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Strange Bedfellows
Turkey and Russia Troll NATO in the Black Sea

The strange and opportunistic partnership between Turkey and Russia was on full display in the Black Sea this week, as the two sides conducted joint naval exercises sure to irk NATO. Newsweek:

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet joined the Turkish navy in the strategic body of water, which has been a source of heightened tensions due to parallel military exercises by Russia and members of NATO, of which Turkey was a part. […]

“As part of the drill, ships of the two countries practiced… exit from a naval base, joint maneuvering and communication, as well as repelling an attack of a small-sized high-speed target, an inspection operation, search for and rescue of a person in the water,” Trukhachev told reporters, according to Russia’s Sputnik News.

In one sense, this is a dynamic that has been obvious for a while: Turkey is restless and Russia is happy to be a flirt. Erdogan, for his part, has been fanning the flames of anti-Western sentiment at home leading up to the big referendum on expanding the powers of the Presidency. Doing war games with Russia serves similar domestic needs: it signals that Turkey has geopolitical options outside Western institutions, and that Erdogan has global clout. For Russia, the drills provide a golden opportunity to pick at growing schism between NATO allies.

At the end of the day, everyone concerned knows that there are strict limits to the relationship between Russia and Turkey. (It’s already a Potemkin friendship.) But games like this are not without consequence. The mistrust being generated is real, and will impact the Alliance going forward.

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  • Angel Martin

    Whatever successor alliance emerges after NATO collapses – on no account should it include Turkey.

    • D4x

      Turkey’s referendum vote on April 16 should be considered the most important vote of the decade, if it really can change what appears to be a democracy into the Caliphate. NATO will not collapse, but they might want to consider an Exit clause, for members who fail to conform to whatever. Alas, Turkey has location, and will stay in NATO as long as Russia is considered a ‘threat’.

      • Andrew Allison

        The problem, as I’ve mentioned here before, is that the geniuses who drafted the NATO, EU and Eurozone treaties never contemplated the possibility that the organizations might wish to eject a member. Since adding an exit clause would require unanimity, it’s not going to happen. Ergo, Turkey will remain in NATO unless/until it decides to withdraw. The only way to “fix” NATO is for the US to stop providing 70% of its funding.

        • D4x

          We’ll see. Turkey! can wait until April 17.

        • Tom

          Given when and why NATO was written, the lack of an eject clause is actually quite reasonable–no one wanted to be thrown out of the alliance if the Russians suddenly threatened to attack them.
          The EU and Eurozone lack of an eject clause, however, is much less excusable.

    • Andrew Allison

      Why? Is Turkey any less likely to fulfill it’s NATO obligations that the EU? Surely the real question is with which, if any (post-Brexit) EU countries should the US enter into military alliances? NATO, incidentally, provides far too many utterly meaningless jobs to be allowed to collapse.

      • D4x

        Good question. The U.S. Senate was enthusiastic about Montenegro. None ever questions enlarging NATO, they probably still think Ukraine and Georgia should join.
        At least Montenegro has a port close to the North Atlantic…(news overload drift)

        • Andrew Allison

          Yes, it seems that the dreadful consequences of greatly enlarging the EU remain a lesson unlearned.

    • Pete


      muslims don’t belong in any Western alliance.

  • Kneave Riggall

    The Black Sea is strategic?!??

    Even Erdogan knows that’s nonsense.

    • Andrew Allison

      Never underestimate the delusions of a megalomaniac. But I suspect that Putin is very well aware of the ease with which the Bosphorous Straights and/or the Dardanelles could be closed to naval traffic.

      • D4x

        Fairly certain they teach THAT geography lesson in Russia, probably from nursery school on.

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