Expert: Turkey strengthened by power-play in Crimea

The loss of Russia’s most important military base in the Black Sea basin – the Sevastopol base in Crimea – will shift the balance in Turkey’s favor, which may become the only strong power in the area, says Zorakn Foundation board trustee Karen Vrtanesyan. This circumstance might cause more challenges for Armenia, which has an unresolved military conflict with Azerbaijan, should tensions escalate between the two countries.

The representative of Zorakn foundation, involved in raising public awareness on army, military and strategic-political issues, views Russia’s behavior in relation to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in Ukraine as natural. “The fact that Russia is trying to preserve its active presence in the Black Sea and that its primary target is Crimea stems from the overall geopolitical situation.”

Vrtanesyan points out also that in the Black Sea basin Russia’s position against Turkey is not that strong.

“Today the military balance between Russia and Turkey in the Black Sea is frail as it is, and I wouldn’t say Russia has any advantages, quite the opposite, the Turkish fleet is much better equipped excelling that of Russia by some criteria, for example, Turkey has 14 submarines, while Russia has two, one of them non-functional,” says Vrtanesyan.

Since late last week Moscow established de-facto military control over Crimea, an autonomous republic in the south of Ukraine with a predominantly ethnic Russian population. The Russian parliament has also empowered President Vladimir Putin to use troops to defend the ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking population elsewhere in the territory of Ukraine. Moscow says it is reacting to the formation of an ultranationalist government in Kiev that threatens the country’s Russian-speaking minority. Meanwhile, the United States and the European Union have condemned Russia’s aggressive designs, threatening economic sanctions against Moscow.

The biggest ethnic community of the peninsula with more that 2 million population is Russian, followed by the Ukrainian – 24 percent, and Muslim Tatars – 12 percent; about 0.5 percent of the population is Armenian who have declared a neutral position in the conflict supporting neither Russians, nor Ukrainians nor Tatars.

“I wouldn’t say Russia’s position in the Black Sea is too strong, and Crimea’s loss would aggravate the situation, which can become a problem for us. Of course, not in non-combat conditions, but if the Armenian-Azeri conflict gets more tense, there might be issues in terms of supplies to the Georgian ports – Turkey can effortlessly place ships there, inspect ours and turn them back/deny passage,” says Vrtanesyan.

Expert in Turkish studies Gevorg Petrosyan, editor of website, reminds that Turkey and Russia have been fighting for Crimea for ages, because of the peninsula’s strategic geopolitical position. Petrosyan says Turkey’s claims for Crimea should be viewed as quite feasible.

“The geopolitical situation is changing so rapidly that it cannot be ruled out, considering the fact that Turkey is one of the two major players in the Black Sea, the withdrawal of Russian forces from Crimea is absolutely in Turkey’s interest,” says the expert.