Russia’s Naval Operation Near Turkey Raises Stakes at NATO Frontier
Russia’s recent raid on a ship near Turkey’s coast has carried the effects of the ongoing Ukraine conflict to the Black Sea region, escalating tensions at another NATO border. The stakes have increased due to this incident since Ankara wants to revive its grain export agreement with Moscow, which may bring some peace back to the unstable area. Armed marines raided a Turkish ship on Sunday 60 kilometres (37 miles) off Turkey’s northwest coast using a helicopter. Moscow asserted that the operation, which took place in international seas close to Istanbul, was a regular check before the ship’s intended trip to Ukraine.
Turkey, the second-largest military in NATO, has kept a relatively low profile over the incident. Analysts have questioned President Tayyip Erdogan’s willingness to maintain cordial relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin in light of this silence. Later this month, Erdogan will host Putin in Turkey to discuss reinstating a UN-mediated agreement that previously protected grain exports from Ukraine. It was stressed by Yoruk Isik, a geopolitical analyst at the Bosphorus Observer consultancy in Istanbul, that “This type of aggression being exercised so close to Istanbul went unchecked and didn’t respect Turkey’s overall rights.” Although Ankara’s silence is odd, it demonstrates that it still depends on Putin to discuss the grain deal.
Russia and Ukraine have issued threats and launched strikes against ships travelling along their borders since Russia withdrew from the grain pact last month. Concerns about increased risks to commercial shipping over the whole Black Sea have been raised due to these actions. Ukraine and several Western countries have investigated alternative export channels, but Turkey is secretly against them, claiming security issues. Instead, Ankara would want to see Ukraine’s grain exports resume under UN and Turkish supervision, calling for specific Russian requests and concessions to be granted.
Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, recognised the recent attacks on grain facilities as making it difficult to restart negotiations. She reaffirmed continuing engagement with each party to the dispute to entice them to the bargaining table. For Ukraine and Russia, two major exporters of agricultural products, the Black Sea and Turkish Straits, are essential routes to worldwide markets. The year-long grain agreement’s failure has increased commodity prices and sparked questions about the security of the world’s food supply.
Ankara-based foreign policy commentator and former Turkish ambassador Aydin Sezer emphasised the nuanced nature of Turkey’s stance. He pointed out that Turkey has sent armaments to Ukraine while remaining neutral in the war, making it difficult for the country to take a strong position. Turkey has established itself as a prospective peace broker in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. It has maintained economic relations with Moscow while opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has helped it strike a delicate balance in its foreign policy.
According to a Turkish defence ministry official who asked to remain anonymous, Ankara is looking into the most recent naval action in the Black Sea. According to statistics from Refinitiv Eikon, the incidental vessel has since relocated to the Romanian seas. Despite Ankara’s persistent advertisements, Russia has not confirmed President Putin’s probable trip to Turkey. After completing some Western requirements, including payments and logistics, Russia has indicated a willingness to rejoin the grain agreement.
Sezer stressed that Turkey should negotiate with Western nations to revive the grain agreement, considering Russia’s main requests, which include simplifying the import of agricultural items and incorporating a Russian bank into the SWIFT global payments system. The event highlights the delicate diplomatic balancing act Turkey confronts as it negotiates its position in the war and strives to restore calm through talks with Russia and Western partners as tensions in the Black Sea region remain high.