Global Insider: Under Montreux Convention, Turkey Controls Black Sea Access in Wartime

Global Insider: Under Montreux Convention, Turkey Controls Black Sea Access in Wartime

Amid the crisis in Crimea, Turkey authorized a U.S. Navy destroyer to pass through the Bosphorus last week but noted that the legal agreement governing access to the Black Sea would not permit a U.S. aircraft carrier to make the same passage. In an email interview, James Kraska, an expert in maritime governance who is Mary Derrickson McCurdy visiting scholar at Duke University, discussed the terms of the Montreux Convention.

WPR: What is the history of the Montreux Convention, and what are its terms?

James Kraska: The Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits 1936 (the Montreux Convention) governs transit of vessels through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits that connect the Aegean Sea to the Black Sea. This compound strait, which also includes the inland Sea of Marmara, is completely surrounded by Turkey, and provides the only access to the ocean for Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Georgia. During the 19th century, the waterway was a focal point of the Anglo-Russian contest for influence in Europe and Asia; part of Russia’s objective was to protect its southern flank on the Black Sea, with the English strategy being to screen its positions in the Eastern Mediterranean and India. Russia still maintains a large naval base at the port of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula under a lease through 2042.

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