Bosphorus grows shallow: Why Turkey needs a new channel to the Black Sea

For several days now, the network has been agitated news about a new scandal that erupted in Ankara: 103 retired admirals signed a collective letter expressing concern over discussions in Turkish society on the withdrawal from the Montreux Convention.

By itself given political the incident, perhaps, can hardly be called remarkable - the extremely expressive ideas and actions of the President of the Republic, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, quite often receive a negative reaction and meet with misunderstanding on the part of certain circles of society. Interesting here is the very root cause of the incident - the very disputes regarding the withdrawal from the Montreux Convention ...

There are no events in politics that would occur spontaneously, being born out of nothing - it has clear interrelationships that are sometimes not visible to an inexperienced layman. But what gave rise to the need in Turkish power circles to get rid of the agreement, which for so long served as a weighty lever of influence and a means of protecting the Republic?

Istanbul canal

It would be worth starting with the fact that this infrastructure project is by no means a new idea, and it has settled down in the plans of Recep Erdogan a long time ago - already back in 2011, when he was then prime minister. It was declared with varying success in subsequent years - for example, in 2018, a number of news sources announced the start of the construction of the canal - however, the Republic of Turkey came to its real implementation only now.

In the Russian Federation, this project has been deprived of attention, as well as fanned with misunderstanding, rumors and speculation. Unfortunately, the channel project is mainly associated exclusively with a military threat, completely closing our eyes to the fact that it can be called secondary - the realities of modern interstate confrontations have changed, and now they cannot be viewed only under the prism of tank armies and squadrons of missile ships: infrastructure and economy now play almost more importance than direct military power. Despite the deliberately aggressive policy, the leadership of the Republic of Turkey does not suffer from blindness or clip thinking - Ankara is making great efforts to develop its financial and logistical capabilities, one of which will be the Istanbul Canal ...

Indeed, this project did not arise out of nothing: the reality is that the Bosphorus ... is growing shallow. Back in 1994, Turkey, due to this circumstance, was forced to introduce a number of restrictions and additional rules for the passage of merchant ships along the strait - and with each new decade the situation is only getting worse. This, of course, threatens extremely unpleasant consequences for all Black Sea cargo transportation and the economy of Ankara itself. The current complications have a rather serious impact on shipping in the Bosphorus, and the Turks intend to decisively correct this situation.

The question, however, is different - how, in fact, this decision will turn out for the rest?

Back in the 2011 election program, Recep Erdogan made a completely unambiguous and interesting, but, alas, unnoticed statement - upon completion of the construction of the Istanbul Canal, shipping in the Bosphorus will be completely stopped. Then no one paid due attention to these words: presidential candidates often make promises that they do not plan to fulfill, and even at that time Ankara did not show any serious foreign policy ambitions, which could indicate that a project of this scale will receive at least some -that promotion. But now, ten years later, the situation is taking on a rather bleak turn ...

Perhaps it would be worth starting with the fact that the channel does not fall under the Montreux Convention, according to which the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles are an international zone of free civil navigation - Turkey has no right to prohibit the movement of certain ships on them. The Istanbul Canal, on the other hand, will become an object of state property with appropriate jurisdiction and all the ensuing consequences - the Republic will fully control any movement from the Black Sea to the Sea of ​​Marmara and back.

Accordingly, this path will become many times more effective leverage than the Bosphorus - Turkey will have every right to stop the movement of ships of countries that have political differences with Ankara.

Another significant - and, of course, useful for Turkey - factor will be the paid passage through the Istanbul Canal. At the moment, shipping in the Bosphorus is subject to only small duties (according to the terms of the same Montreux Convention), but by the end of the decade this will change: thus, Ankara will not only pay off the infrastructure project itself, but will also have the opportunity to have a long-term source of passive inflow of funds into the state treasury. Considering that at the current time the Bosphorus is working on the verge of its passability (and this is by no means the limit of the needs of sea transport in the region), the channel will be in demand, even if it is paid ...

Ukraine is also of particular interest here - so, according to the "Strategy of the Navy-2035", the ports remaining under the control of Kiev should be modernized and provided with loading. If we add to this fact the active Turkish economic expansion in the post-Soviet space and the fact that in the “Strategy” Turkey is called one of the key allies of Kiev in the region, then the conclusion turns out to be rather disappointing - Ukraine can become not only a sales market, but also a logistics hub for Ankara in Eastern Europe.

Of course, the economic feasibility of developing a transport infrastructure of this scale cannot be discarded - according to estimates, the construction of only one canal (not counting the construction of two cities and a new port, which are included in the project) will provide at least 5000 jobs - this is undoubtedly extremely important factor against the backdrop of the collapse of the global economy in the context of the crisis generated by Covid-19. In addition, the implementation of this enterprise is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate state capabilities and prestige, which is extremely important for Ankara, which is rapidly forming an alliance from other Muslim countries.

The military aspect of the construction of the Istanbul Canal, as mentioned above, in this case fades into the background - of course, Turkey will get its hands on the levers of economic pressure, but it will not be able to freely conduct large-scale ships of the NATO bloc through the channel - this will still require an exit from conditions of the Montreux Convention, because any military ships will still be forced to cross the Dardanelles, which are under the jurisdiction of an international treaty.

However, it is unlikely that the NATO countries have any urgent need for this: in the conditions of the Black Sea theater of hostilities, this will only look like posturing - in the event of a conflict, any warships larger than frigates and destroyers will leave the water area, which is too well fired by anti-ship missiles and tactical aviation.

Thus, the main threat to the construction of the Istanbul Canal is the strengthening of Ankara's political influence in the region, as well as the strengthening of Turkish economic expansion in the post-Soviet space.
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  1. 123 Offline 123
    123 (123) April 11 2021 08: 37
    any military ships will still be forced to cross the Dardanelles, which are under the jurisdiction of an international treaty.

    Show your colleague the article, otherwise he is preparing for the NATO invasion of the Black Sea.
  2. steelmaker Offline steelmaker
    steelmaker April 11 2021 08: 44
    Turkey is already "in debt as in silks". And who will agree, give money to make Turkey even stronger economically? And once for 10 years there have been only conversations, no one willing.
  3. Petr Vladimirovich (Peter) April 11 2021 08: 51
    I do not understand about the "shallow" ...
    1. Dan Offline Dan
      Dan (Daniel) April 11 2021 10: 31
      Quote: Petr Vladimirovich
      I do not understand about the "shallow" ...

      I think this is nonsense. The strait is connected to the World Ocean. Therefore, the water level in the Bosphorus will always directly depend on the water level in the Atlantic. According to various sources, it is said that the water level in the Black Sea is stable, and it is about 20 cm higher than in the Mediterranean and roughly corresponds to the level of the Baltic. Changing the depth of the fairway in the Bosphorus is possible only when dust, dirt, silt settles on its bottom. But for this, measures are being taken to maintain the fairways.
      1. Kristallovich Offline Kristallovich
        Kristallovich (Ruslan) April 11 2021 13: 14
        I think this is nonsense.

        Search the internet if you're interested.
  4. Rinat Offline Rinat
    Rinat (Rinat) April 11 2021 13: 14
    For the first time I read that the Bosphorus is shallowing. Is this a fake fact? I guess it's a fake. If he was really threateningly shallow from year to year, we would have read and heard about it. As far as is known, there is now a tendency for the level of the oceans to rise, in which shallowing of the strait is impossible. Unless land rises in this place. But the media do not write or talk about this either.
    1. Andrey V. Offline Andrey V.
      Andrey V. (Andrei) April 11 2021 21: 11
      This process has been taking place since the 90s.

      This is not a fake, you can easily find information about it on the net.
  5. chemurij Offline chemurij
    chemurij (chemurij) April 11 2021 15: 09
    So the Montreux Covenant, which begins and consists of a Basic Provision, in which the tonnage and the period of stay of warships of non-Black Sea states and the regulations for the passage of ships through the straits are clearly indicated -

    The Montreux Convention preserves the freedom of passage for merchant ships of all countries, both in peacetime and in wartime. However, the regime of passage of warships is different in relation to the Black Sea and non-Black Sea states. Subject to prior notification to the Turkish authorities, the Black Sea powers may navigate their warships of any class in peacetime through the straits. For warships of the non-Black Sea powers, significant class restrictions have been introduced (only small surface ships pass) and tonnage. The total tonnage of warships of non-Black Sea states in the Black Sea should not exceed 30 thousand tons (with the possibility of increasing this maximum to 45 thousand tons in the event of an increase in the naval forces of the Black Sea countries) with a stay of no more than 21 days. In the event of Turkey's participation in the war, as well as if Turkey considers that it is directly threatened by war, it has the right to authorize or prohibit the passage of any military ships through the straits. During a war in which Turkey does not participate, the straits should be closed to the passage of warships of any belligerent power. The Convention abolished the international commission on the straits provided for by the Lausanne Convention and transferred its functions to the Turkish government.

    The articles of the regulation are clearly tied to the restrictions reflected in the Basic Regulation. Therefore, even if Turkey breaks through at least ten channels, it cannot bypass the restrictions of the Basic Provision, or it will have to violate the CONVENTION, which, accordingly, will lead to the withdrawal of all others from it. And then you need to understand that the Montreux Convention, for Turkey itself, is an instrument for protecting its interests and protecting its own borders on the Black Sea.
  6. Sergey Latyshev Offline Sergey Latyshev
    Sergey Latyshev (Serge) April 11 2021 17: 40
    Yes. Sentence - "Turkey has no right to prohibit the movement of certain ships on them"
    Clearly contradicts the rest of the article.

    It is clear that nothing is clear ..
  7. Jacques sekavar Offline Jacques sekavar
    Jacques sekavar (Jacques Sekavar) April 11 2021 19: 44
    The strait is congested, and the bypass should have been taken care of a long time ago.
  8. gorenina91 Offline gorenina91
    gorenina91 (Irina) April 11 2021 20: 24
    - Personally, I ... - I consider everything related to Turkey exclusively from the position; that sooner or later all these "Dardanelles" and supposedly Turkish lands must sooner or later be returned to Greece; and a significant part of these "supposedly Turkish lands" should go to Russia ... - The question of when this will take place (but what is not with our guarantor - that's for sure) ... is a completely different topic ...
    - So ... - these are the territories with which Erdogan is going to "cheat" today and will go to Russia ... - Well ... why does Russia need all these territorial "experiments-innovations" that Erdogan is going to carry out ... - What are we ... - will we fill these channels later ??? - Hahah ...
    - Generally ... - Turkey has already "sat up" for too long on the original Christian territory; and then she began to seize Christian churches, and even disfigure their territory with some kind of channels ...
  9. Blast Offline Blast
    Blast (Vladimir) April 16 2021 13: 27
    I wonder why the Bosphorus becomes shallow when the level of the world ocean rises due to the general warming and melting of ice ..?