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“The Black Sea question in Russo-Turkish Relations,” in Contemporary Russo-Turkish Relations: From Crisis to Cooperation, ed. by Ali Askerov, Lexington Books, 2018.



Stability and predictability in the Black Sea region are decided by relations between the two main players in the region, the Russian Federation and Turkey, with other regional states, and global powers making ad hoc contributions. Players have to contribute voluntarily toward a public good, which in this case can be expressed as peace and stability in the region. Among these contributors are Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, as well as the United States, and NATO member states, two of whom, Romania and Bulgaria, are littorals of the Black Sea. In an anarchic system, contributing to the public good is a risky business, as some critical mass of actors is expected to participate regularly to generate expected outcomes. If most actors are reluctant to participate; however, a project aiming at developing mutually beneficial arrangements will fail because in a system composed of sovereign states, nothing durable can be forced upon them unless they agree to participate and contribute voluntarily. In addition, forcing issues upon others involves using a threat of military or economic power, which is by definition contradictory to peace and stability as the desired outcome.
Contemporary Russo–Turkish
Contemporary Russo–Turkish
From Crisis to Cooperation
Edited by Ali Askerov
Lanham Boulder New York London
Published by Lexington Books
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Printed in the United States of America
Foreword ix
Stefan D. Brooks
Acknowledgments xv
Introduction xvii
Ali Askerov
1A History of Russian–Turkish Relations: From the Ottoman
Empire Period to the End of the Soviet Era 1
Glyas Topsakal
2Main Lines of Turkey–Russia Relations in the 2000s 27
Cemre Pekcan
3Contending Policies of Russia and Turkey: The Syrian
Crisis 45
Ali Askerov and Lasha Tchantouridze
4Turkey–Russia Relations After the Shooting Down of a
Russian Warplane 65
Togrul Ismayil
5Effects of US PYD/YPG Policy on Russo–Turkish Relations 83
Ali Askerov, Sean Byrne, and Thomas Matyok
6The Military-Strategic Dimensions of Turkey–Russian
Relations 109
AydÍn Çetiner
7The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations 125
Lasha Tchantouridze
8Restrictions on a Possible Rapprochement between Turkey,
Russia, and Iran 157
Gbrahim Arslan
9Central Asia at the Crossroads of Russian–Turkish
Cooperation and Competition 181
Kamala Valiyeva
10 The Turkish–Russian Relations in the Context of Energy
Cooperation 203
Tugce Varol
Contents DRAFT
11 A Comparison of the EU Policies of Turkey and Russia 223
Soner Karagül
12 A Proposal for Sustainable Peace in the Sykes-Picot
Agreement’s Hundredth Year: The Middle East Peace and
Stability Pact 249
Gbrahim Arslan and Mithat Baydur
13 Social Dynamics of Modern Russian and Turkish Societies 265
Abulfaz Suleymanov, Gali Galiev, and Chulpan Gldarhanova
14 The Future of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation
Organization in the Context of Contemporary
Developments 281
Sergey A. Kizima
15 A Third Party Role in the Normalization of Russo–Turkish
Relations 291
Ali Askerov and Stefan D. Brooks
Conclusion: Conflict or Cooperation? 313
Ali Askerov
About the Contributors 317
The Black Sea Question in
Russo–Turkish Relations
Lasha Tchantouridze
Stability and predictability in the Black Sea region are decided by rela-
tions between the two main players in the region, the Russian Federation
and Turkey, with other regional states, and global powers making ad hoc
contributions. Players have to contribute voluntarily toward a public
good, which in this case can be expressed as peace and stability in the
region. Among these contributors are Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, as well
as the United States, and NATO member states, two of whom, Romania
and Bulgaria, are littorals of the Black Sea. In an anarchic system, contrib-
uting to the public good is a risky business, as some critical mass of actors
is expected to participate regularly to generate expected outcomes. If
most actors are reluctant to participate; however, a project aiming at de-
veloping mutually beneficial arrangements will fail because in a system
composed of sovereign states, nothing durable can be forced upon them
unless they agree to participate and contribute voluntarily. In addition,
forcing issues upon others involves using a threat of military or economic
power, which is by definition contradictory to peace and stability as the
desired outcome. Bargaining in the Black Sea region should be a straight-
forward affair, as the dominant actors are divided into two groups: mem-
bers of NATO on one side, and Russia and Russia-dominated actors on
the other; however, in fact, the circumstances are far more complicated
due to: (a) the low-scale and frozen conflicts in Georgia, Ukraine, Chech-
nya, and Azerbaijan; (b) Russia’s willingness to use military force in the
pursuit of its foreign policy goals; and (c) Turkey’s distinct and long-
standing position on the issue of restricting the military navigation of the
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
Black Sea by non-littoral states. These three factors create very complex
dynamics of strategic uncertainty in the Black Sea region.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, relations between Ankara and
Moscow have been largely cordial and at times even amiable, but at the
same time, at least on two occasions, the two sides have come perilously
close to a military clash. For over a decade and a half, both Russia and
Turkey have been led by strong and charismatic leaders backed by popu-
lar support in their own countries, who have developed their own dis-
tinct vision of their country’s place and role in international affairs. Both
Russian and Turkish leaderships have been taking risk-informed actions
in the areas of their mutual interest, more recently, with their involve-
ment in the Syrian civil war. The frozen conflicts in the Caucasus and the
status of international navigation in the Black Sea serve as enduring
sources of strategic uncertainty between the two. There is even less cer-
tainty regarding the conflicts over Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Crimea, or
Mountainous (Nagorniy) Karabakh. In regards to the Black Sea status,
Ankara and Moscow have a similar vision of its strategic importance
with their clear preference for the status quo; however, Russia’s invasion
of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea in March 2014 has upset the
fragile stability in the region and furthered uncertainty.
Russia’s ambitious military initiative in Syria is built on the success of its
policy of small wars in its immediate neighborhood. Moscow’s previous
gambles in the Black Sea region have paid off handsomely: by annexing
Crimea and acquiring control over Abkhazia’s coastline, Russia has sig-
nificantly strengthened its position in the Black Sea region and eliminat-
ed the possibility of the Black Sea becoming NATO’s internal sea.1Mos-
cow successfully advanced its interests vis-à-vis the United States and
NATO by attacking and dismembering two of the most Western-oriented
states in its traditional sphere of influence, Georgia, and Ukraine. If Rus-
sia manages to secure the long-term survival of the Assad regime, it will
gain further leverage and bargaining chips in its dealings with both the
West and the regional powers in the Middle East, among them Turkey.
Western attitudes toward Moscow’s policies designed to re-establish con-
trol and influence through small regional wars have been anemic and
inconsistent at best. Turkey all but ignored Russia’s invasion of both
Georgia and Ukraine, and only became alarmed after Russian troops
showed up in force south of the Turkish borders in August 2015. The
United States, purportedly the world’s only superpower, gave Moscow a
“reset” button after the war in Georgia, and only noticed Moscow’s bra-
zen and open aggression against Ukraine when the Malaysia Airlines
Flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian paramilitary group over
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
Ukraine on July 17 2014.2Even then Washington and its European allies
demonstrated reluctance in imposing significant economic and/or politi-
cal sanctions on Russia, primarily due to significant disagreements on the
subject among the Western allies.3Western failure to act after Russia’s
invasion of Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, resulted in Russia’s
military build-up in Syria—this new problem Washington could no long-
er ignore as the Russian deployments in Syria put the Russian and
American forces in dangerous proximity to each other.4The United
States and its allies have failed to check Moscow’s appetite at both bilat-
eral and multilateral levels. NATO, theoretically the strongest military
alliance in history, has proven to be irrelevant when it comes to preserva-
tion of the post-Cold War order in greater Europe and the Middle East.
Turkey, a member of NATO, through its own inaction, has found itself
surrounded by Russian forces and their allies.
Russia has inherited a powerful, competent, and very active military
command structure from the Soviet Union. The latter practiced military
planning and preparations for future armed operations by constantly
assessing and studying its most realistic opponents, most of them histori-
cally found in its immediate neighborhood.5That is why Russia’s mili-
tary doctrines, at least since the 1920s, have been based on the anticipa-
tion of future wars not with imaginary or theoretical enemies, but with its
specific neighbors, and after World War II, with its strategic adversaries.6
With strategic rivalry receding from the picture in the 1990s, the post-
Soviet Russian military doctrine started to focus on smaller new neigh-
bors, and respectively, it became trite for military policy-makers in Mos-
cow to anticipate the future wars concerning Russia to be taking place at
regional levels along country’s south and southwestern borders.7Rus-
sia’s new military doctrine adopted in 2011 further stressed this aspect
and accentuated the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear neigh-
bors in what Russia calls the “escalate to deescalate” approach to regional
Before deploying troops to Syria and muscling the Western forces out of
that country, the Russian Federation pursued military interventionism in
the Caucasus region, which separates it from the Turkish republic. The
three sovereign states of the Caucasus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Geor-
gia, regained their independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union
in 1991. They border three large regional powers, Iran, Turkey, and Rus-
sia, and for the last 200 years, all three have played influential roles in the
region through both conflict and cooperation. In the 19th century, for
instance, all three major powers invaded various parts of the Caucasus
under a variety of pretexts and circumstances, but Russia with its large
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
army and economic might managed to achieve the most—by mid-19th
century, the Russians defeated Imam Shamil’s forces, took the leader of
the North Caucasus resistance movement captive in 1859, and thus fin-
ished their conquest of the Caucasus, a process which they started nearly
a half a century ago. The second half of the 19th century and most of the
20th saw Russia dominating the region. Things have changed consider-
ably since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. After the restoration of
independence and sovereignty by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia,
they found themselves on a new and uncertain playing field with the
three major powers in action, vying for more power and influence, and
joined by global players, such as the United States and China. The newly
independent states of the Caucasus inherited three local conflicts: the
secessionist movements in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and an
active military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the latter’s
province of the Mountainous Karabakh region. Chechnya’s secessionist
war with the Russian federation in North Caucasus further complicated
regional affairs.
In the 1990s, both Russia and Turkey had the ability to influence local
events by employing military, economic, and political means at their dis-
posal. Local conflicts and rivalries in the Caucasus created fertile grounds
for outside involvement and intervention. Since 1991, outside powers
have used the conflicts and power struggles in the Caucasus to further
their own interests, and the local actors have not been hesitant to call
upon their foreign allies if their assistance was seen as advantageous in
their domestic or regional power struggles. The dissolved Soviet Union
left a set of interesting alliances in the Caucasus: the Russian Federation
encouraged and supported the Abkhaz and South Ossetian rebels in their
armed rebellion against the Georgian state, which from very early days of
its post-Soviet independence demonstrated unrestrained Western ambi-
tions. Turkey quickly reestablished its historic ties with Azerbaijan, while
Iran supported Armenia in the Karabakh war to quell potential Azeri
sentiments of “redeeming” Iran’s “southern Azerbaijan”—predominant-
ly Azeri populated provinces of northwestern Iran. The Karabakh war;
however, was in the end decided by the Russian aid to Armenia as the
latter would not have prevailed without the crucial military and econom-
ic assistance provided by Moscow. Notwithstanding Iran’s activities in
the Caucasus and its position on the Caspian Sea in the 1990s, it has been
mostly the Russian and Turkish initiatives in the region that have created
deep uncertainties with strategic implications for all concerned.
As the Soviet Union dissolved at the end of 1991, it became clear that
international relations and strategic calculations in the Caucasus, and the
wider Black Sea region became increasingly complex. Relatively simple
arrangements centered on the distribution of power between NATO and
the Warsaw Pact were replaced by a more complicated setting in which
not all parties knew the true intentions of their opponents, and long-term
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
survival prospects of smaller neighbors were far from certain. Russia
continued routine military and security interventions in the domestic
affairs of its smaller neighbors, but now opportunities opened up for
Tukey as well. Despite the continuous Russian military presence in the
Caucasus, the chaotic conflicts in Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia al-
lowed Ankara to entertain the possibilities of military intervention, espe-
cially when Russia itself started experiencing violent domestic conflicts—
the armed stand-off between President Yeltsin and the parliament in
Moscow in fall of 1993, and the December 1994 start of the Russo-Che-
chen war. According to a former Greek Ambassador to Armenia, in 1993
Ankara came very close to sending its troops to Karabakh and Georgia—
a foreign policy option that became available to Turkey due to the con-
flicts in the states of the Caucasus and political and economic instabilities
in Russia. This scenario was occasioned by the violent clashes in Moscow
between the troops backing President Yeltsin, and his opponents from
the Russian Parliament led by Vice-President Rutskoy. The 1993 constitu-
tional crisis in Russia, which culminated in military clashes in Moscow in
September of the same year, was triggered over a dispute over the scope
and the boundaries of presidential power in Russia, a routine question
for a newly formed state and its government institutions. The fact that the
Russian leadership was unable to solve fundamental questions of
governance through institutional means and had to resort to violence to
sort them out, quite likely created an impression in Ankara that this new
Russian state was not as competent and viable as its formidable predeces-
Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos of Greece was posted in Ar-
menia when the events linking the October 1993 failed coup in Moscow
with the alleged Turkish designs for the Caucasus took place.9On Octo-
ber 5 1993, President Levon Ter-Petrossian of Armenia told Ambassador
Chrysanthopoulos, who was posted in Armenia at that time, that he had
the armed forces of Armenia on maximum readiness, because he ex-
pected Turkey to attack Armenia. According to intelligence reports given
to Ter-Petrossian, there was a possibility that about ten thousand Russian
soldiers “guarding the border between Armenia and Turkey” would be
ordered to return to Russia as the outcome of the clashes in Moscow was
not yet decided. One of the main anti-Yeltsin figures at that time heading
the rebellion in Moscow was Ruslan Khasbulatov, an ethnic Chechen,
who led the Russian parliament. In the case of Khasbulatov’s victory over
Yeltsin, it was likely that he would recall the troops from Armenia and
side with Azerbaijan in their dispute over Karabakh. The key assumption
was that as a Muslim, Khasbulatov was more likely to side with a pre-
dominantly Muslim state, and as a victorious rebel leader, he would be
eager to acquire economic contracts with the oil-rich Azerbaijan. Appar-
ently, Ter-Petrossian was convinced that Turkey would take advantage
of the ongoing unrest in Russia, and invade Armenia using a pretext of
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
either the Kurdish question or the protection of Nakhichevan.10 The
Kurdish community of the area was not a direct party of the war between
Armenia and Azerbaijan, but they suffered greatly, as they happened to
reside in strategically important locations, such as the Lachin corridor,
which witnessed fierce battles. Armenia is a traditional ally of the Kurds,
and the Armenian victory in the war could have emboldened the Kurds
of Turkey to pursue their military struggle for independence. Azerbai-
jan’s Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan is not geographically contig-
uous with the rest of Azerbaijan, but is bordered by Armenia from north-
east and Iran, Armenia’s ally and Turkey’s traditional rival, from south-
west. During the Karabakh war, Nakhichevan was in danger of being
completely blockaded or even militarily invaded by Armenia—Nakhich-
evan only possessed rudimentary defense capabilities, and was in no
position to defend itself from Armenian forces. Ambassador Chrysantho-
poulos reported that the President of Armenia had intelligence reports
that Ankara was considering such a course of action, and his suspicions
were further confirmed on October 5 1993, when the Turkish armed
forces penetrated Iraq in the hot pursuit of militants affiliated with the
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
On October 11, 1993, Ambassador of France to Armenia, Madame
France de Hartingh,11 whom Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos describes
as “a dynamic woman who spoke fluent Russian and knew very well the
problems of the region,”12 informed the Greek ambassador that accord-
ing to French intelligence sources, there had been an agreement reached
on the question of Armenia between the Chairman of Russia’s Supreme
Soviet, Ruslan Khasbulatov, and Ankara. Reportedly, Khasbulatov prom-
ised Turkish leaders that he would allow Turkish incursions of a limited
nature into Armenia, to round up PKK militants, and “into Georgia to
secure Abkhazia.” According to the same source, Khasbulatov had also
planned withdrawal of Russian troops from Armenia. Chrysanthopoulos
adds that the same information was later confirmed by his “United States
On October 12 1993, Chrysanthopoulos has a conversation with Serzh
Sargsyan, who at that time was Defense Minister of Armenia, and later
would become its president. In that conversation, Sargsyan also linked
the events in Moscow with Turkish military build-up along the Arme-
nian border. Sargsyan remembered the September 22 visit to Armenia by
a Turkish military delegation under General Hayrettin Uzun in the
framework of the CSCE (now OSCE) verification mission. The Turkish
delegation reportedly asked to visit Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan
and Turkey. Quite predictably, the Armenian military authorities did not
allow the Turkish officials to inspect the frontiers by land but did so from
a high-flying plane instead. On October 2 and 3, 1993, when the Moscow
rebellion was in full swing, Armenian authorities started to be alarmed
that the Russian troops would be withdrawn from the country, and
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
feared a Turkish invasion was imminent. Defense Minister Sargsyan14
was in constant communication with his Russian counterpart, Pavel Gra-
chev, who assured him a number of times that there was no question of
recalling Russian troops from the Turkish-Armenian border.15 Around
the same time, this author interviewed Russian diplomats posted in
Georgia, who acknowledged uncertainty in Moscow but affirmed their
strong support for President Yeltsin and his policies.16
Years after these events Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos affirmed in a
conversation with this author that he strongly believed that the above-
mentioned scenario was very much credible,17 and such an agreement
did exist between Ruslan Khasbulatov and Turkish Prime Minister Tansu
Çiller. At the same time, he did acknowledge that the increase of Turkish
armed forces at the border with Armenia in early days of October 1993
could have been “attributed to the occupation of Fizuli by the Karabagh
armed forces.” Chrysanthopoulos suspected that Khasbulatov’s ethnic
background as “Chechen Moslem” would drive him to get Russia side
with Azerbaijan instead of Armenia, and generally self-proclaimed Che-
chen Republic would have been better positioned to support Azerbaijan.
Indeed, Chechen fighters did aid Azerbaijani forces in their fight against
Armenians. Most notably, Shamil Bassaev and Salman Raduev, the noto-
rious rebel Chechen field commanders and warlords, alongside their
troops, were involved in the battle of Shusha in 1992, which ended with
Armenian victory. However, Khasbulatov was more likely looking for
support from Turkey in his stand-off with Yeltsin, as that would have
been more valuable to him than all the gains made by Armenia in the
Karabakh war.
It is quite possible that Ankara indeed had some kind of understand-
ing with Khasbulatov. However, if it was known to the Armenian intelli-
gence, it was definitely known to the Russian intelligence as well, mean-
ing that the Russian command would have developed its own plans re-
gardless—even if Khasbulatov had won the stand-off with Yeltsin, the
changeover would have taken some considerable time and the Russian
armed forces would have acted according to the previously established
strategic objectives. If the alarms raised by the Armenian leadership were
false or exaggerated and the Turkish force build-up along the Armenian
border in early October of 1993 was triggered by the military develop-
ments around Fizuli, this incident shows to what extent uncertainty dom-
inated actions of the participant actors. The stimulus for action was pro-
vided by the clashes in Moscow, but strategic uncertainty itself was not
caused by the Yeltsin-Khasbulatov struggle for power, instead, it was
born out of the phenomenon of the self-proclaimed Armenian Karabakh
state, Republic of Armenia’s ambiguous role in the war, and uncertainties
associated with Russia’s role in the Karabakh war and its overall strategic
objectives in the Caucasus. For both Armenia and Russia, the usual mode
of operation during the Karabakh war was to officially assert one policy
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
line, normally neutral and peace-oriented, but to pursue contrary actions
on the ground.
According to the October 1993 intelligence assessments in Yerevan,
Turkey was also planning a move into Georgia in order “to secure Abk-
hazia.”18 Turkish invasion of Armenia to aid Azeri troops in the battles
with the Armenian forces is not entirely improbable scenario; however,
invading Georgia and depositing Turkish troops right at the Russian bor-
der is a step that would have led to a direct military conflict with Russia
regardless who was running Moscow. Russia aided the Abkhaz rebels
with weapons, ammunitions, and manpower in the 1992-1993 war, but
officially and formally it was not part of the conflict. This allowed Mos-
cow to secure its victory against Tbilisi, and at the same time, act as a
peacemaker providing peacekeeping forces for the post-war Abkhazia. If
the Russian involvement in Abkhazia in the 1990s was opaque that led
many observers puzzled, the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia and the
subsequent creation of the pro-Russian puppet states in Abkhazia and
South Ossetia left no questions unanswered regarding its true intentions
vis-à-vis Georgia. However, Georgia does not regard the topics affecting
its territorial integrity as settled, and neither does Azerbaijan consider the
Mountainous Karabakh district to be lost to Armenia for good. In the
long run, the existence of these frozen conflicts in the Caucasus creates
strategic uncertainties for both Ankara and Moscow—they cannot ex-
clude that parties of the frozen conflict will resort to force to settle their
grievances with or without outside support. Moreover, if such an appli-
cation of force were to escalate, they cannot properly anticipate each
other’s reaction and behavior in terms of force deployment and intensity,
especially if outside parties get involved. Full trust does not exist be-
tween Moscow and Ankara and it is unlikely to develop anytime soon.
Turkey is a member of NATO, and hosts American military bases, while
the resurgent Russian state pursues foreign policies that are designed to
weaken NATO, and American influence in Europe, the Middle East, and
anywhere near the Russian frontiers. Moreover, both Moscow and Anka-
ra have demonstrated the willingness to use military force to suppress
local dissent, and both have long records of using armed proxies in other
countries in pursuit of their foreign policy goals. Both Moscow and An-
kara remain vulnerable to each other in this regard: Ankara can fuel
dissent among independent-minded Islamic groups in Russia, while
Moscow can exploit the Kurdish question to undermine Turkey’s domes-
tic stability. The two capitals do talk, often in cordial terms, but in the
good old tradition of Asiatic politics, there is no reason for either of them
to fully believe what the other is communicating. It is possible for Mos-
cow and Ankara to end up on the opposite sides in the war over Geor-
gia’s breakaway regions even though they share interests regarding
maintaining status-quo in the Black Sea region.
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
Russian support for Armenia has been a well-calculated strategic
move, such that by pursuing armaments supply and troop deployment
policies in Armenia, Moscow has persistently put pressure on both Azer-
baijan and Turkey, and by doing this, has managed to introduce a level of
discord between Baku and Ankara. Understandably, a well-armed Arme-
nia and Yerevan’s decisive role in the Karabakh dispute has been more
pressing and crucial for Baku than it has been for Ankara, and corre-
spondingly, urgency in Baku has not always translated into the same in
Ankara. Moscow views Armenia as an indispensable ally in the region,
and has armed it accordingly. In fall 2016, it became known that Russian
was supplying Armenia with ballistic missiles—the advanced short-
range 9K720 Iskander missile systems—part of the $200 million arms deal
signed between the two countries in 2015. Previously, in 2013, Russia
deployed an older version of the same missile, Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone
in NATO designation), to the Russian troops stationed in Armenia.19 At
the same time, Russia also agreed on an even bigger military deal with
Azerbaijan, worth $4.5 billion, presumably in response to the growing
anti-Russian sentiments in Armenian society.20 In October 2016, Russian
participated in an arms exhibition organized and hosted in Yerevan,
AermHiTec-2016, and used that opportunity to unveil its brand new
“radio-electronic weapon,” a weapon “based on new physical princi-
ples.”21 Next ArmHiTech is scheduled to be held in March 2018.22 The
Russian 102nd Military Base in Gyumri, Armenia, is one of the staging
bases for the Russian troops in the Trans-Caucasus. The base permanent-
ly hosts no more than 3,000 troops, some of who are Armenian nationals.
However, in the case of crisis, the base can accept thousands more from
Russia as it houses a formidable supply of weapons and ammunition. It is
widely believed that the Russian troops from the 102nd base will partici-
pate in a military conflict against Azerbaijan, if Baku were to try retaking
Mountainous Karabakh by force.23
In October 2006, Russia’s Black Sea fleet conducted live-fire maneu-
vers off Georgia’s Black Sea coast. According to Georgian officials, Rus-
sian ships were as close as 16 miles from Georgia’s coastline.24 The live
fire exercise disrupted civilian shipping in the area, as the Russian mili-
tary vessels blocked the Georgian ports Poti, Supsa, and Batumi. The
Russian government intended this exercise as a hostile act, as they de-
clined to inform the Georgian counterparts of the movements of their
vessels, and deliberately misinformed the public of the nature of the exer-
cise. Then Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov labeled it part of Black Sea
Harmony (BSH), a joint exercise with Turkey that the countries are sup-
posed to be conducting after some advance planning. Ankara; however,
publicly rejected this claim, and expressed its surprise and informed
Georgia through diplomatic channels that not only the Turkish navy was
not involved in the maneuvers at the Georgian coast, but it was not even
informed about it.25 It should be noted that it was not Ankara’s idea to
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
invite Russia to join various naval security initiatives, but that of NATO.
The Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Group, also known as BlackSea-
For, was initiated in 1998 by NATO at Turkey’s behest as a confidence-
building measure in the Black Sea region.26 However, Russian naval
threats to Georgia in 2006 suggested that BlackSeaFor was irrelevant as a
regional security instrument.27 As the events of August 2008 subsequent-
ly demonstrated, Moscow used the multilateral naval initiatives as a
shield for its invasion of Georgia. Similarly, in February 2014, Russia
used NATO warships deployed around Sochi,28 ostensibly to aid in se-
curity measures for the Sochi Olympics, as a shield to invade Crimea.
Both in 2008, and even more so in 2014, Turkey and its NATO allies had
full evidence that Moscow was using regional stability-building meas-
ures as shields for aggressive military designs toward its neighbors.
However, the environment of strategic uncertainty created in the Black
Sea did prevent foreign policy decision-makers in the key NATO capitals
from seeing clearly where exactly things were headed.
In 2001, with the invocation of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty
following the 9/11 attacks on American cities, NATO created the Opera-
tion Active Endeavour (OAE). A maritime military operation, the OAE
was the first ever operation to be conducted by the alliance in the direct
application of the collective defense provisions of the North Atlantic
Treaty. It was one of eight military and security initiatives launched after
the 9/11 attacks on the United States. The operation was aimed at terrorist
activities in the Mediterranean Sea, ran until October 2016. The main
operational area for the OAE initially was the Mediterranean Sea, with
Turkey participating with other NATO members, and from 2004, non-
NATO members were invited and joined some operations.29 In 2006, at
least one Russian frigate was allowed to join the OAE. In the same year,
the United States proposed to extend the OAE area operations to the
Black Sea. This initiative followed a vision of security threats first enunci-
ated in 2002 by Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, who noted
that a “broad arc of instability” that stretched from “the Middle East to
Northeast Asia” had been created by a “volatile mix of rising and declin-
ing regional powers.”30 In this context, the Caucasus and the broader
Black Sea region was seen as a bridge or even as the “epicenter” for
stability from Europe reaching into the greater Middle East and beyond.
Azerbaijan was cited in the context of becoming “a successful Muslim
democracy:” “Azerbaijan’s ability to transform itself into a successful
Muslim democracy may be as important to our ability to win the war on
terrorism as access to military bases on Azeri soil.”31 One of the authors
of this vision, Bruce P. Jackson, testified on the subject in the US Senate
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
on March 8 2005.32 Turkey was initially seen as an indispensable ally of
the United States in the fight against international terrorism. Ankara re-
ceived preferential treatment from the U.S.-dominated International
Monetary Fund (IMF) when it came to borrowing emergency funds in the
wake of a major financial crisis in that country. In December 2001, the
IMF approved the emergency funds for Turkey, while at the same time it
allowed Argentina to sink in its sea of debt.33 This preferential attitude
was to change in 2003, when Ankara refused to support to join the US-led
invasion force to Iraq. In the context of Rumsfeld’s “arc of instability,”
this was a risky step to make, as Turkey risked inviting American disap-
proval and retaliation. As Bush administration’s point man in the war
against terror, Secretary Rumsfeld became a frequent visitor to the Cau-
casus since 9/11. First, he toured the region in December 2001, and in
December 2003, he became the first senior US official to visit Georgia
following the Rose Revolution. The Rose Revolution, ushered a new era
in the post-Soviet Georgia, which now was led by unreservedly pro-
American political forces under President Mikheil Saakashvili’s leader-
ship. In May 2005, President Bush visited Tbilisi, to celebrate “historic
times when freedom is advancing from the Black Sea to the Caspian, and
to the Persian Gulf and beyond.”34 This visit, made just before Bush’s trip
to Moscow, was interpreted by many as a “warning to Russia.”35 At the
same time, due to its geographic proximity to the Middle East, Georgia
was seen as an alternative to Turkey in America’s search for allies. Unsur-
prisingly, neither Moscow nor Ankara found this newly blossoming U.S.-
Georgian ties desirable: if it were to mature, the US-Georgian partnership
would bring a long-term American military presence in the Black Sea, the
maritime space jealously guarded by both Russia and Turkey as their
exclusive area of military operations.
The 1936 Montreux Conference in Switzerland was attended by Tur-
key, Great Britain, the USSR, Bulgaria, Greece, Germany, Japan, Austra-
lia, France, and Yugoslavia. It regulates the movement of merchant and
military vessels in and out of the Black Sea. The convention designated
the Turkish Straits as international waters, but Turkey was allowed to
maintain military control over the Straits. Although the articles of the
convention regulating the passage of military vessels are definitely out-
dated, the treaty is still in effect and it is being largely respected by both
the signatories and non-signatories.36 To address its outdated nature, it
would suffice to mention that Ukraine and Georgia, the two riparian
Black Sea states most in need of naval protection, did not exist as sove-
reign international entities in 1936. In addition, all the navies concerned
with the Montreux Convention have far outgrown the displacement lim-
its set by the Convention.37 In the end, the expansion of the Operation of
Active Endeavour into the Black Sea did not happen due to active opposi-
tion both by Russia and Turkey. Ankara strongly opposed the initiative,
arguing that the extension would violate the Montreux Convention of
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
1936, and there was no need for the OAE expansion as Turkey was run-
ning its own missions in the Black Sea, such as the Operation Black Sea
Harmony, and BlackSeaFor.38
The Operation Black Sea Harmony was launched by Turkey in 2004
specifically to oppose NATO’s plans to expand into the Black Sea; Anka-
ra invited Moscow to join the effort in 2006, and the latter immediately
accepted the offer.39 BlackSeaFor, as it was noted above, was initiated in
1998 by NATO at Turkey’s behest, and subsequently, all Black Sea states
were invited to join it. In 2004, the Russian Federation proposed to add
counterterrorism to the force’s mission in response to the American pro-
posal to expand the Operation Active Endeavour into the Black Sea, and
eventually used this multilateral effort as a shield to harass and threaten
Georgia in preparation for the August 2008 invasion of that country. The
theme of preserving the Montreux Convention has been so sensitive for
Ankara that in the aftermath of the August 2008 war between Russia and
Georgia, the Turkish leadership essentially sided with Moscow by refus-
ing the passage through the Turkish Straits to two American vessels that
exceeded 30,000-ton displacement—the ceiling for the passing vessels al-
lowable under the Montreux Convention. Washington dispatched two
hospital ships, USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy, converted oil tankers
displacing more than 69,000 tons each, to aid Georgia’s post-war recon-
struction and humanitarian efforts.40 Ankara still had to tread carefully
by acknowledging the right of its NATO allies to deploy in the Black Sea
provided they did not exceed the maximum allowable 21 days as stipu-
lated by the Montreux Convention. NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 1
and Maritime Group 2 have deployed to the Black Sea since the mid-
2000s, something that never fails to annoy the Russians.41 However, in its
quest to keep its dominant position in the Black Sea, Russia found an
important ally. Still, the changing realities in the Black Sea region invited
more decisive actions by Moscow as Russia saw its position in the Black
Sea as even more vulnerable than that of Turkey’s. Unlike Ankara, Mos-
cow had no direct diplomatic mechanisms to oppose NATO’s military
expansion into Black Sea, and its two former Soviet Union states, Georgia
and Ukraine, were openly championing the idea of joining NATO.
Ukraine controlled Sevastopol, the all-important Russian Black Sea naval
base, and Georgia formally owned the former Soviet submarine base in
Abkhazia. The Kremlin kept considerable pressure on both Georgia and
Ukraine, but no long-term solution was reached with either of these
states. In August 2008, Russia attacked Georgia as soon as it was ready
for military action, just before the 2008 American presidential election
and during the Beijing Summer Olympic Games, but Ukraine remained
an even bigger challenge as Moscow’s treaty with Kyiv on the subject of
Sevastopol and its naval base was due to expire in 2017.42
In late 2005, Victoria Nuland, US ambassador to NATO, called on the
allies to take NATO and “turn its power outwards; to lead the rest of the
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
world in offering a better future, one that embraces the core values of
economic opportunity, pluralism, and democratic governance.”43 In early
years of the global war on terrorism, when outcomes in Afghanistan and
Iraq were seen as optimistic, and the Syrian, Libyan, Yemen and other
regional disasters were nowhere in sight, many in the West saw NATO as
a bridge between Europe and the Middle East in a wide-reaching interna-
tional effort to bring democracy and stability to the Middle East. As the
United States looked more assertive in the Black Sea region, the likeli-
hood of Washington at some point acting contrary to the Montreux pro-
visions was increasing. After all, the United States was not a party to the
1936 convention in Switzerland, and never formally joined it. In Decem-
ber 2006, the influential Heritage Foundation called the US administra-
tion to re-draw its approach to the Black Sea region and come up with
new policies.44 This analysis was very critical of Russia’s conduct toward
its smaller neighbors as it called the US government to step up its support
for the Western-oriented Georgia. The Heritage Foundation report was
very skeptical of Russian-Turkish rapprochement and criticized the
“anti-Western sentiments” expressed in Ankara and Moscow. The ana-
lysts pointed out the occasions in which Russia and Turkey acted in
concert to counter US interests in the region.45 Other studies published in
2006 in the US, echoed the one by the Heritage Foundation. According to
Hill and Taspinar, Russia and Turkey found common ground in the area
of Black Sea regional security, and cooperated against Western interests
in the region, because Russia and Turkey saw American policies “to
spread freedom and democracy around the world not as a bulwark
against tyranny and extremism in places like Syria, Iraq, and Iran, but as
an expansionist policy that will further damage their interests.”46 Bruce
Jackson, in a 2006 policy review published by the Hoover Institution,
pointed out the destructive nature of Russian conduct toward its smaller
neighbors. He noted that President Putin’s “key political advisor, Gleb
Pavlovsky, had publicly suggested that it would be advisable for the
Georgian people to simply assassinate their president, Mikheil Saakash-
vili, to avoid a Russian military attack (interestingly and perhaps telling-
ly, Pavlovsky recommended a single shot, a reminder of the Chekist as-
sassinations in the South Caucasus in 1920–21 as Bolshevik forces moved
South).”47 Jackson further urged geopolitical revisions in the Black Sea
region to remove the outdated and oppressive mechanisms that gov-
erned commercial and military relations in the region. Among other rec-
ommendations, he advised to “overturn the norms that have permitted
an unstable and anachronistic militarization to persist into the twenty-
first century, such as the 1936 Montreux Convention establishing Turkish
military control over the Dardanelles.”48 By 2008, Russian concerns over
the military future of the Black Sea reached its peak. Moscow had its
reasons to be alarmed, as some officials in Georgia and Ukraine saw their
countries membership in NATO as an almost done deal. In the June 2007,
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
interview to a Russian newspaper, Deputy Defense Minister of Georgia,
Mr. Batu Kutelia noted that Georgia was already a de facto member of
NATO.49 Obviously, the Deputy Minister exaggerated quite a bit, but
developments around the Black Sea encouraged by the United States
gave him and officials like him the confidence to talk in that manner.
Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia was designed to thwart that eventual-
ity by dismembering the country and stationing its troops there.
After the dismemberment of Georgia, Ukraine remained a problem
for Russia as the country possessed significant political hostility to Russia
and sympathetic support to the West. In early February of 2014, the for-
mer US ambassador to NATO, Victoria Nuland, by that time US Assist-
ant Secretary of State in the Obama administration, was seen in Kyiv
handing out food with US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt to participants of
the Euromaidan movement organized by the Ukrainian opposition, who
called for the resignation of President Yanukovich. The so-called Euro-
maidan protests called for the resignation of President Yanukovich—
Ukraine’s opposition forces vehemently opposed Kyiv turning away
from the negotiated deal with the European Union, which was supposed
to give Ukraine an associate member’s status in the Union. The opposi-
tion saw President Yanukovich’s decision to end from Ukraine’s orienta-
tion toward Europe as dictated by Moscow, and demanded the president
to revert to the initial policy or leave the office. American officials in
Ukraine held meetings with the leading representatives of the opposition,
and as they exchanged their impressions of these figures, Nuland’s
phone conversation with Ambassador Pyatt was intercepted, presumably
by the Russian intelligence service, and parts of it were posted on You-
Tube.50 In that conversation, Nuland and Pyatt discussed the future of
the Ukrainian government, and a distribution of government posts
among the opposition Euromaidan leaders. Their exchange also indicated
that U.S. Vice-President Biden was is support of the policy to aid the
Ukrainian opposition, which called for the removal of the pro-Russian
Yanukovich.51 The Euromaidan ended on February 20, 2014, with violent
clashes between participants of the protest movement and an unknown
armed group presumably sponsored by pro-Russian forces. A couple of
days later, President Yanukovich resigned and fled the Russia, followed
by a Russian invasion of and subsequent annexation of Crimea in March
2014, giving Russia sole control over the naval base in Sevastopol (before
the Crimea events, the Sevastopol naval base was shared with Ukraine’s
Black Sea Fleet).
Turkey’s reaction on Russia’s annexation of Crimea was initially
muted, neutral, and concentrated on the needs of the Crimean Tatars
more than anything else.52 However, following the Russo-Turkish clash
over the shooting down of a Russian attack jet by a Turkish interceptor in
Syria in December 2015, Turkey’s position on the subject changed into
being openly pro-Ukrainian.53 Following the July 2016 coup attempt in
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
Turkey, Ankara once again adjusted its position vis-à-vis Moscow, Presi-
dent Erdogan apologized for the downed Russian jet as he embarked on
a process of healing the damaged relations between the two capitals. The
failed coup, and especially its aftermath, highlighted Turkey’s weak-
nesses. Whatever the motivations and designs for the July coup, the reac-
tion of the Turkish government has been dramatically sweeping: thou-
sands of people arrested, tens of thousands have been fired, and govern-
ment, military, and diplomatic officers have fled the country. For these
actions, the Turkish government, and President Erdogan personally,
have been heavily criticized by the domestic opposition, those in exile,
and by Western governments and civil rights activists.54 Theturmoilin
Turkey was amplified by the fact that the Turkish government suspected
the United States of helping the coup organizers, in very similar tones to
Russian officials who blamed the United States for the so-called colored
revolutions in the former Soviet Union that had brought to power pro-
Western governments in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. Soon after
the failed coup, it became clear that Ankara would make conciliatory
gestures toward Moscow.55 The latter reciprocated, and even the Decem-
ber 2016 assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey at the hands
of the security officer assigned to him by Turkish authorities could not
derail this process.56 In February 2017, the Russian ground attack jets
mistakenly bombed a wrong location in Syria and killed three Turkish
soldiers.57 Ankara accepted the explanations provided by Moscow and
did not complain too much about the tragedy. On May 7 2017, it was
announced in Moscow that Gazprom, the Russian gas giant, would final-
ly start the construction of the long-awaited gas pipeline under the Black
Sea to supply gas to Turkey, and eventually, to the European Union.58
This announcement was preceded by President Putin’s declaration that
his country’s relationship with Turkey had fully recovered after the most
recent crisis.59
Russia’s Anschluss of Crimea and its current attempts to consolidate
military gains in eastern Ukraine to build a land-bridge between Russia
proper and the newly acquired Crimea go a long way in Moscow’s age
old quest to maintain a dominant power status in the Black Sea basin, and
to maintain secure access to a warm sea. Turkey does not appear to be
very critical of Russia reconstituting its old Soviet-era power in the re-
gion—it is in Ankara’s interests, too, to keep non-littoral states outside
the Black Sea—unregulated and unrestricted military navigation in the
Black Sea would not only result into an exposed and undefended Turkish
Black Sea coastline, but also Ankara would lose control over the Turkish
Straits, which cuts across the country’s most important city, Istanbul. At
the same time, Tukey remains a member of NATO and as such it has to
make some accommodation to allies’ access and maneuvers in the Black
Sea, but such developments never fail to annoy Moscow. Moscow contin-
ues to see NATO enlargement as encroaching on its international status
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
and power, and especially the Black Sea forays by NATO navies are seen
as designed to put pressure on the Russian Federation. Ankara initially
managed to avoid confrontation with Russia due to the West’s inability
to influence the outcome of the Russo-Georgian war, and a rather meek
and subdued response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,60 but following
the sharp disagreements over Syria, Ankara has not been able to ignore
Russia’s new found confidence and its aggressive pursuit of national
interests. Moscow’s gains in Ukraine will nearly complete Russian lead-
ership’s plans to consolidate its strategic footholds in the former Soviet
Union—the only partially unresolved issue being the oil and gas pipe-
lines running from Azerbaijan to Turkey through Georgia in avoidance of
Russian territory. The Baku-Supsa-Ceyhan oil pipeline sending Azeri oil
to Turkey and further to the West has been a major achievement for
Turkey, but following the 2008 war, the Russian troops stationed in the
self-proclaimed puppet Tskhinvali statelet of Georgia have made a few
test moves to take a portion of the pipeline under their control,61 having
advanced their frontline and military infrastructure closer to the Geor-
gian-controlled east-west pipeline.62
For its strategic goals, Moscow ideally will have to undermine NATO
by putting the alliance on a different playing field by creating conditions
that would gradually separate European, and Turkish strategic interests
from those of the United States. Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presi-
dential elections and his initial declarations pronouncing NATO “irrele-
vant” seemed to be following a script written in Moscow. Russia can try
to make NATO irrelevant by undermining the alliance’s defense and
security role in Europe and elsewhere. By engaging in small but decisive
wars, Moscow has an excellent chance of influencing risk averse and
impressionable politicians in Western capitals. This will leave Turkey
somewhat isolated from its NATO allies, as it cannot just ignore the on-
going civil war in Syria and Russia’s active military role there. Turkey
risks to be negatively affected by the Russian expedition in the Middle
East regardless of the final outcome—Moscow can use the Kurdish insur-
gents in Turkey, primarily the PKK, to sway Ankara when it comes to
policy decisions favorable to Russia’s strategic interests, and Moscow can
make ad hoc alliances with Iran or Hezbollah to further pressure Tur-
key’s sensitive issues in regional politics. If Russia were to remain en-
gaged in Syria for a few years, Moscow will be more likely to influence
Armenia for some concessions to Azerbaijan if it wants to avoid another
regional conflict it will be called to attend—Russia will have major prob-
lems handling two significant regional conflicts simultaneously. The
same scenario is not likely to work out for Georgia in its bid to gain
concessions from Russia in relation to its breakaway regions of Abkhazia
and South Ossetia (the Tskhinvali region). Georgia is not ready for any
war, let alone one with Russia, and besides, its political class is almost
singularly concerned with achieving some kind of recognition or accep-
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
tance by European institutions, which they believe to be paramount for
the country’s future. As no European institution without active American
participation represents an immediate threat to Russia’s national interest,
Moscow will be content to let Georgians travel that road, especially since
it will not likely lead anywhere. Brussels has developed a habit of orga-
nizing meetings of conferences with senior Georgian officials during the
outbursts of Russian military activities—an exercise presumably de-
signed to send “strong signals” to Moscow. As Russia settled in a routine
of flying regular bombing sorties in Syria, Brussels, rather predictably,
hosted Georgia’s defense minister to recognize “Georgia’s progress on its
path of NATO integration.”63 Such pronouncements encouraging Tbilisi
are hollow as Georgia has no credible armed forces, no modern equip-
ment to deter aerial, land or naval invasion, and NATO does nothing to
remedy this problem despite Tbilisi’s presumed “progress” on its path to
become a NATO state. Especially glaring is Georgia’s lack of naval de-
fenses—a maritime nation, it is entirely devoid of a naval force, there is
no credible defense infrastructure on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, while its
ground troops are primarily preoccupied with the NATO-sponsored
peace support operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The Europeans have become nearly irrelevant in the ongoing and fro-
zen conflicts in the Black Sea region, and Syria. European protests regard-
ing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine only became vocal after a Malaysian
aircraft filled with European citizens was shot down in July 2014 by a
Russian owned and operated missile system over the rebel-held territory
in eastern Ukraine.64 Even then the Europeans failed to achieve unity,
once again highlighting the view that a common European identity is a
farce. The developments in Ukraine could not convince the Obama ad-
ministration to take Russia seriously and to come up with a course of
action to deter its aggressive moves, instead Washington tried to “iso-
late” the Russian leadership by not holding high-level meetings. That
period of “isolation” effectively ended by Russian deployments to Syria
in August, 2015.65 Under President Obama, Washington has been chiefly
preoccupied with developments elsewhere in the world, with the admin-
istration much more interested in trade deals and social issues. In the
Middle East, American policies have been low key, inconsistent, and inef-
fectual as Washington clearly did not anticipate Russia’s Syria move. The
West has remained largely inactive throughout Russia’s deliberate poli-
cies at creating buffer states at its western and southwestern borders,66 by
undermining both Azerbaijan and Armenia through the Karabakh war,
and dismembering Georgia and Ukraine. No single aggressive step by
Moscow has been significant enough to draw the West out of its paraly-
sis, while cumulatively they have achieved desirable results for Russia.
Moscow’s military initiatives did not worry Washington too much in
2008-2016, as Moscow continued to demonstrate its respect for free trade
and open financial systems, has remained committed to market-guided
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
access to oil and natural gas resources, and continued cooperation with
the US in key areas of nuclear proliferation and space exploration. These
areas of US-Russia cooperation are even more likely to satisfy President
Trump, who has been seen as “pro-Russian” from the very early days of
his presidential campaign. Russia’s commitment to unfretted access to
strategic resources and the routes for their transportation; however, may
not live long into the 21st century as Moscow pushes ahead with its pri-
mary objective of establishing its dominance over the oil and natural gas
reserves and infrastructure within the Eurasian continent.67 If Moscow
manages to rescue the current Syrian regime, it will strengthen its posi-
tion both in the Caucasus and the Middle East, by making not only Syria,
but also Iran its key ally in the process.
Historically, it has been widely believed that Russia needed access to
warm seas in order to maintain its great powers status. This was especial-
ly true in the 19th century when Russia’s seas froze for many months
every year or were too far from European centers of power. The belief
was carried on through the 20th century, and strategy demonstrated that
it was not misplaced at all: the last battles of the Russian civil war took
place on the Black Sea coast of Russia and in Crimea, and during World
War II, the battles in the Black Sea basin leading to the German push
toward Stalingrad were crucial, so was the defense of Sevastopol and
Crimea. Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet leader from 1964 to 1982, built his
post-war career on his war-time exploits defending a small patch of sea-
shore south of Novorosiisk, which was assaulted from three sides by
Germans for more than 200 days. Russia’s access to the Black Sea and
operations of its combat-ready fleet there was threatened in the 1990s,
and in the first decade of the 21st century, when the sea nearly became
NATO’s internal lake: of the littoral states, former Soviet allies, Romania
and Bulgaria joined NATO, and two former Soviet republics, Georgia
and Ukraine wished to do the same. Had Georgia and Ukraine succeeded
in their plans, Russia would have ended up with a single Black Sea port
of Novorosiisk, rather shallow and unusable for large vessels, and entire-
ly unsatisfactory for combat readiness and to the credibility of Russia’s
Black Sea fleet. Russia’s short 2008 war with Georgia, followed by the
self-proclaimed Russian protectorates of Abkhazia and “South Ossetia,”
changed the situation dramatically by halting Western enthusiasm for
farther enlargement of European and transatlantic institutions. Russia’s
invasion and annexation of Crimea in spring 2014, topped by Moscow-
fueled rebellion in southeastern Ukraine, has heavily tilted the Black Sea
basin balance of power towards Moscow.
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
The United States and its European allies possess no immediate
countermeasures to Russia’s military annexation of parts of Georgia and
Ukraine. Moscow has scored significant victories by unilaterally revising
post-Cold War European political geography—and this is very signifi-
cant—no country has been able to do it unilaterally since Germany’s ill-
fated attempts in the 1940s. The Black Sea basin also carries international
significance for all the states in the region, as well as for the international
system overall due to two factors: strategic importance of Georgia’s and
Ukraine’s coastline, and oil and gas reserves of the Caucasus and Central
Asia.68 These two closely linked issues also dwarf all others in the region,
as both the Russian Federation and the United States have primarily
focused on oil and the Black Sea access since the collapse of the Soviet
Union.69 The retrenching Russian state in the 1990s did barely enough to
maintain its influential role in the Black Sea region, while the rebuilding
of Russia’s military under Vladimir Putin has allowed Moscow to pursue
more aggressive and uncompromising policies. In fact, since the dissolu-
tion of the Soviet Union, some of the most significant disagreements be-
tween Moscow and Washington have developed around the issues in-
volving developments in the Black Sea basin: the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan
pipeline, Tbilisi and Kyiv’s aspirations to join NATO, the August 2008
war between Russia and Georgia, Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia and
“South Ossetia” as independent sovereign states, the annexation of Cri-
mea by Russia, and the Russian invasion of southern Ukraine, which
among other things, has caused the destruction of Malaysian airlines’
passenger jet. Tukey has been closely involved in most of these develop-
ments, as a member of NATO, and as an interested party in the affairs of
the Black Sea.
Russia’s great power status depends much more on the developments
in the Black Sea than in the Mediterranean. On the other hand, the United
States or other great powers do not see their endurance as great powers
being dependent upon their access to the Black Sea coastline—it is essen-
tially a remote backwater for them, but for Moscow, to lose strategic
access to the Black Sea will translate into a major step back from its
international power status and influence. The historical and strategic leg-
acy of the Black Sea is too great for Russia to abandon without a serious
fight. The key to this access lays in Crimea and Sevastopol—because of its
dominance in the Black Sea can Russia deploy its troops and mount suc-
cessful military operations in Syria, among other things. However, Cri-
mea, a peninsula with a narrow land-bridge to the mainland Ukraine, is
economically unsustainable in long-term—it receives most of its re-
sources such as electricity, gas, oil, and even drinking water from main-
land Ukraine; hence Russia’s attempts to build a land corridor from Rus-
sia to Crimea by capturing Luhansk and Donetsk regions of southern
Ukraine. This captured land in eastern Ukraine, the so-called “Novoros-
siya,” will serve Moscow long-term plans of either expanding its pres-
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
ence there or using it as a bargaining chip with Kyiv so that Crimea’s
blockade is avoided. During the Cold War, the USSR managed to main-
tain almost exclusive control over the Black Sea. Georgia and Ukraine
belonged to the Soviet Union, and Bulgaria and Romania were members
of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact. During the Cold War, the Black
Sea was seen as an internal sea by Moscow—its dominance there was not
challenged by the West—the US and other NATO members respected
both the Montreux Convention70 and Turkey’s desire not to pursue con-
frontation with Russia in the region.71 More recently, with Bulgaria and
Romania joining NATO, and Georgia and Ukraine have displayed strong
intentions of joining the Western alliance, Moscow has witnessed its
“internal” sea gradually turning into an internal lake of its main rival,
NATO. Naturally, the Russian leadership displays anxiety regarding
such prospects and will resist attempts to bring any of it to fruition.
Russia’s power and assets are not invulnerable; however, and the more
reserves Moscow controls in its bargaining with other great powers, the
more secure its possession of Black Sea would feel. In long term, Mos-
cow’s stakes in Syria represent such precious reserves that can be traded
with the West.
Russia’s takeover of Crimea has confirmed that Moscow had no desire
to transition to a Black Sea naval presence and operation with very limit-
ed assets, mobility, from a restricted and disadvantageous location. The
deployment and operation of Russian troops in Syria has further demon-
strated the strategic advantages of having strategic dominance in the
Black Sea area, and unrestricted access to the Mediterranean. For the first
time since Russian troops approached and challenged Turkish dominat-
ed lands in the 18th century, the Turkish state finds itself nearly sur-
rounded by combat ready and aggressive Russian military units. The
events in late 18th century saw Russia emerge as a great European power,
after the imperial government managed to “cut windows” into the Baltic
and Black Seas.72 Incidentally, the Russia’s leadership has resurrected the
18th century term “Novorossia” initially used to designate the newly con-
quered land of the Russian Empire, and has applied it liberally to the
areas of southern Ukraine that have become the battleground between
the combined forces of the Luhansk-Donetsk rebels and Russian regulars,
and the Ukrainian armed forces. Freezing the conflict in “Novorossiia”
suits Russian interests well—war can be resumed sometime in the future,
while the territory can be proclaimed sovereign or absorbed in the Rus-
sian state. An effective Syrian engagement will not diminish Russian
gains in Ukraine in Georgia; however, if the Syrian campaign proves to
be protracted with Russian troops committed indefinitely, there is a good
chance that Ukrainians, and potentially Georgians to be encouraged to
challenge Russian military positions in their respective countries. The
Russian Federation could find itself facing an ad hoc informal coalition of
determined opponents if it shows any weakness in Syria; Ankara specifi-
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
cally should be nervous seeing Moscow flexing muscles south of its bor-
der, relying on Iranian support, and courting Kurdish forces. On the
other hand, a protracted, inefficient or excessively aggressive engage-
ment in Syria will make Russia very vulnerable and susceptible to long-
term losses. To avoid this, Moscow will use diplomatic tools of negotia-
tion, consulting, and cooperation, and will appeal to public opinion in
both Russia and the West using the guise of combating an extremist
Islamic entity, in parallel to providing military assistance to Assad, and
potentially weakening the Turkish state.
By capturing Abkhazia from Georgia in 2008, Russia not only secured
that part of Georgia’s northwestern coastline, but it also has assumed
ownership and control of the old Soviet diesel submarine base in Ocham-
chiré. Diesel submarines are necessary for the adequate defense of the
Black Sea fleet assets, and for deterrence of other navy vessels operating
in the sea, and an additional naval base enhances submarines’ operation-
al effectiveness. Since then, among other things, Moscow has deployed a
new submarine system have been developed and tested specifically for
Black Sea operations.73 Prior to the August 2008 war with Georgia, Mos-
cow had authorized a multi-billion project to make the Novorosiisk har-
bor suitable for its Black Sea fleet vessels.74 With Sevastopol firmly in
Russian hands serving as the crucial strategic location for the Russian
fleet, the combined Novorosiisk—Ochamchiré bases will add to Russia’s
naval strength significantly and enable Moscow to exercise dominant
power in the region. Sevastopol is blessed with a remarkable strategic
position in the “middle” of the Black Sea, which allows a naval force
stationed there to monitor, control, and address potential threats emerg-
ing from any geographic direction.75 New weapons, military bases, the
pursuit of strategic goals with military power both in the Black Sea and in
the Middle East will help Moscow keep its adversaries in the region
unstable, uncertain, and on the defensive while deterring future ad-
vances by NATO in the region. Having NATO of its plans for Georgia
and/or Ukraine without taking a step to act suits Russian goals as eventu-
ally only talk and no action will make the Western alliance weak and not
Russia is the only great power in the world with autarkic defense
infrastructure—this Moscow has inherited from the Soviet Union. No
other major power in the world manufactures and produces domestically
everything necessary for its homeland defense, including energy re-
sources, fuel, and research and development in military industry. In com-
parison, the United States, the largest military power in the world, de-
pends on oil (and natural gas) imports, albeit from close allies, for the
proper functioning of its military capabilities, not to mention the equip-
ment purchased from NATO countries. Dependence on defense-related
imports is even more pronounced for major powers like the United King-
dom, and France. Besides, these two and others of similar capabilities in
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
Europe and Asia’s Far East cannot possible defend themselves unilateral-
ly against such potential adversaries as Russia or China (the latter being a
highly hypothetical one) without being involved in military alliances
(NATO) or treaties (with the United States), while Moscow needs no
alliance/treaty membership to defend itself against any potential aggres-
sor. In fact, the current military doctrine of the Russian Federation is
written with such self-sufficiency in mind, by assuming it to be a natural
and even desirable circumstance.76 Such distribution of defense capabil-
ities boosts Russia’s international position, at least for the coming
decades, and informs its unilateral foreign and defense policies. Mos-
cow’s actions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria demonstrate that Russia’s
political and military leadership would like to keep the autarkic nature of
their country’s defense and security arrangements, and that it is ready to
make necessary unilateral steps to secure them. In this regard, Russia will
not hesitate to resort to military action in the Caucasus, in parallel to
developments elsewhere, if such a step brings material advantages with-
out much expenditure—Georgia’s oil and gas transit pipelines would be
one such tempting target—this is the only such corridor for the Caspian
carbohydrate exports remaining outside Russia’s physical control. When
and if Moscow’s attention turns to this target, Georgia will not be able to
offer much defense, but this is not an unavoidable eventuality provided
Tbilisi plays its cards right.
Russia/USSR’s unilateral great power policies, often running counter
to preferences of most of the rest of the world during the second half of
the 20th century, were only possible due to the country’s vast oil and
natural gas reserves.77 The first decade of the post-Soviet period saw
Russia militarily preoccupied in its immediate neighborhood, and with
its own secessionist uprising in Chechnya. Only under Putin has Russia
managed to recover some of its old military confidence, and now Mos-
cow can sustain regional campaigns at its borders for few years in the
face of global opposition, criticism, and even comprehensive sanctions—
the latter being the most unlikely to be sustainable as Russia exports large
quantities of oil and natural gas,78 not to mention its membership in the
United Nations’ Security Council. Without ready access to cheap oil and
natural gas, Russia’s unilateralism will end alongside with its aggressive
defense and foreign policies, and if this were to happen it will be the first
such major change in Russian foreign policy since Alexander Suvorov’s
military expeditions in Europe and the siege of Izmail in the late 18th
century. Russia’s carbohydrate resources will diminish and end one
day—there is nothing permanent under the Sun—but before that day
comes, the development of strategic access points to carbohydrate re-
serves elsewhere, such as in the Middle East, will keep the end day father
into the future.
Moscow under Putin has resurrected a realpolitik approach to its
neighborhood out of necessity, to reassert Russian power, and to make a
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
strong counterpoint to its Western neighbors. Now Russia is fully ready
to pursue a tit for tat approach in international matters. When Russia’s
current national security strategy was debated in the 2000s, the principle
of the so-called “double standards” was vocally discussed as the most
pressing international issue facing Russia. Russian officials complained
that according to the “double standards” promoted by Washington, the
West under US leadership granted itself rights to pursue any internation-
al policy desired, while other states were put under much more restric-
tive standards of behavior.79 The national security document approved
by President Medvedev in May 2009, insisted that Russia would take as
many and as decisive unilateral steps as it would be necessary to main-
tain equity (ravnopravie) in international affairs.80 Pundits in Russia point
out that the lessons of most recent history necessitate Russia’s more ag-
gressive stance in international matters. Despite verbal promises made to
the Soviet leadership at the end of the Cold War, NATO started to en-
large in the late 1990s, fully ignoring vocal protests from Moscow. Pre-
sumably, it was Russia’s perceived weakness that gave the Western allies
a sense of self-confidence and righteousness. This was enough to con-
vince Moscow’s old guard that international politics was indeed a zero-
sum game—the territories “conceded” by the Soviets as their spheres of
influence were “overtaken” by its former adversary. Since the NATO
enlargement debate opened in the late 1990s, Moscow has insisted that
the process of NATO’s eastward expansion was against its vital interests,
especially if the crucial states, Ukraine and Georgia, joined the alliance.
Russia’s primary objective in Georgia and Ukraine has been to deter
NATO’s further expansion, to cancel these states’ ability to use the NATO
card in their policies with Moscow, and to reestablish Moscow’s exclu-
sive control over the Eurasian landmass. Russia under Putin’s leadership
has pretty much achieved what it has intended, except for now Georgia’s
pipeline corridor for Caspian oil and gas still escapes its formal control.
Under Putin, the Russian Federation has managed to reassemble all
the former Soviet republics under its control, except for the Baltic States.
Georgia and Ukraine had been the most resistant to Moscow’s ad-
vances—both of them have paid a heavy price by losing parts of its terri-
tory to the Russians. The bottom line is this: the countries of the former
Soviet Union, including those in the Caucasus, are left to face or deal with
the Russians on their own. For the states of the Caucasus this means that
they will have to seek individual arrangements with Moscow as any
unified front among them is highly unlikely. Moscow will continue to
play them against each other for its own advantage, and to pursue its
unilateral foreign policies aided by formidable military power. However,
Moscow’s Syrian engagement can be a blessing for the Caucasus: the
longer Russia remains in Syria and the deeper it wades into this sectarian
war, the less appetite its military will have for new forays elsewhere.
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
Russia’s successful military campaigns in the Black Sea basin has re-
moved this region, and the eastern regions of the former Soviet Union,
out of NATO’s influence. Although Western leaders have consistently
rejected the idea of “new dividing lines” in Europe, especially ever since
NATO enlargement became a reality, what the Europeans will get now is,
in the best case scenario, the continent divided between NATO and Rus-
sian spheres of influence, and the dividing line will cross over Ukraine
and Georgia. However, there are costs and consequences for Russia, and
more than anything else, this new rump assembly of its Eurasian states
and quasi-states will effectively limit Russian influence over its own side
of the dividing line, while if European capitals are to distrust Moscow
more, Russia could only gain things through a tit-for-tat approach.81
Moscow has acquired a stronger voice in European politics through fear
and without being a member of either the European Union or NATO. The
Russians have achieved this by developing an aggressive, and unilateral-
ist line in foreign and defense matters, and are unlikely to step away from
it anytime soon. Even under someone else’s leadership, it will be nearly
impossible to convince Russia’s military and political class to abandon
the current policy line—why would one step away from something that
brings success? So, if it takes force or threat of force to change Russia’s
behavior, the attempts at convincing European states to embrace Cold
War-style attitudes toward Russia can only add more frictions to transat-
lantic relations within the north Atlantic alliance. Europe is under huge
strain not only due to resurgent Russia, but also because of their ill-
conceived policies that supported the overthrow of secular dictatorships
in the Middle East, which in turn supplied Europe with hundreds of
thousands of refugees and economic migrants. When Europeans bicker
among themselves over major issues, such as refugee affairs, it translates
into disunity and misunderstanding that also affects their trans-Atlantic
links. The Americans are highly unlikely to argue with the Russians over
the issues of European concern about which the Europeans themselves
have no unity. This does not exclude future frictions between the United
State and Russia, but future conflicts between them are likely to remain
largely cold and marginal.
Russia’s record of military engagements since the collapse of the So-
viet Union has clearly demonstrated Moscow’s serious attention to its
regional matters, which in the case of this vast country translates into
continent-wide affairs in both Europe and Asia, a trend more recently
demonstrated by the Russian military expedition in Syria, and preceded
by the Anschluss of Crimea in 2014, the war in southeastern Ukraine, and
the Russo-Georgian war in 2008. The trend started in the early 1990s with
Moscow’s intervention or participation in the Karabakh war, in Tajiki-
stan, in Moldova, in a long and bloody war in Chechnya, and in Geor-
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
gia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia. With its regional ambitions, Russia’s
interests have clashed with those of its neighbors, but no country outside
the former Soviet Union has received more attention from Moscow than
Turkey. The dynamics of the Russo-Turkish relations has not been one-
sided but has involved both the promise of close cooperation and mili-
tary conflict. Moreover, on a couple of occasions, the relationship has
gone from friendly and cordial to critical and back again in a matter of
days. Asli Fatma Kelkitli has explained this form of unusual relationship
between the two through complex interdependence theory.82 According
to this theory, in the contemporary world, states behave the way they do
because their fortunes are inextricably tied together. The theory devel-
oped in the late 1970s and early 1980s by American international relations
scholars Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, Jr. explains relations among
states by going beyond the conception of states as unitary actors in inter-
national politics motivated solely by the power struggle and competition
for survival or resources, and by giving emphasis to societal and transna-
tional forces.83 Indeed, power struggle and competition do not satisfac-
torily explain the full gamma of relations among contemporary states,
and in many ways, it appears that the ties between Russia and Turkey are
inextricably connected. In a large picture, all states are in some relation-
ship of complex interdependence given the global challenges of trade and
finance, climate change, international terrorism, or pandemics. Theory of
complex interdependence provides a statement rather than an explana-
tion of complexities of the contemporary world, and in no way does it
shed any insight over rapidly fluctuating attitudes toward each other that
Moscow and Ankara are exhibiting. Perhaps, this theory needs updating
or an alternative theory can work better, but theoretical exploits are be-
yond the scope of the current chapter. It is clear; however, that both
theorists and reporters have noticed that Russia and Turkey manage to
cooperate and struggle at the same time. President Putin may have pro-
nounced the ties between the two countries healed, but no one can argue
convincingly that that all the problems between Russia and Turkey have
been fixed or that an institutional framework has been put in place to
prevent future deterioration of relations. In some important areas of mu-
tual interests, Ankara and Moscow have priorities and objectives that are
opaque to the other. This contributes to strategic uncertainty between the
two, and neither side has made efforts yet to introduce clarity in the
issues of mutual interests. The inability to get rid of strategic uncertainty
may be linked with the ongoing low-scale and frozen conflicts or insur-
gencies in the Black Sea region that create both opportunities and vulner-
abilities for the parties involved.
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
Abrahamyan, Eduard. “Armenia’s New Ballistic Missiles Wil Shake Up the Neighbor-
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Policy Review, Hoover Institution, June & July 2004.
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BusinessWeek, “Oil: What’s Russia Really Sitting On?” November 22 2004.
———. “Russia Overtakes Saudi Arabia in Oil Exports,” September 9 2009.
Cagaptay, Soner. The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey. New York: I.
B. Tauris, 2017.
Chrysanthopoulos, Leonidas T. Caucasus Chronicles: Nation Building and Diplomacy in
Armenia, 1993–1994, London and Princeton: Gomidas Institute Books, 2002.
Civil Georgia, “NATO, Georgian Defense Ministers Meet in Brussels,” October 8 2015.
CNN. “Russia’s ambassador to Turkey assassinated in Ankara,” December 20 2016.
Cohen, Ariel and Conway Irwin, “US Strategy in the Black Sea Region,” Backgrounder
#1990 on Russia, The Heritage Foundation, December 13 2006.
Cornell, Svante, and Frederick Starr, eds. The Guns of August 2008: Russia’s War in
Georgia, London: ME Sharpe, 2008.
Daily Sabah. “Turkey won’t recognize Russia’s unlawful annexation of Crimea: Presi-
dent Erdogan,” March 9 2016.
Daly, John C. K. “Montreux Convention Hampers Humanitarian Aid to Georgia,”
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———. “Oil, Guns, and Empire: Turkey, Russia, Caspian `New Oil’ and the Montreux
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jan,” November 1 2013.
Euronews. “Russia-Turkey relations have “fully recovered”Putin,” May 3 2017.
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———. “Russia agrees to join Turkish security operation in Black Sea,” 29/06/2006.
Guardian,The. “Greece’s Tsipras meets Putin in Moscowas it happened,” April 8
———. “MH17: Dutch Safety Board to publish preliminary report on disaster,” Sep-
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Gulf Oil and Gas, “Lundin Petroleum Announces Major Oil Discovery in Russia Cas-
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Gvosdev, Nikolas K. “Putin May Be Turkey’s New Buddy after the Failed Coup,” The
National Interest, July 19 2016.
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Vol. 48, No. 1 (Spring 2006).
Hurriyet Daily News. “Gazprom starts construction of Turkish Stream gas pipeline to
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IMF Survey, Vol. 30, No. 23, December 10 2001. “Gruzinskii urok” (in Russian), October 1 2015.
Izvestiia. “Meniaetsia Rossiia, meniaetsia i ee voennaia dokrina,” Interview with the
Chairman of the national Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Petrushev, (in Rus-
sian), October 14 2009.
Jackson, Bruce Pitcairn. “The Future of Democracy in the Black Sea Region,” US Senate
Subcommittee on European Affairs, March 8 2005. “The “Soft War” for Europe’s
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July 2006.
Kelkitli, Asli Fatma. Turkish Russian Relations: Competition and Cooperation in Eurasia.
New York: Routledge, 2017.
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
Keohane, Robert, and Joseph Nye, Jr. “Power and Interdependence Revisited,” Inter-
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Kokoshin, Andrei A. Soviet Strategic Thought, 1917–91. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
Kommersant. “Naval Retreat: Ukraine Intends to Get Rid of the Black Sea Fleet,” April
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Murinson, Alexander. “Russia Accuses Turkey of Violating Montreux Convention,”
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——— “Operation Active Endeavor” (Archived).
——— “NATO SNMG2 ships conclude Black Sea deployment,” Feb-
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New York Times,The. “Bush Encourages Georgia with a Warning to Russia,” May 11
———. “US Sees Evidence of Russian Links to Jet’s Downing,” July 18 2014.
———. White House Says President Obama and Vladimir Putin Will Meet Next
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Osipov, K. Alexander Suvorov: A Biography, London: Hutchinson & Co, 1941.
President of Russia. “Voennaya doktrina Rossiiskoi Federatsii,” (in Rus-
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Prague Post. “Zeman appears on Russian TV to blast sanctions,” November 17 2014.
Reuters. “Europe ‘shot itself in foot’ with Russia sanctions: Hungary PM,” August 15
———. “Russian cuts to oil production stall in February,” March 2 2017.
———. “Russian bombing in Syria mistakenly kills three Turkish soldiers,” February 9
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RIA Novosti. “Russia Navy must seek alternative to Sevastopol basetop brass,” July
18 2009.
Rossiiskaya Gazeta. “Fregati stanut ‘Admiralami,’” (in Russian), June 26 2015.
Russia Today. “Russia tests ‘unrivaled’ new radio-electronic weaponproducer,” Oc-
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Russian Federation Ministry of Defense, The.“Voennaia doktrina Rossiiskoi Federat-
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Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. III, Issue 194, The Jamestown Foundation, October 20
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TRT World. “Ukraine to form Muslim military unit to fight Russia,” August 4 2015.
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UPI. “2 US naval vessels headed to Black Sea for Sochi Olympics,” February 1 2014.
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Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
Vice News. “The Russians are Coming: Georgia’s Creeping Occupation,” November 4
Vignansky, Mikhail. “Georgia is Already a NATO Member,” Vremya Novostei, June 5
Washington Post,The. “In recording of US diplomat, blunt talk on Ukraine,” February 6
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Yegorova, N. I. and A. O Chubarian, eds. Kholodnaya voina 1945–1963 gg. Istoricheskaya
perspektiva, (in Russian). Moscow: Olma-Press, 2003.
1. According to Canadian Commodore Denis Rouleau, a former Commander of
the Standing NATO Maritime Group One, a NATO fleet came very close to sailing
into the Black Sea in 2006; however, the plan was cancelled at the last minute due to
vocal political objections. Pers. Com. Winnipeg, Canada, January 31 2007.
2. “MH17: Dutch Safety Board to publish preliminary report on disaster,” The
Guardian, September 8 2014
3. Eastern European leaders, as well as those in Greece and Italy have been the
most vocal dissenters. “Europe ‘shot itself in foot’ with Russia sanctions: Hungary
PM,” Reuters, August 15 2015
crisis-sanctions-hungary-idUSKBN0GF0ES20140815 “Zeman appears on Russian TV
to blast sanctions,” Prague Post, November 17 2014
42701-zeman-appears-on-russian-tv-to-blast-sanctions “Greece’s Tsipras meets Putin
in Moscow—as it happened,” The Guardian, April 8 2015 http://
4. American sources reported that the meeting was scheduled at the request of the
Russian side. “White House Says President Obama and Vladimir Putin Will Meet
Next Week,” The New York Times, September 24 2015. The official Kremlin denied the
“rumors” that such a request was made implying that it was the American side who
requested this meeting: “Kreml oproverg slukhi o prosbe Moskvi ustroit vstrechu
Putina i Obami,” Argumenti i Fakti, (in Russian), September 25 2015,
5. Kholodnaya voina 1945–1963 gg. Istoricheskaya perspektiva, N. I. Yegorova and A. O
Chubarian, eds. (in Russian). Moscow: Olma-Press, 2003.
6. Andrei A. Kokoshin, Soviet Strategic Thought, 1917–91. Cambridge, MA: MIT
Press, 1998.
7. “Voennaia doktrina Rossiiskoi Federatsii, Razdel II: Voenno-strategicheskie os-
novy,” The Russian Federation Ministry of Defense (in Russian),
8. “Meniaetsia Rossiia, meniaetsia i ee voennaia dokrina,” Interview with the
Chairman of the national Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Petrushev, Izvestiia daily
(in Russian), October 14 2009, online version:
9. Leonidas T. Chrysanthopoulos, Caucasus Chronicles: Nation Building and Diploma-
cy in Armenia, 1993–1994, London and Princeton: Gomidas Institute Books, 2002.
10. Ibid, pp. 76–77.
11. Madame Hartingh was France’s first ambassador to Armenia.
12. Chrysanthopoulos, p. 30.
13. Harry Gilmore was America’s first ambassador to Armenia, 1993–1995.
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
14. Mr. Sargsian (sometimes spelled as Sarkisian) subsequently became Prime Min-
ister of Armenia. He was assassinated in October 1999, when gunmen stormed the
Armenian Parliament and opened fire killing several top government officials.
15. Chrysanthopoulos, pp. 78–79.
16. An interview with representatives of the Embassy of Russia in Georgia, on
behalf of The Resonance daily, Tbilisi, Georgia, October 3 1992.
17. Interview with Leonidas T. Chrysanthopoulos, Ambassador of Greece to Cana-
da, Winnipeg, MB, February 5 2002.
18. Chrysanthopoulos, pp. 76–77.
19. Eduard Abrahamyan, “Armenia’s New Ballistic Missiles Wil Shake Up the
Neighborhood,” The National Interest, October 12 2016.
20. Ibid.
21. “Russia tests ‘unrivaled’ new radio-electronic weapon—producer,” RT, October
13 2016
22. “About the exhibition,” ArmHiTech
23. “Russian Officer: We would Intervene in Karabakh Against Azerbaijan,” Eura-, November 1 2013
24. Vladimir Socor, “Tbilisi Claims Russian Navy Holding Exercises of Georgian
Coast,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. III, Issue 194, October 20 2006, The Jamestown
25. Ibid.
26. W. Alejandro Sanchez, “Did BLACKSEAFOR Ever Have a Chance?” E-Interna-
tional Relations, November 18 2002
27. Socor, “Tbilisi Claims…”
28. “2 US naval vessels headed to Black Sea for Sochi Olympics,” UPI, February 1
29. “Operation Active Endeavor” (Archived),
30. As cited in Rebecca R. Moore, NATO’s New Mission: Projecting Stability in a Post-
Cold War World, p. 118.
31. Ronald D. Asmus, Bruce P. Jackson, “The Black Sea and the Frontiers of Free-
dom,” Policy Review, June & July 2004, Hoover Institution
32. Bruce Pitcairn Jackson, “The Future of Democracy in the Black Sea Region,”
33. IMF Survey, Vol. 30, No. 23, December 10 2001
34. “Bush Encourages Georgia with a Warning to Russia,” The New York Times,May
11 2005
35. Ibid.
36. For more on the Montreux Convention: “Montreux Convention 1936,” globalse-
37. Ibid.
38. Ariel Cohen and Conway Irwin, “US Strategy in the Black Sea Region,” Back-
grounder #1990 on Russia, December 13 2006, The Heritage Foundation http://
39. “Russia agrees to join Turkish security operation in Black Sea,” GlobalSecur-, 29/06/2006
40. John C. K. Daly, “Montreux Convention Hampers Humanitarian Aid to Geor-
gia,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 5, Issue 168, September 3 2008 https://james-
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
41. Ibid., also: “NATO SNMG2 ships conclude Black Sea deployment,” navalto- February 22 2017
42. From its early days, the current Ukrainian administration indicated unwilling-
ness to extend the current term beyond 2017. “Naval Retreat: Ukraine Intends to Get
Rid of the Black Sea Fleet,” Kommersant daily, April 18 2005 http://
43. As cited in Moore, p. 121.
44. Ariel Cohen and Conway Irwin, “US Strategy in the Black Sea Region,” Back-
grounder #1990, The Heritage Foundation
45. Ibid.
46. Fiona Hill and Omer Taspinar, “Turkey and Russia: Axis of the Excluded?”
Survival, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Spring 2006).
47. Bruce P. Jackson, “The “Soft War” for Europe’s East: Russia and the West
Square Off,” Policy Review, June & July 2006, Hoover Institution http://
48. Ibid.
49. Mikhail Vignansky, “Georgia is Already a NATO Member,” Vremya Novostei,
June 5 2007, p. 5.
50. “In recording of US diplomat, blunt talk on Ukraine,” The Washington Post,
February 6 2014.
51. “Ukraine crisis: Transcripts of leaked Nuland-Pyatt call,” BBC, February 7 2014
52. “Ukraine to form Muslim military unit to fight Russia,” TRT World, August 4
53. “Turkey won’t recognize Russia’s unlawful annexation of Crimea: President
Erdogan,” Daily Sabah, March 9 2016
54. Soner Cagaptay, The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey.New
York: I. B. Tauris, 2017.
55. Nikolas K. Gvosdev, “Putin May Be Turkey’s New Buddy after the Failed
Coup,” The National Interest, July 19 2016.
56. “Russia’s ambassador to Turkey assassinated in Ankara,” CNN, December 20
57. “Russian bombing in Syria mistakenly kills three Turkish soldiers,” Reuters,
February 9 2017
58. “Gazprom starts construction of Turkish Stream gas pipeline to Turkey,” Hur-
riyet Daily News, May 8 2017
59. “Russia-Turkey relations have “fully recovered”—Putin, Euronews, May 3 2017
60. A leaflet titled “Voin, znai veroiatnogo protivnika!” (“Warrior, Know Your Po-
tential Adversary!”) printed and distributed to Russian forces during the Kavkaz-2008
war games in North Caucasus just prior to Russia’s invasion of Georgia warned per-
sonnel to expect US and NATO trained and funded combat forces in Georgia
equipped with modern weapons. Svante Cornell and Frederick Starr, eds. The Guns of
August 2008: Russia’s War in Georgia, London: ME Sharpe, p. ix.
61. “Gruzinskii urok,” (in Russian), October 1 2015
62. According to a Georgian Lieutenant Colonel who is serving in the area, in some
places the Russians are mere 200 meters from the key Georgian highway. “the Rus-
The Black Sea Question in Russo–Turkish Relations
sians are Coming: Georgia’s Creeping Occupation,” November 4 2015, Vice News
63. “NATO, Georgian Defense Ministers Meet in Brussels,” Civil Georgia, October 8
64. “Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on the Downing of a Malaysia
Airlines Flight,” Ottawa, ON, July 17 2014, Primer Minister of Canada
flight “US Sees Evidence of Russian Links to Jet’s Downing,” The New York Times, July
18 2014
65. According to Russian sources, the Syrian deployment of Russian forces went
through a long preparation stage. “Syria. Kak eto bilo,” (in Russian), October
9 2015
66. Tornike Turmanidze, Bupheruli sakhemltsifoebi (in Georgian). Tbilisi: BTKK Polit-
ical Research Group, 2006.
67. The importance to be in control of energy resources of the former Soviet Union
has been stressed many times by numerous senior Russian politicians.
68. Natural gas of Central Asia is also hugely significant, but its importance pales in
comparison with the considerations surrounding crude oil and strategically significant
geographic areas of the subsystem.
69. One of the major foreign policy decisions by the new Bush administration in
February 2000 was the endorsement of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipelines the main
route for Azeri oil, to which the Russian government had strongly opposed.
70. John Daly, “Oil, Guns, and Empire: Turkey, Russia, Caspian `New Oil’ and the
Montreux Convention,” Caspian Crossroads, 5, no. 2 (1998).
71. After the August 2008 war with Georgia, Moscow did accuse Ankara of violat-
ing the Montreux Convention. Alexander Murinson, “Russia Accuses Turkey of Vio-
lating Montreux Convention,” Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Analyst, Johns Hopkins
University, October 15 2008
72. The Russian Black Sea Fleet was founded by Prince Potemkin in 1783, but Rus-
sia’s advance to the Black Sea shores had a long road, which included subjugation of
Ukraine, destruction of the Tatar khanate in Crimea, fierce rivalry with Austria for
strategic access to the Black Sea, and the suck of Izmail. Gladys Scott Thomson, Cathe-
rine the Great and the Expansion of Russia, Thomson Press, 2008, pp. 130–148; Russell
Frank Weigley, The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to
Waterloo, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004, p. 355; K. Osipov, Suvorov:
A Biography, Hutchinson, 1944, p. 87.
73. According to the Russian Minister of Defense, the Black Sea Fleet is slated to
receive six new submarines of Project 636. “Fregati stanut ‘Admiralami,’” Rossiiskaya
Gazeta, (in Russian), June 26 2015
74. “Russia Navy must seek alternative to Sevastopol base—top brass,” RIA Novosti,
July 18 2009
75. Sevastopol “faces” NATO members Romania and Bulgaria in the east, and Tur-
key in the south. It also allows the Russian navy an easy access to the Georgian coast
in the west, and those of Ukraine in the north. As well, Sevastopol controls the access
to the internal Russian-Ukrainian Azov Sea, the shallowest sea in the world.
76. “Voennaya doktrina Rossiiskoi Federatsii,” Prezident Rossii, (in Russian), http://
77. With growing oil prices and improvements in technology, Russia’s estimated oil
reserves started to grow steadily since early 2000s. BusinessWeek, “Oil: What’s Russia
Really Sitting On?” November 22 2004
tent/04_47/b3909079_mz054.htm; Gulf Oil and Gas, “Lundin Petroleum Announces
Major Oil Discovery in Russia Caspian Sea,” 7/3/2008,
webpro1/MAIN/Mainnews.asp?id=6218. Current estimates are at around 79 billion
barrels or 9.42 km3 “Russia oil reserves”
Lasha Tchantouridze DRAFT
78. In 2007, Russia was number two in oil exports after Saudi Arabia (8 million
barrels a day) with around 5 million barrels of crude a day. CIA, The World Factbook
2176rank.html In 2006, when Dmitry Medvedev, subsequently Prime Minister and
later President or Russia, was deputy head of Gazprom, and Russia’s economic
growth was very robust, LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov warned that Russia might
have to import light oil products by 2009–2010 if its secondary refining capacity did
not improve (RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 10, No. 46, Part I, 13 March 2006). This neces-
sity has never materialized, but the point made by Alekperov is likely to remain
relevant in the foreseeable future: sooner or later, Russia will encounter problems in its
oil production sector. In the second quarter of 2009, the first time since the end of the
Soviet Union, Russia with 7.4 million barrels a day overtook Saudi Arabia (7.25 million
barrels per day) as world’s top oil exporter. “Russia Overtakes Saudi Arabia in Oil
Exports,” BusinessWeek, September 9 2009
summary/archives/2009/09/russia_overtake.html. According to US Energy Informa-
tion Administration, in 2013, Russia made 68% of its export revenues in oil and natural
gas sales. “Oil and natural gas sales…” July 23 2014
gy/detail.cfm?id=17231. Even with Europeans reducing their dependence on Russian
oil and gas in 2014, Russia’s crude oil export only declined by 5.6% from 2013. “Here’s
Where Russia Shipped Oil Last Year as Ukraine, Europe Diversified,” Forbes, April 7
oil-last-year-as-ukraine-europe-diversifies/. By March 2017, Russia’s oil and gas con-
densate output stood at 11.11 million barrels per day. “Russian cuts to oil production
stall in February,” Reuters, March 2 2017
79. Erekle Urushadze, Rusuli sagareo politikuri azrovneba postsabchota periodshi, (in
Georgian). Tbilisi: BTKK Political Research Group, 2006, pp. 64–65.
80. “Strategiia natsionalnoi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi federatsii do 2020 goda,” The
Security Council of the Russian Federation (in Russian)
81. Moscow’s policies are along the lines of geopolitical arguments made by new
Eurasianists in Russia since early 1990s.
82. Asli Fatma Kelkitli, Turkish Russian Relations: Competition and Cooperation in Eur-
asia. New York: Routledge, 2017.
83. Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, Jr. “Power and Interdependence Revisited,”
International Organization 41 (4), 1987; and Keohane and Nye, Power and Interdependence
(3rd edition). New York: Longman Classics, 2000.
Full-text available
XXI yüzyılın başlarından itibaren Türkiye-Rusya ilişkilerinde kayda değer ısınma yaşanmıştır. Özellikle Türkiye’de Adalet ve Kalkınma Parti’sinin ve aynı zamanda Rusiya’da Vladimir Putin’in yönetime gelmesi ile birlikde bir çok alanlarda işbirliği sağlanmışdır. Ticaret, turizm, enerji alanlarında mevcut potansiyel ikili ilişkilerde diğer alanların geliştirilmesi için kullanılmaya başlanılmış ve bu vesileyle de her iki devletin kazanç sağlaması için çaba sarf edilmişdir. Fakat “Soğuk Savaş” döneminden miras kalan dinamikler ve Türkiye-Rusya ilişkilerinde yüzyıllardır önemini kaybetmeyen jeopolitik çıkarlar doğrultusunda her iki ülke hem bölgesel hem de küresel olarak farklı politikalar izlemektedirler. Türkiye’nin NATO ittifakına üye olması ve aynı zamanda Karadeniz, Ortadoğu ve Güney Kafkasya’da her iki ülkenin jeopolitik çıkarlarının çatışması, ikili ilişkilerin gelişmesinde engeller yaratmaktadır. Suriye’de yaşanan iç savaş ve Ukrayna’da Kırım krizi Türkiye ve Rusya ilişkilerinin hala kırılgan durumda olduğunu ortaya çıkardı. Rusya’nın her iki devlete askeri müdahelelerde bulunması Türkiye’nin bölgesel çıkarlarını tehdit etmekle kalmamış sınır ihlali gibi olayların yaşanmasına neden olmuştur. Krizli dönem pek uzun sürmese de onarılması oldukça maliyetli olan hasarlar meydana getirmiştir. Buna rağmen her iki tarafın da gösterdiği gayretler sonucunda taraflar arasında buzlar erimiş, iki taraflı ilişkiler bütün alanlarda yeniden onarılmışdır. Fakat yaşanan krizden sonra taraflar arasında ilişkilerin kısa vadeli yoksa uzun vadeli olmasına dair sorular tartışma konusu olarak kalmıştır.
As the two most influential and powerful actors in Eurasia the nature of the Turkish-Russian relationship affects the situation in the Black Sea, South Caucasus, Central Asia and Middle East and steers the foreign policy formulations of both regional states and global powers. Examining post-Cold War relations between Eurasia's most prominent actors, this book takes into account regional dynamics and global power struggles and identifies three important stages in Turkish-Russian relations during the period. Using complex interdependency theory the author offers valuable insights into the initial confrontational period and its transition to an atmosphere of compromise, cooperation and the evolution of multi-dimensional partnership. Leadership theory then explains the most recent deterioration in rapport as crises in Syria and Ukraine have placed severe strain on the previously warm bilateral relations.
A series of historically unprecedented events have brought the attention of the West to the wider Black Sea region — that region including the littoral states of the Black Sea, Moldova, and the Southern Caucasus countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. The successful completion of the anchoring and integration of Central and Eastern European countries stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea in the Euro-Atlantic community marks the end of the grand historical project of the 1990s initiated in the wake of the end of the Cold War. Moreover, the terrorist attacks of 9-11 and 3-11 have underscored the dangers of a new century and the fact that the greatest threats to both North America and Europe are now likely to emanate from further afield and beyond the continent, in particular from the Greater Middle East. These events have begun to push the Black Sea from the periphery to the center of Western attention. At the same time, they have underscored the fact that the West today lacks a coherent and meaningful strategy vis-à-vis this region. Neither the United States nor the major European powers have made this region a priority nor have they identified strategic objectives in the region. Absent a compelling rationale attractive and comprehensible to elites and publics on both sides of the Atlantic, this is unlikely to change. Absent such a rationale, Europe and the United States are not going to be willing or able to generate the attention and resources necessary to engage and anchor the countries of the wider Black Sea region to the West — let alone to help them transform themselves into full partners and perhaps, over time, full members of the major Euro-Atlantic * Ronald D. Asmus is senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Bruce P. Jackson is president of the Project on Transitional Democracies.
Since 2003, Turkey and Russia have drawn together in a new bilateral relationship. Mutual frustration with US regional policies and European attitudes has been the main driver of this rapprochement, along with expanding trade and increasing common ground on foreign-policy issues. Turkish-Russian relations have not yet blossomed into a strategic partnership, and suspicions linger after centuries of geopolitical competition, but the United States can no longer rely on Turkey as an automatic counterweight to Russia in regions like the Black Sea and the Caucasus. Together, Turkey and Russia also have the potential to obstruct American policy initiatives in the Middle East. To head off potential problems, Washington will have to address Turkey's concerns about US policy in Iraq.
Naval Retreat: Ukraine Intends to Get Rid of the Black Sea Fleet
  • Kommersant
Kommersant. "Naval Retreat: Ukraine Intends to Get Rid of the Black Sea Fleet," April 18 2005. "Syria. Kak eto bilo" (in Russian), October 9 2015.
NATO's New Mission: Projecting Stability in a Post-Cold War World
  • Rebecca R Moore
Moore, Rebecca R. NATO's New Mission: Projecting Stability in a Post-Cold War World, New York:Praeger, 2007.
Operation Active Endeavor" (Archived). ---.
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Murinson, Alexander. "Russia Accuses Turkey of Violating Montreux Convention," Central Asia Caucasus Institute Analyst, Johns Hopkins University, October 15 2008. ---. "Operation Active Endeavor" (Archived). ---. "NATO SNMG2 ships conclude Black Sea deployment," February 22 2017.
Voennaya doktrina Rossiiskoi Federatsii
  • K Alexander Osipov
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Osipov, K. Alexander Suvorov: A Biography, London: Hutchinson & Co, 1941. President of Russia. "Voennaya doktrina Rossiiskoi Federatsii," (in Russian).