Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a strong message to Russia on March 18, saying he will close the Bosporus to Russian vessels if there is any harassment of Crimea’s Turkish minority, the Tatars.
“If self-proclaimed Crimean authorities or so-called self-defense fighters commit violence against Crimean Tatars living in the peninsula, Turkey will be forced to close the Bosporus for passage of Russian ships,” Erdoğan said on Turkish television.
Closing off the Bosporus, the only exit and entry point into the Black Sea, would effectively mean cutting off Russian seaborne trade to the Mediterranean as well as incapacitating the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
While at this time it is unlikely Turkey will go ahead with such a move considering its current dependence on Russia for 60 percent of its energy needs, Erdoğan’s strong rhetoric indicates Turkey is firmly siding with the West on Russia’s takeover of Crimea.
According to an article titled “Turkey Moving Away From Russia Over Crimea” published in Xinhau on March 18, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, “Turkey does not recognize the Crimean referendum, calling the poll, ‘illegitimate’ .…” The foreign minister continued, “I clearly stated that this referendum is not recognized by Turkey. This referendum has no legitimacy. We are in contact with the European Union and nato on the steps that will be taken.”
The Crimean referendum on whether Crimea should abandon Ukraine and join Russia received 97 percent approval from the voters. However, not everyone turned up to vote. Notably boycotting the vote was a full 15 percent of the Crimean populace, the Turkish-speaking Tatars.
Many of the almost 300,000 Tatars living in Crimea fear a return to Russian rule will result in an abuse of their minority rights. The Sunni Muslim Tatars have inhabited the Black Sea region for centuries. However, after World War ii, Tatars living in Crimea were deported to Siberia by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Starvation and disease led to the deaths of as many as 200,000.
Finally, in the late ’80s and ’90s, a quarter of a million Tatars were allowed to resettle in Crimea. Now, with Russian rule pending, Tatars are terrified, and their Turkish mother is moving to protect them.
While it is not surprising that Turkey, which currently has 4 million Tatars within its borders, is voicing concern for the safety of its Crimean counterparts, the degree to which it has lambasted Russia and sided with the EU is startling.
Historically, both Russia and Turkey have been able to overcome their differences and continue a thriving dependent economic relationship. However, cracks are emerging between the two nations. As Bible prophecy indicates, Turkey will eventually shake off its dependency on Russia to form an even closer strategic alliance with Europe. ▪