On February 21, 2022, Russia officially recognized the two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic, as independent states and deployed soldiers to Donbas, with a decision expressed by Putin, whose legitimacy was taken from this recognition. On February 22, Putin said that the Minsk agreements are no longer valid. On the same day, the Federation Council unanimously authorized the use of military force on the territory. While everyone was waiting for the outcome of the event, with Russia's sending soldiers to the Donbas Republics, which was based on a forced legitimacy by Putin in terms of international law, on the morning of February 24, Putin said that Russia launched a "special military operation" in the Donbas and that it was fully deployed to Ukraine. announced the launch of a large-scale invasion. Although Russia does not call it war and carries out an operation that takes care to protect the civilian population, the work it has done with its official military forces on the territory of Ukraine is a declaration of war and an attack. It is contrary to the essence of the UN Charter, which can be shortened to "problems must be resolved by peaceful means", as well as to Article 2, which explicitly prohibits the use of military force. To put it briefly, the military operation initiated by Russia against Ukraine is against the international conventions of which it is a signatory and the most basic principles of international law consisting of customary law and substantive law. This determination is easy to make but should be emphasized because it is very important. I will not include the historical background of the crisis between Russia and Ukraine and the claims of the parties, as they are not the subject of this article. But it is necessary to mention the question marks about some peace initiatives and why they were not successful. A meeting in the Normandy Format between Russian, Ukrainian, German and French high-level officials was scheduled for 26 January 2022 in Paris. The Normandy format is the name given to an informal meeting place set up by French, German, Russian and Ukrainian diplomats after Russia launched a separatist conflict in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine in 2014. It got its name from the Normandy landings in the second world war and its first meeting was held in this region. On January 28, there was a telephone conversation between French President Emmanuel Macron and Putin. Ukraine fulfilled Russia's requirement to meet in Paris and decided to withdraw the controversial bill on the reintegration of Crimea and Donbas from the Ukrainian parliament on the grounds that the law contradicted the Minsk peace accords. All this was promising in terms of the peaceful resolution of the crisis. However, the USA and England did not participate in the Normandy format talks. They explained the reason for this as preventing the degeneration of the name "Normandy", which is associated with the liberation of Europe, by Putin. However, this was not an acceptable justification. Because although the name Normandy is associated with the famous landing of the USA that concluded World War II, what harm could it be to use it for peace talks? Those who say that the main purpose here is the US and UK's concerns about the EU's handling of the peace initiative may be right. And perhaps that is why the Normandy Format did not succeed. The United States and Britain, playing a duo, on the one hand gave Putin the green light that NATO would not enter into a hot conflict, on the other hand, encouraged the controversial leader of Ukraine, Zelensky. But all this does not explain why Putin did not perceive the trap he fell into. Knowing his international experience and the tricks of world power circles, Putin's trap in Ukraine can only be explained by a stalemate. In that stalemate, it may be that Putin is not left with any other way out. Was there such a situation? How did Russia, which takes care to stay on the ground of legitimacy in every area of international conflict it is involved in, from Syria to Libya, launched such an attack on Ukraine that is far from legitimacy? Questions seeking answers. If it is the result of anger, it is necessary to remember the Turkish proverb: "He who rises in anger sits down." On the other hand, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Oleksandrovich Zelenski was playing the President of Ukraine in the series Servant of the People, which was broadcast on Ukrainian television in 2015, his character in the series suddenly became a reality. In the 2019 Ukrainian Presidential Elections, he went to the second round and won. This 44-year-old leader is a complete sealed box. Zelensky is also Ukraine's first Jewish President and Volodymyr Groysman is the first Jewish Prime Minister. Ukraine is the second country (after Israel) to have both a Jewish President and a Prime Minister. Although Zelensky is called "George Washington of Ukraine" in the US press, time will tell whether he is really a hero or a pawn. Because it is difficult for Ukraine to gain from this war, but it is already clear that there will be some other winners.
Here are the winners-losers of the Russia-Ukraine “War”…
The first winner is the US-UK bloc. If the EU were successful in peace negotiations with the Normandy Format, the European countries would move a few steps away from the USA in terms of defense independence. EU; It is the largest commercial rival and largest colony of the United States. This order of exploitation started after World War II and, interestingly enough, after the Normandy landings. At that time, the USA liberated Europe from Hitler's fascism. Now the evil person to be rescued from himself will obviously be Russia. The interesting thing is that all of these have always occurred on a just and realistic basis. Is it so this time?
The second winner is the oil exporting countries other than Russia and the US Shale gas producers. Because, using Russia's gas and defying Russia will not result in deterrence to Russia in the medium and long term for EU countries. In this case, the USA can intervene with shale gas and persuade the EU countries to use the more expensive shale gas.
As for the losers.. The two losers are Ukraine and Russia. Russia is in such a dilemma that even if it wins this war, it will lose. a question in English. If there are two solutions and both are impossible, it is called a "Dilemma". The word "dilemma" describes the situation in Russia very well. Withdrawal is a solution, but impossible. Capturing Ukraine completely is also a solution, but it is also impossible. The third way is... "PEACE", which is not mentioned much; it is becoming more and more impossible. I wish the USA and EU countries would propose and force PEACE more.
If Turkey uses its cards well, it will be one of the winners of this situation.
It's weird to talk about winning or losing when there's human drama, I'm aware of that too. But these evaluations also need to be made.
Zelensky's demand to "Close the Straits"...
When we look at Zelensky's wishes, we do not come across a very realistic personality. We don't know if he is a dreamer. But a tweet he made on the 2nd day of the "war" was of great interest to Turkey. In his tweet, Zelensky said, “The ban on the passage of Russian warships to the Black Sea and significant military and humanitarian support for Ukraine are extremely important today. The people of Ukraine will never forget this!”. These words make sense as if Turkey had closed the Straits to Russian ships and was providing arms and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. An effort to make Turkey look like it entered the war on the side of Ukraine. On the other hand, Russia The effort to portray Turkey as a State that attacks the democracy of the whole world and does not listen to international law reveals Zelensky's true intentions. To isolate Russia from the whole world and to make all the peoples of the world hate Russia - maybe not the Russian people, but the result does not change. Zelensky's perfect acting, we don't know whether he is playing a role or playing the truth, but we know that Putin fell into this trap.
What happens next will develop against Russia. I do not mean that he will lose the unnamed war in Ukraine. He will probably win this war. But he will lose in the big picture and the price will be very heavy. How will the Montreux contract be affected by this situation? There are days when we have to be very careful. Turkey will gain importance again, but if the balance of power deteriorates to a large extent, this will reduce Turkey's chances of choice and inevitably cause it to evolve from being a determining factor to a climate in which it will exercise its right to one choice. This means that increasing importance is no longer relevant.
I would like to cut this review here and include some frequently asked questions about Montreux and their answers.
Montreux Questions and Answers
- Can Turkey close the passages through the Straits to Russian warships in accordance with Montreux?
Russia is waging an unspoken war with Ukraine. Neither Russia nor Ukraine described the military operations as a war. However, there is no reason not to qualify these operations, in which the official land, naval and air forces of both states are used, as wars. It doesn't matter whether the parties qualify it as a war or not. After the establishment of the UN in 1945 and the legalization of the use of "peaceful methods" in the resolution of all international disputes, the prohibition of the use of force (except for the purpose of self-defense and the execution of the UN Security Council Resolution - except for these two exceptions, the use of force is prohibited). Apart from the eastern states declaring war on each other, there is no declared war. In this case, the question is: Is it appropriate not to describe it as a war just because the warring states did not declare it when there was a clear state of war? This question is critical because although Turkey's current interests are to treat both states equally, it is not possible to go beyond the "opinio juris" formed in the international modern society of which it is a part. If this “opinio juris” reveals the general acceptance that the situation is a state of war and the Montreux Convention also foresees this, it will not be possible to avoid it for a long time. Here it will be necessary to take a look at Article 19 of the Montreux Convention.
As it is known, in 1936, when the Montreux Convention was signed, the United Nations Organization had not been established yet. Instead, there was its predecessor, the League of Nations, which was established in Geneva in 1919 after the First World War. There are references to this League of Nations Covenant (the equivalent of today's UN Charter) in Article 19 of Montreux. Therefore, it will be necessary to understand and interpret the references made to the League of Nations here to the UN Charter, which is its equivalent today, and within the UN structure.
To summarize article 19 briefly;
1. In wartime, if Turkey is not at war, warships of warring states cannot pass through the Straits (No such restriction is imposed on trade ships).
2. Warships of warring states, whether they belong to riparian states or not, may pass through the Straits to return to their mooring ports as an exception.
3. Warships that will pass pursuant to a decision of the League of Nations or warships registered with the League of Nations and carrying aid to one of the belligerent states pursuant to an international treaty that Turkey deems legitimate are exceptions. In this case, the limitations on tonnage will not be applied.
If we adapt this situation to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine “war”; Whether to accept the situation as a war or not will be evaluated by the State of the Republic of Turkey. It should not be forgotten that this evaluation is an evaluation that cannot tolerate being contrary to the general tendency of the international public opinion mentioned above for too long. If, as a result of this evaluation, Russia and Ukraine are defined as “belligerent”, that is, warring states, then Turkey declares that the passage of warships belonging to both Russian and Ukrainian states is prohibited through the Straits. Being selective here would not comply with Article 19 of the Montreux Convention. In other words, only prohibiting the passage of Russia's ships would not comply with Article 19, it would comply with Article 20, where "Turkey is at war in case of war". In other words, Zelensky's request from Turkey is not actually the implementation of Article 19 of Montreux; the application of Article 20; that is, to consider Turkey as a belligerent, even though he did not declare war himself.
On the other hand, in terms of the application of Article 19; In order for an international force to be formed to pass through the Straits in accordance with Montreux, it must be approved by the only international institution that can legitimately take this decision, namely the UN Security Council. Because we stated that using force is possible in two situations; one is self-defense (provided that it is measured and proportionate) and the other is the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution. Considering that one of the 5 states with veto right in the UN Security Council today is the Russian Federation, it is clear that this cannot happen. Therefore, it does not seem possible that neither NATO fleets nor any other international allied power suitable for Montreux will be able to exceed the limitations set between Articles 10 and 18.
- How does the Russia-Ukraine war affect the future of the Montreux Convention?
As it is known, comments are made that the Montreux Convention is a contract in favor of Turkey and the states of the region, and that we should "look at it like our eyes" and "keep it by wrapping it in cotton balls". These are justified and logical interpretations and are also the views defended by the author of these lines. However, the following point is often overlooked: The Montreux Convention is a contract that depends on cotton, even if we shake it on cotton. So much so that the Montreux Convention expires two years after any of the signatory countries notifies France. The beginning of these two years is any moment; It could be today or tomorrow. However, it is also a fact that the provisions of the Montreux Convention have become common law and will continue even if Montreux disappears; The dominant view in the doctrine is in this direction. However, despite everything, it is necessary to be aware of this situation and be prepared for it. What to do while being prepared is the subject of a separate article.
Issues such as increasing the security concerns of the Russia-Ukraine war, increasing the power and effectiveness of NATO against the Russian threat, and better defense of Europe and the Black Sea may come to the agenda. It is possible that Russia will be isolated and "marginalized" and a new cold war period will be started. While one side of this cold war will be the USA-England and the EU states whose bayonets have been dropped so that they can no longer object to them, on the other side, although Russia is clear, other states - which is probably another one of them - have not yet emerged clearly. To the extent that this situation arises, a clearer prediction can be made about the fate of Montreux. First of all, it should not be forgotten that Montreux is a document of balance and stability. And it's good for the whole world. Because it prioritizes peace, and peace is a good and necessary thing for any state – at the end of the day, of course. Therefore, if he does not exist, his spirit will continue to live on through customary law. I think that he will continue to live and will continue to increase his importance.