by Nicola De Felice

Cycles and counter-cycles along the Bosphorus

You can find striking similarities between the Trojan War and the current war in Ukraine.

Achaeans, after having extended their dominion in the Aegean Sea, in wanting to expand commercially to the east found themselves to be hindered by the city of Troy, located just at the mouth of the Hellespont. Therefore the conflict that ended with the destruction of Troy. The reasons for that war were of economic, commercial and hegemonic nature, based on the control of the strait of the Dardanelles, the Bosphorus and the Black Sea.

Thus, although in the opposite direction, the geopolitical, military and strategic importance of those straits has come back to the fore with the war unleashed by Putin in Ukraine. With Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania - belonging to NATO - facing the Black Sea, together with Russia and Georgia, with the Ukrainian ports in NATO hands and with Crimea logistically dependent on Ukraine, it was easy to understand how the Black Sea could be the object of potentially dangerous disputes between Russia and NATO itself. The maneuvers on the ground must be read from this perspective.

The importance of Black Sea for Russia

For Russia, the Black Sea is indispensable because it is the obligatory passage not only to the Mediterranean, but also to the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. It is through the Black Sea that Moscow can reach strategic maritime lines of communication that otherwise would be - de facto - precluded. The traffic of ships in those straits is 55 thousand units per year, four times more than the Suez and Panama canals. The Bosphorus is the main route for the transport of oil from the Caucasus to the countries of Europe and Asia. Sixty-five percent of Russian exports pass through the Bosphorus and, in addition to oil, wheat also passes through, which from the markets of Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan covers 25% of the world's needs. Moreover, cast iron and semi-finished steel products pass through the Black Sea for 10% of European needs and Italy is currently suffering from a shortage.

Strategically speaking, it is more important for Russia to own the Odessa naval base, Mariupol and Mykolaiv shipyards than Kiev.

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Italy's perspective

Italy should be alarmed at the consequences of the conflict that, with a victorious Russia, would condition the geostrategic balance in the Mediterranean with the presence of a strong and fierce world power on our doorstep, as if the uncomfortable Turkish presence were not enough. For Russia, present in the Sahel, Libya, Egypt and Syria, in the Horn of Africa, free passage in the Mediterranean is needed, as well as the construction in Syria and Libya of major naval bases.

The Russian fleet is now the most aggressive and numerous in the Black Sea and hypothetical agreements with Turkey are foreseeable as already done in Syria and Libya, to the detriment of an Italy without a security strategy in the Mediterranean if not that of deluding itself to have the support of the EU (as in the case of the management of the illegal migration flow: that is null). Although the passage of ships through the Bosphorus is regulated by the Montreux Convention, Turkey - which has the right to deny the transit - has allowed, before the war, the entry of a large Russian fleet in the Black Sea.

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Senior Fellow of the Centro Studi Machiavelli. Admiral of division (res.), former commander of destroyers and frigates, he has held important diplomatic, financial, technical and strategic assignments for the Defence and Navy Chiefs of Staff, both at home and abroad, at sea and on land, pursuing the application of capabilities aimed at making the Italian defence and security policy effective.