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.