Well, chalk this one up to the Ottomania now sweeping through Mr. Erdogan's head(a very short trip it would seem), doubtless on orders or approval from whoever in Washington:
Now when I first read this story a couple of weeks ago, I decided to withhold commentary (for it first appeared in some more dubious sources, this one being slightly less so). I credit this source somewhat more because what is being said is that the Ottoman Empi... er... Turkey is not blocking Russian access to the straits, which was a common theme of prior articles, but merely creating headaches for the Russians getting through the straits:
According to an online vessel tracking system, Russian ships moved in zigzags and circles on Nov. 29, waiting for hours for permission to enter the Bosphorus.
For instance, the Bratsk waited for permission from 10.00 to 19.00, and the Volgobalt from 3.00 to 17.00. However, as stated by the Ukrainian Center for Transport Policies, vessels belonging to the other countries passed through the straits without a delay on that day.
What appears to be going on here is a careful game of escalation between Turkey and Russia. Mr. Putin, you'll recall, responded to the Turkish downing of a Russian fighter by imposing economic sanctions, and cutting off tourism to Turkey. Mr. Erdogan now appears to be reminding Mr. Putin that Turkey can close the staits if it chose to do so, to Russian ships, making the Russian logistical effort in the Mediterranean and Syria that much more complicated and expensive.
Now here's where my high octane speculation of the day comes in. Mr. Erdogan doubtless would not have done this without running it by whoever his masters in Washington are, and those factions in Washington doubtless may have run it by Tel Aviv(possibly), and Riyadh. The difficulty here is that the Russian planners are methodical, and would in my opinion have gamed out all these options prior to the Russian intervention in Syria, and doubtless have a pre-planned and prepared response should Turkey seal the Bosporus to Russian ships entirely. In watching this drama unfold, I couldn't help but think not only of the nineteenth century difficulties between Russia and Turkey up to and inclusive of the Tsar's armies marching to the gates of Constantinople itself, which issued in the treaty of San Stefano when the rest of Europe, orchestrated chiefly by Britain, formed a coalition to forestall the Russian investment of the city and consolidation of a Russian hold on the Bosporus. Now I'm not assuming for a moment that Russia has such designs on the Bosporus now, but for a moment, entertain the notion that they did. WOuld a similar coalition form? Perhaps, but it's a bit more iffy now than it was in 1878, when the danger of such an occupation loomed as a very real possibility. It's more iffy now because France has already joined with Russia in an effort to defeat ISIS in Syria. And Germany, let us not forget, has pledged its assistance to France in a supporting role. Turkey, for the moment, can count on at least some support from someone in Washington, but just how far such support would go is a moot point. Nor does Russia need access to the Bosporus in the current situation, though it would be nice.
But the second thing I thought of was... China.
Yes, I said China, for a similar jockeying for power and position is occuring not only in the Malay straights between CHina and the West, but also with the recent opening of a CHinese base on the west side of the Red Sea, for entry to that body of water as well. Imagine for a moment that Sultan Tayyip I(Erdogan) decides to close the straits to Russia. China could, conceivably, as an act of support, use that base to close the Red Sea (no need to seize the Suez Canal in such a circumstance), and, more importantly, that base has the capability, presumably, to interdict ...well, to interdict the Arabian peninsula, a fact which probably has them increasingly nervous in such forward-looking states as Yemen, Qatar, Kuwait, and "the big one." Of course, China would avoid that for the moment, unless "terrorism" started to affect China, or, alternatively, if a local nation requested Chinese intervention as Syria requested Russia's. As the geopolitics in the region escalates, all that would be needed for a growing Chinese influence and presence in the region would be a similar such request.
High octane speculation? To be sure. But these days, in such a quickly realigning world, nothing should be ruled out.
See you on the flip side...