As the heart of the Alliance shifts to the Northeast, Turkey emerges as a very valuable bastion in the Southeast.
The New Europe
A solid Atlantic bastion is forming in Northeast Europe, strong in the Baltic, stretching out to the boreal plains and centered on Poland, from which also derives the relationship that Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is building, not without difficulty, with Morawiecki. The bolstering in the Northeast requires a mirror effort in the corresponding Southeast flank. This realization may have led Erdoğan, fresh from a clear re-confirmation in the runoff with the more protectionist Kılıçdaroğlu, is racking up a series of moves such as meeting in Istanbul with Zelensky but especially re-establishing a formal diplomatic channel with Egypt, a decade after, to break the veto on Sweden.
The backbone of the NATO - it is a fact and a necessity - has gradually shifted to Poland, close to the limes with Russia. As such, Poland is the logistical rear of the Ukrainian military and is cultivating plans to confederate with Ukraine itself, following the successful example of the Polish-Lithuanian Confederation, which even the U.S. Founding Fathers studied at length. Warsaw aims to be the barycenter of space between the Baltic, Adriatic, and Black Seas, as Pilsudski foresaw.
After all, in those "lands of blood", echoing Timothy Snyder, between Poland and Ukraine, such as Galicia, land of the then Austro-Hungarian Empire with strong ethnic pluralism, there was and certainly still remains one of the hearts of Europe. Joseph Roth was a native of Brody, which was one of the hearts of Yiddish culture.
The Turkish mirror move
Playing in advance, Turkey dictated the agenda of the long-awaited Vilnius summit and also won favor with Stoltenberg and the United States. However, Turkey's Atlantic coherence should come as no surprise since it has been a NATO member since 1952, already acting as a solid antemural to the USSR. Moreover, Turkey has the second largest army (350,000), not to mention the bases hosted on its territory, starting with İncirlik.
NATO remains an indispensable point of reference for Turkey, and vice versa, even in what President Erdoğan has called "Turkey's Century," that is, a century in which he intends to carve out a global role. Turkey's vibrant diplomatic outreach, from the aforementioned rediscovered diplomatic channel with Egypt to its growing welding with Azerbaijan, together with its choices on infrastructure, agriculture and energy seem to prove him right.
The Growing Relevance of the Pontus Euxinus
Moving the nerve center of the alliance eastward has consequences not only for the Baltic, then, which could become a full-fledged "NATO sea" once Sweden's entry is completed, but also for the Kara Deniz, the Black Sea. Therefore, Turkey offers itself as a reliable partner to complete the "NATO seas" strategy by completing an ellipse that would increasingly confine Russia.
Turkey covers the Pontus Euxinus along with Romania, which would deserve more attention in strategic analyses. Romania is a "model ally" of NATO, as illustrated in an in un op-ed in the Turkish journal Transatlantic Policy Quarterly by Petre Roman, who as Romanian prime minister led the breakout from Ceaușescu's regime; it was a political process that led to EU and NATO membership.
Romania in particular hosts in Constanța - the port on which King re Charles II focused his efforts - the Samp/T systems as well as several Alliance ships. In the general growth of Romanian seaports, the one in Constanța, which is strongly interconnected with the Danube system, reached a record 24.1 million tons of cereal traffic in 2022, which could make it the most important in Europe in the long run. The main countries to which wheat shipments were directed were Egypt, Jordan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, Israel, Sudan, and Tunisia.
In short, Erdoğan's is a logical and perfectly functional move in the geometries of the Alliance, aiming to balance the Baltic and Arctic projection of this new Polish-centered axis. It cannot be ruled out that Erdoğan's move comes precisely after the manifestation of fragility on Russia's part even though - it should be pointed out - there has been no hardening from Moscow with respect to Ankara, net of some statements that are part of the usual "fog of war."
Instead, the Turkish request for entry into the European Union can be interpreted as a quid pro quo but still functional to the broader Atlantic strategy as NATO makes up for the "army vacuum" that remains a chronic shortcoming of the European Union. Indeed, EU membership, which is far from immediate given that such a populous country would change, and not a little, the internal balances in the already fragile European institutions, would serve to foster greater internal synchronization among the components. In addition, there are important communities of Turkish origin in Europe, to which imperial Turkey looks favorably.
Perhaps, also because of this, the Turkish president seeks a privileged shore with Italy, as shown by the meeting with Meloni in which cooperation between the countries was discussed. Italy expressed itself favorably to Turkey's entry, temporibus illis.
Since the 1990s, Russia has retreated further and further: its current defensive lines in the north depend on the gains made in the 1939 war against Finland, with the annexation of part of Karelia and the Rybačij Peninsula, and in the south on yet another very difficult war that is allowing it to protect its access to the Black Sea, although medium-range missiles in Kaliningrad are a strong deterrent factor. In contrast, NATO now presents an articulated wall that provides for defense of air space, thanks mainly to Poland and Romania, and sea space, from the former Pomor Route, connecting Tromsø with Archangel, to the Straits.