From a place narrated in literature to a trade route of extreme military and geopolitical importance. The Bosphorus is another weapon in the war between Russia and NATO countries. Facts, legends and numbers
Mythological, epic and real wars have been fought across the Bosphorus. Theater of battles, a stretch of sea that divides the European part from the Asian part of Istanbul, but also a commercial hub between East and West.
Even today, in the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, the Bosphorus plays its fundamental role in many balances, from the geopolitical and military ones to the commercial and, therefore, economic ones. THE BOSPHORUS BETWEEN MYTHOLOGY AND EPIC
The name Bosphorus derives from a Thracian word which means “passage of the cow” because according to mythology, the priestess Io, was accused by Hera, wife of Zeus, of being one of the lovers of the god of Olympus, who to protect her from anger of Era I turn her into a cow. I, under the guise of animals, swim across the Bosphorus strait but Zeus’s wife discovered it and sent large flies to bite her and make it impossible for her to escape, so much so that she ended up in the Ionian Sea which took her name from her.
Ovid not only wrote about the Bosphorus strait in his Metamorphoses, but also Homer in the Iliad. The epic poem, in fact, narrates that the real cause of the Trojan war was not Helen, but she needs to control the Dardanelles Strait which allows access to the Bosphorus channel and finally to the Black Sea.THE STRATEGIC POSITION
In Turkish, the Bosphorus is known as Bogazici, or “internal strait”. It is 31 km long and has a width between 740 and 3,300 meters. Being the only passage, together with the Dardanelles Strait, through which from the ports of the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Marmara it is possible to access the Mediterranean – but also the Atlantic – since ancient times it has played an important role precisely for its strategic position. THE MONTREUX CONVENTION
How to regulate such a crucial passage
The 1936 Montreux Convention allows the free passage of civilian ships in peacetime, but also guarantees stability and safety in the Black Sea by limiting the passage of warships that do not belong to the states that border it – unless they return to the Black Sea. own military bases.
This is why on 28 February the Foreign Minister of Ankara, Mevlut Cavusoglu, announced the closure of both straits in Turkish territory, applying the authority conferred by the Convention.
At the moment, writes Agi, the permission to pass to three different ships is denied, while one has been authorized. However, the Russian fleet had already entered the Black Sea for weeks to carry out “large-scale exercises”. BORN IN THE STRAITS
As Start wrote, the application of the Convention, although it may appear as an anti-Russian move, is actually fundamental to prevent an escalation in the Black Sea. It is important, in fact, to remember that three of the six coastal countries – Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania – they are part of NATO. Those who argue that NATO’s eastward expansion was among the main causes of the ongoing war also refer to this, the importance that the Black Sea has for both Russia and NATO.
In this regard, however, we remember what Enzo Reale wrote in Atlantico Quotidiano: “NATO is mentioned only once [in a Russian article announcing the victory in Ukraine, ed], confirming the fact that the pretext of expansion – with which realists and Putinians of the West explain and in fact justify the actions of the Kremlin – it represents a collateral factor in the vision of the regime ”.
Reale then underlines that even in the speech in which Putin recognized the independence of the Donbass separatist republics, “the dictator dedicated only a few passages to NATO in the final part, reserving the rest of the dissertation for the historical reasons which, in his opinion, required the return of Ukraine to Russia “. HOW MUCH TRAFFIC IS IN THE BOSPHORUS
Traffic in the Bosphorus since the time of the Montreux Convention has significantly increased, going from 4,500 ships in 1936 to 48,000 a year today, with peaks that have exceeded 55,000. Cargo ships, oil tankers, military ships, cruise ships and fishing boats which, according to Agi, make it four times busier than both the Suez Canal and Panama. THE OIL ROUTE
From the Bosphorus, reports the news agency, “despite the restrictions relating to the passage of oil tankers that came into force in 2002, traffic has been just below 50 thousand ships a year, the majority of which , on average about 35 thousand, are commercial cargo, while oil tankers are about 10 thousand a year “.
Across the strait, oil travels from the Caspian and Russia not only to the countries of southwestern Europe, but also to Asia. It is estimated, in fact, that Russia makes 65% of its exports and 38% of its oil pass through its gateway to the world. Without the passage from the Bosphorus, entire maritime communication routes and strategic regions would be inaccessible to it.
“If Russian oil is added to that extracted in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, all conveyed through the canal that crosses Istanbul, – continues Agi – it is estimated that 3 million barrels per day, 20 million tons per year, equivalent to 3% of the world’s annual needs, cross the waters of the Bosphorus “. CEREALS, CORN, IRON AND STEEL
But the crossroads between East and West also pass cereals, corn and sunflower oil that come from Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The three countries cover 25% of the global needs of wheat, one fifth of the demand for corn and sunflower oil, and more than 60% of Ukrainian wheat goes out through the Black Sea.
In addition to food raw materials, iron and steel are also – the Ukrainian one covers 10% of European needs – they cross the Bosphorus. ERDOGAN THE BALANCER
Since the turn that the conflict can take is unpredictable, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reiterating the good relations with both fronts, has repeatedly proposed himself as mediator, also because in the event of an escalation Turkey would find itself in a difficult position: if NATO were to enter the war, writes Agi, “Ankara will be forced to close the Bosphorus to Russian ships, with consequences that Erdogan does not even want to imagine”.

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