and strategic challenge to Black Sea states as well as the major players who have interests in the region, such as NATO, the EU and China,” Constantin Corneanu, who heads the Gheorghe Bratianu European Association of Geopolitical and Strategic Studies, said in an interview with TASS Monday.
“The Istanbul Canal will become an instrument in the Erdogan regime’s arsenal in his constant efforts to include Turkey in regional geopolitical games,” he stressed. “The legal status of the canal will require political and diplomatic talks to avoid a disbalance of the regional security architecture.”
The Romanian expert laid out three scenarios of future developments.
According to him, applying the provisions of the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits to the new project will give Turkey a chance to conduct direct negotiations with major players, establishing its geopolitical and security interests.
Meanwhile, rejecting the convention would lead to the militarization of the Black Sea region because NATO navies will be able to sail into the Black Sea anytime, creating difficulties for Russia in the Caucasian and Ukrainian strategic regions.
Preserving the Montreux Convention but taking the Istanbul Canal out of its jurisdiction will allow Turkey to influence the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, forcing NATO, the European Union, as well as Russia and China to take into account Turkey’s geopolitical and security interests, the expert believes.
Ankara’s oscillating stance in relations with Russia and cooperation with the Kiev regime in equipping Ukraine with modern arms, according to Corneanu, demonstrates Erdogan’s capability of “turning Turkey into a crucial factor in the security architecture in the expanded Black Sea region.”
“Therefore, a new threat is looming that can raise concerns in the Kremlin and reinforce opinions claiming that the West is concocting a new plan to encircle the Russian World. These concerns can ramp up the arms race and modify the regional security architecture,” he concluded.
Erdogan’s Istanbul Canal project
The Istanbul Canal project was first announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2011.
The waterway is meant to become a new major shipping artery in western Istanbul, connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.
In December 2019, Erdogan stressed that the canal will not be covered by the Montreux Convention.
The Convention, adopted in 1936 in the city of Montreux, enshrined free passage through the straits of Bosphorus and the Dardanelles for trade ships only.
Meanwhile, it significantly limits the class and displacement of military ships for non-Black Sea nations. Black Sea nations may move military ships of any class through the straits during peace time by notifying the Turkish authorities beforehand.