Bosphorus: a key role in the Ukrainian war

On October 29, the agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain was violated after the drone attack on the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Turkey has finally eased the tension to resume cargo transportation. Control over the Bosphorus allows Ankara to anchor its influence in world trade.

“Turkey’s policy during the war was very successful. Turkey can satisfy both countries”, – said Kazim Tayci, chairman of the Istanbul Grain, Legumes and Oilseeds Exporters Union (IHBIR), after Russia suspended the agreement on the export of Ukrainian grains. The outbreak of the war in Ukraine in February 2022 stopped grain exports. One of the world’s largest grain producers and exporters has had its carpet pulled out by the start of a “special operation” led by Moscow. In 2020, 9% of world wheat exports came from Ukraine. Indeed, it is a situation that worries the international community, which is afraid of the world’s food security. So, on July 22, a grain agreement for a “humanitarian corridor” was signed between the UN, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey in Istanbul. Its purpose is to enable the export of cereals through a special sea corridor.

Turkey is the guarantor of grain in the Bosphorus

The Bosphorus Strait plays a central role for the proper functioning of the corridor. Cargo ships pass through the strait connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of ​​Marmara. At the beginning of the war, Ankara decided to close the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to warships, as allowed by the Montreux Convention signed in 1936. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also from Turkey “He decided to use the Montreux Convention in a way that would prevent the escalation of the crisis.” Nevertheless, Ankara presented itself as a mediator between the two countries in order to maintain its dual position against Kyiv and Moscow. In order not to create a food crisis in the world, a Joint Coordination Center (CCM or JCC) consisting of high-level representatives of the Russian Federation, Turkey, Ukraine and the UN was established in Istanbul. In Istanbul, CCM oversees the inspection of ships bound for Ukraine to ensure they are not carrying cargo. Inspections are also carried out in the opposite direction.

To save the Ankara grain agreement

But a drone attack against Russian ships in Crimea allowed Moscow to justify suspending the agreement signed in July 2022. “Marine drones were operating in the security zone of the “grain corridor”” On Sunday, October 30, the Russian Defense Ministry clarified, saying that some drones could be sent before the addition. “From one of the civilian ships chartered by Kyiv or its Western masters to export agricultural products from Ukrainian seaports.” Despite Russia’s suspension of the agreement, some ships left Ukraine on October 31. But the Joint Coordination Center, which is responsible for grain control, announced in a press release on the evening of Tuesday, November 1, that travel in the Black Sea had been suspended: “The delegations of the United Nations Secretariat, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey at the Joint Coordination Center have agreed not to schedule cargo shipments on November 2 under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.”

A situation condemned by Emmanuel Macron, who accused Russia of harming food security. For Kazim Tayci “The war started when prices went down. Pricing eased with the deal. Without a new deal, prices will go up again.”

The president of Turkey wants to be more confident. Recep Tayyip Erdogan guessed this after his phone conversation with Vladimir Putin “Resolving the issue of grain export can lead Russia and Ukraine to the path of peace negotiations.” In the week of October 31, 170 waiting cargoes were calculated by CCM outside Istanbul. Finally, on Wednesday, November 2, the Turkish president and the UN managed to convince Russia to keep the agreement. Russia did not specify the conditions under which it finally agreed to resume grain exports.

Bosphorus is a geostrategic position

For this reason, the Bosphorus Strait becomes a weapon of influence in geopolitical changes for Turkey. This helps to strengthen its position in the international arena where it participates in negotiations. Due to its geostrategic position, Turkey is currently considered by colleagues as a central actor in the discussions. The Turkish Strait thus gives the authority to act in a regional balance: not to escalate the Russia-Ukraine conflict, not to inflame tensions in the Black Sea, a region rich in hydrocarbons. “As the world focuses on Turkey’s response to the Ukraine crisis, naval diplomacy has become a litmus test of Ankara’s broader geostrategic orientation toward NATO and Russia.”, believes S. Süha Çubukçuoğlu, geopolitical analyst. For him, this allows Turkey to maintain some neutrality in the war in Ukraine while maintaining its strategic commitments. For example, this is what gave Recep Tayyip Erdogan the opportunity to slow down the process of Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO in order not to provoke Russia. The “sick man” of Europe is now in a strong position thanks to its strategic bottleneck.

Ukraine Russia Bosphorus Grain Agreement

This article was written as part of an exam at the Nice School of Journalism

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