The US Navy warship USS Nitze at the edge of the Bosphorus Strait on its way to a port call in Turkey in February 2023.

A Sea of Opportunities: Can the West Benefit from Turkey’s Autonomous Foreign Policy in the Black Sea?


Atlantic Council

Project Members:

Dr. Yevgeniya Gaber, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council in Turkey
Rich Outzen, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council in Turkey
Eser Ozdil, Nonresident Fellow, Atlantic Council in Turkey
Defne Arslan, Senior Director, Atlantic Council in Turkey
Grady Wilson, Associate Director, Atlantic Council in Turkey
Alp Ozen, Program Assistant, Atlantic Council in Turkey
Serhat Güvenç, Professor, Kadir Has University
Dr. Maryna Vorotnyuk, Associate Fellow, RUSI

Project Duration: Sep 23 - Oct 24


Grady Wilson,
Yevgeniya Gaber,


The project explores opportunities for enhancing cooperation between Turkey and European countries in the new security environment that has emerged after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Taking the ongoing situation in the Black Sea region as a case study, this research aims to answer questions related to the drivers of Turkey’s foreign policy, with particular attention to providing policy recommendations and identifying potential areas in which European partners can increase their engagement with Turkey. Specifically, it focuses on subjects of overlapping interests, where Turkey’s regional activism could also help Europe to fulfil its own strategic goals and anchor Turkey to the West.

Turkey is crucial in European stability and security as the second largest military power in NATO and the country maintaining control of the only way in and out of the Black Sea. What is more, against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Turkish government has played an important role in authorizing drone supplies to Ukraine and closing the Straits to Russian warships in the first days of the war, and later in conducting active diplomacy, including mediation efforts in the Black Sea Grain Initiative and prisoner swaps.

Despite currently burgeoning economic ties with Russia, Turkey’s perception of the Kremlin’s expansionism as a threat to its own national security is urging Ankara to develop closer cooperation with Ukraine, European partners, and NATO allies, as well as to reengage with Western institutions. Turkey is also seen as an increasingly important actor in the energy market, both as a transit country and as a potential new supplier of hydrocarbons to Europe.

With all that in mind, this research provides a lens into Turkey’s aspirations for an autonomous foreign policy and identifies possible avenues of collaboration for rapprochement between Ankara and its Western allies, focusing on opportunities to exploit the former's strategic autonomy in the Black Sea region to bring about a constructive dialogue between Turkey and Europe. In doing so, it covers different aspects of regional cooperation such as defence and military cooperation, maritime security and freedom of navigation, political and diplomatic dialogue, and energy security in the Black Sea.


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