Should Russia invest in a new Turkish channel?

Erdogan will build an alternative waterway from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean

The Crimean bridge turned out to be the first, but not the last, major infrastructure project in the Black Sea region. The baton from Vladimir Putin was taken by Recep Erdogan, who announced the construction of a new, alternative to the Bosphorus, a navigable canal.

According to the Turkish leader, the 43-kilometer Istanbul channel, which will connect the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, will become the largest project in the history of Turkey.

It is assumed that the new channel will have a width of up to half a kilometer and a depth of 25-30 meters. This will allow 150-160 vessels with displacement of up to 300 thousand tons per day. Through the Bosphorus at the moment there are as many vessels, of which about 30 – oil tankers.

In addition, the channel zone will be reconstructed. On both sides will be built two completely new cities. Thus, Istanbul will be divided into three bridges connected only by bridges – two European and one Asian, and the central part will actually become an island.

It is interesting that Erdoğan announced from the rostrum of the congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party, where he was re-elected leader. Earlier, Erdogan promised to implement 140 mega-projects in the country in case of his victory in the elections.

Should Russia take advantage of the situation and “invest” in the construction of the Istanbul channel? Moreover, the political background for this is more than favorable – Erdogan becomes “sworn friend” of our country before our eyes.

“Outwardly this idea looks very ambitious,” says the president of the Institute of Asian and African Studies at the Moscow State University. Lomonosov Mikhail Meyer. – It is clearly designed to show that the obstacles that America poses today to the development of the Turkish economy can not significantly affect it. Politically, this is beneficial to Erdogan. He shows that he can realize such a grandiose project.

Can he really realize it?

The Turkish construction industry has sufficient opportunities for this. The level of production is very high. I was amazed by the underwater tunnels under construction now through the Bosporus to the Asian part of Istanbul. Apparently, it is not by chance that Russia so willingly used the services of Turkish builders for many years.

The construction of a new channel will give Russia new opportunities for cooperation with Turkey or vice versa, will strengthen the position of Ankara, which will no longer need Russia?

It seems to me that Erdogan’s project is aimed at increasing the opportunities for cooperation.

In the opinion of Viktor Nadein-Raevsky, director of the Institute for Political and Social Studies of the Black Sea-Caspian region, Erdogan can take Russia “into the lot,” if he can not find the means to implement the project in Turkey itself.

This, of course, a grandiose project. He is tied exclusively to the personality of Erdogan – all this was invented with him. Now the Turks are developing the second route. The first was a little longer and walked a little to the west.

Is there a real need for such a channel? Is not this project a kind of “Potemkin village” in the Turkish manner that Erdogan intends to realize for his political ambitions?

Arguments given by supporters of the project, real, correct. The Bosporus is really loaded. There are enough bottlenecks there. The Turks are very afraid of all kinds of man-made accidents in the Bosphorus. And this is possible, since many ships pass. There is an oil export. Honestly, when you sit in a cafe on the shore of the Bosphorus and a fairly large tanker passes by, you feel uncomfortable. This is really a dangerous thing.

There was catastrophe in teh strait. And with our ships too. Once our ship, carrying the forest, crashed into the shore. So you can understand the Turks’ anxiety.

How are things with the international legal regulation of traffic across the Bosporus …

The Bosporus and the Dardanelles or as they are called by the Turks “Turkish Straits” – have an international status, where the principle of freedom of navigation operates. Turkey has no right to block these straits for merchant ships. These provisions are contained in the Montreux Convention of 1936, which has not changed since then. Also there are restrictions on the tonnage of military vessels (maximum – 40 thousand tons), which in peacetime can be in the Black Sea and therefore pass through Bosporus.

And the Turks have always adhered to these provisions? – In principle, yes. Of course, in NATO, this is frustrating. They would like to flood the Black Sea with their ships to spite Russia. But there is no real reason for the NATO ships to remain in the Black Sea water area, except for the Alliance’s aggression. By the way, during the Second World War, Turkey let two German destroyers into the Black Sea. For this, the Turks fooled – on the ships temporarily hung out the Turkish flags. Then these ships “pirated” off our coast. So, for Russia, the Montreux Convention is not an empty phrase: What material benefits will bring a new channel to Turkey?

They want to build a channel for the centenary of the Turkish Republic (2023), There is not much time, besides, it’s quite an expensive business. True, the new channel will give cash receipts. After all, for the Bosporus it is not supposed to be paid. Although the Turks bypass this position – they impose their pilots. I remember when in 1975 I passed the Bosporus on our ship “Ukraine”, assigned to Odessa, we had a Turkish pilot. So he did nothing, because our captain knew the entire fairway perfectly. Nevertheless, states are reconciled to this and pay for the pilots. When the new channel is built, payments will go for the very fact of the passage of the vessel, as it will be Turkish property and the Montreux convention will not function here. Are there opponents at the construction of the canal? Many criticized the project as ambitious, but completely unnecessary. Now, after the deterioration of the economic situation in Turkey, the fall of the Turkish lira, the opponents have become even greater. But despite this Erdogan again announced his plans for construction. It is felt that he does not intend to abandon this idea. The question is, where will he take the money for this? It’s tens of billions of dollars! Moreover, the real cost of construction, as a rule, exceeds the expected rate of three.

Maybe Russia should invest in this project, enter a share? It turns out that the Bosporus is like ours. Our ancestors dreamed about it! Especially since Erdogan and Putin are now almost friends … – Much depends on who will be the controlling shareholder. Until I heard that the Turks would like to invite other participants. It is felt that they want to keep control over themselves. Although, when there is no money of their own, it is of course possible to raise money from the side.

Stanislav Ivanov doubts the expediency of Russia’s participation in the construction of the Istanbul channel.

  • Within the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, where I worked in due time, the construction of the alternative channel Bosphorus was not discussed. Although there were extensive plans for the development of infrastructure around the Black Sea, including, for example, the Crimean bridge now built. So this is an internal Turkish project, which was born in the bowels of the Turkish government.

– What will the new channel give to Turkey?

– It increases the importance of Turkey as a transit country. Especially now, when new energy projects appear in the region. Already Turkmenistan is going to pull the pipeline there and other Central Asian countries.

Should not Russia try to enter the project as an interest? After all, did we take a coalition of Europeans in the construction of the “Nord Stream-2?” It’s just the opposite. Turkey in this case acts as our competitor. There are new ways and on them, apparently, not Russian goods will go. For Russia, and for trade and for warships, the Bosphorus was lacking. But Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria, etc. will have new opportunities. It is not in the interests of Russia – we will lose more. Here, Turkey and its direct allies, including NATO, will win.