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Ankara in risky geopolitical gamble in Black Sea

Fiddling with the delicate balance of power in the Black Sea might leave Turkey in a worse squeeze between Russia and the United States.
A Liberian-flagged cargo vessel is tugged by a coastal safety boat after it ran ashore in the Bosporus, Istanbul, Turkey, Dec. 27, 2019.

Is Turkey on course to abandon its traditional balancing act between Russia and NATO in the Black Sea region? Ankara’s posture in the Ukraine-Russia standoff, coupled with its newfound ambivalence on a decadesold regime governing maritime traffic to the Black Sea, throws into question the balanced policy that Turkey has long pursued in the region.

In a rare alignment with Washington amid ongoing frost in bilateral ties, Ankara last week lent unequivocal support to Kiev in the face of mounting tensions on the Ukrainian-Russian border. The show of support for Ukraine coincides with an unprecedented controversy over Ankara’s commitment to the 1936 Montreux Convention, which regulates traffic through Turkey's Bosporus and Dardanelles straits — the maritime link between the Black and Mediterranean seas. The convention gives Turkey full control of the straits, while imposing strict limitations for the military ships of non-littoral states, effectively restricting the access of US and NATO naval forces to the Black Sea.

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