On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Turkey’s recent discovery of additional natural gas reserves in the Black Sea. This development shows that Turkey’s energy strength has climbed to a higher level. The new discovery is not only related to the economy because the raging struggle for power in the eastern Mediterranean could reappear in the Black Sea and turn it into a new geopolitical flashpoint.
During the weekend, international media reported an Armenian attack on “Nakhichevan” in the Caucasus region, east of the Black Sea. This proves that the Russian-brokered ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia was very fragile. This attack also reflects the difficulty of putting an end to the fighting between the two countries, as there are many factors of concern in this conflict, such as Armenia’s arsenal of ballistic missiles dating back to the Soviet era, and the influx of foreign fighters into Armenia, including members of the PKK terrorist organization deployed in the region. Karabakh, in addition to the “heavy weapons” that Moscow threatens to give to the Armenians. The attacks on power lines and on the “Nakhchivan” region also demonstrate the increase in the provocative actions of the desperate Yerevan.
NATO’s 2008 commitment to accept Ukraine and Georgia as new members have made the Black Sea and the Caucasus emerge as a focal point of rivalry between the West and Russia. Russia, as the organization expanded eastward, divided Ukraine and Georgia. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 was the culmination of this escalation.
Meanwhile, the efforts of the United States and the European Union to change Russia’s behavior by imposing economic sanctions on it, during the era of Barack Obama’s administration, were utterly unsuccessful. Under the Trump administration, Russian President Vladimir Putin continued to expand his country’s sphere of influence to include the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Gulf. The joint Russian-Egyptian naval maneuver in the Black Sea bears witness to the commonalities between the ongoing power struggles in different parts of the world. It goes without saying that the Black Sea occupies a central place in Moscow’s strategic assessments. Its coasts represent the key to Russian influence over Eastern Europe, Ukraine, and the Caucasus. Moscow attaches great importance to the Black Sea in terms of national defense and military capabilities as well as the struggle for power in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East region.
As for the Western alliance, the Black Sea is of special importance and cannot be abandoned and left to Russian influence. According to the American think tank RAND, the power struggle between the West and Russia will determine the future of Europe. Likewise, American strategists who are trying to redefine Washington’s global role do not expect the United States to ignore or turn a blind eye to Europe. Even US President Donald Trump is still putting pressure on Germany about its dependence on Russian energy.
In the event of his re-election, Trump is expected to focus on China and stick to the current policy of his administration toward Russia. In this case, Moscow will work to preserve the current balance of power in the Black Sea, although recent developments in Belarus, Karabakh, and Kyrgyzstan indicate that maintaining the status quo will never be easy.
If the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, wins the presidency, Washington will be expected to focus on containing Russia. He will have to work to ease Russian pressure on Europe to try to empower NATO further. In other words, Biden will act to halt the expansion of Russian influence.
Whoever wins the US presidential election on November 3, geopolitical tensions over Turkey are bound to escalate. Not only will there be a new chapter in Turkish-American relations, but Ankara and Moscow will also have a new road map in light of the competition, cooperation, and tension between them.
As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently said, Turkey and Russia are unlikely to be more than “partners”. Countries are competing in Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean, Syria, the Black Sea, and the Caucasus. In my opinion, Turkey’s initiatives in Libya, Karabakh, annoy Moscow a lot.
In conclusion, we say that the increase in Turkey’s power forces it to develop a new type of relationship, not only with the Western alliance but also with Russia. The Black Sea could be a new geopolitical region in which to test this hypothesis.
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