Turkey has refused to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
While an ostensible member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Turkey now has no desire to sanction Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu made this announcement on March 1, 2022. “As a principle, we didn’t participate in such sanctions in a general sense. We have no intention of joining in these sanctions, either,” Çavuşoğlu announced on Turkish TV news channel Haberturk.
Since Russia commenced its controversial military operation on February 24, 2022, it has been sharply criticized by Western countries, who have gone the extra mile by sanctioning it.
A report by the Daily Sabah noted that western countries have sent Ukraine military aid, shut off their airspace to Russian airlines, and have clamped down on Russian state-run media.
Çavuşoğlu brought up the Montreux Convention, a 1936 agreement that regulated maritime traffic going through the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits in Turkey. He mentioned how this conventions’ standards would apply in the context of the current conflict.
The Turkish foreign minister noted that Russia accepted Turkey’s request to not have unregistered warships go through the straits. “Russia has said four of its ships would cross the straits on Feb 27-28, three of which are not registered to bases in the Black Sea,” Çavuşoğlu stated. “We told Russia not to send these ships and Russia said the vessels would not cross the straits.”
“Nobody should be offended by this, because the Montreux Convention is valid today, yesterday and tomorrow, so we will implement it,” the Turkish foreign minister added. According to a Reuters report, earlier this week, at least four Russian ships – two destroyers, a frigate, and an intelligence vessel – were waiting for Turkey to allow them to cross from the Mediterranean. Two of these vessels, a frigate and a destroyer, requested to cross this week.
The provisions of the 1936 pact regulates access to the Black Sea, which spans coastal countries like Ukraine. This convention’s standards have drawn international attention recently.
Çavuşoğlu revealed that Articles 19 of the convention would be activated. The convention grants Turkey the power to ban warships from the straits during periods of war. Russian war vessels returning to their home port are not subject to the restrictions, per the convention’s articles.
The United States was satisfied with Turkey’s decision to close off the straits. Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey expressed his gratitude for Turkey’s “meticulous” adherence to the convention standards.
“We don’t have to take sides in war; on the contrary, we are a country that can establish an equal dialogue with both sides to end it. We can’t afford to take sides,” Çavuşoğlu proclaimed.
Turkey had called on all sides in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict to respect the Montreux pact, a point which Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stressed the day following the closure of the Strait.
“Eroding Montreux or disrupting the status quo in any way is to nobody’s benefit. We see a benefit in preserving Montreux. We tell all sides that it would be beneficial to abide by Montreux,” Akar said to reporters.
On February 28, 2022, Turkey announced that it closed the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits in accordance with the 1936 pact, which allowed it to prevent several Russian vessels from crossing. In addition, Turkey demanded all Black Sea and non-Black Sea states to not pass through its straits.
Turkey has played a balancing act with Russia. While it declared Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a violation of international law, Turkey has maintained solid defense, energy, and tourism ties. Turkey and Russia have butted heads in conflicts in Libya (Turkey is backing the UN-supported government in Tripoli while Russia is backing Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar), Syria (Russia is propping up the government of Bashar al-Assad and Turkey is backing opposition forces), and in Nargorno-Karabakh (Turkey supported Azerbaijan and Russia backed Armenia).
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared that he was “very saddened” by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. “Turkey is determined to use the authority given by the Montreux Convention on Turkish Straits in a manner to prevent escalation of the Russia-Ukraine crisis,” Erdoğan declared during a press conference following a cabinet meeting in the Turkish capital of Ankara.
Turkey’s mercurial positions on foreign policy are in line with a well-established tradition of geopolitical hedging. In essence, Turkey plays off great powers against each other to accumulate power in the geopolitical arena. As a middle power, Turkey will seek to build relationships with eastern and western powers and play them off each other.
This is one sign why Turkey is a bad fit for NATO and should ultimately be kicked out of the alliance. From there, the U.S. should consider its exit from this alliance, which no longer upholds American interests.