Central View: Winter Olympics, let’s talk Turkey
November 27, 2013
One of the good things about holding the 2014 Winter Olympic in Sochi, Russia, is that those of us who slept through Geography 101 will be reminded that European Turkey is separated from Eurasian Turkey by the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles, which provide the water link between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
Indeed, a fascinating way to get to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi would be to take a cruise ship from the Mediterranean Sea, (stop to shop in Istanbul), and sail across the above-listed water links into the Black Sea and on to the palm-tree-lined streets of sub-tropical Sochi. Then by steep road or tram up to the, hopefully, snow-laden Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, which is at an elevation of 7,612 feet above sea level.
Compared to North American ski resorts, the ski areas north of Sochi are not very high. For example, the top of Colorado's Winter Park Ski Resort is 12,060 feet, while Sochi has a respectable vertical drop of 4,528 ft., that assumes enough snow at a relatively low latitude that is on line with Nice, France, and Boston, USA. But if enough cold wind sweeps out of Asia along the old Silk Road from China, sufficient snow may not be an issue.
There are, however, several underlying geo-political issues. Olympic tourists will see that Russia's only year-round, warm-water ports are on the north coast of the Black Sea. If the increasingly Islamist Republic of Turkey cuts off Russia's sea access to the Mediterranean Sea, Russia's President Vladimir Putin will want to do more than just arm wrestle with the Islamist Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
And, speaking of turkey, late-night comedian Jay Leno suggests that the troubled ObamaCare website, healthcare.gov, be turned over to the folks at butterball.com, which runs flawlessly 24/7. The people are friendly, and they are used to dealing with big turkeys.
The Republic of Turkey has a history of bad choices as well. In World War I, Turkey allied with Germany. In World War II, Turkey signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler and supplied the Nazis with chromate, vital to the production of stainless steel. When Allied victory was certain, Turkey cut off the chromate.
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But, during the Cold War, Turkey joined NATO and, because of its strategic location between the Black and Mediterranean Seas, Turkey remains a valued member. In fact, Turkey wants to join the European Union; however, Turkey's current drift toward radical Islam makes E.U. membership less and less likely and is making Turkey's fellow NATO members more and more wary.
Red China, which may think that war with Russia over Siberia is inevitable, is making nice-nice with Turkey by pouring some of the billions of dollars that China makes off commerce with the United States into Turkish investments. Should war break out between Red China and Russia over Siberia, the Red Chinese would want the Turks to trap Russia's Black Sea fleet inside the Black Sea. Should that happen in the deep of the Russian winter, Russia, except for submarines, would be almost devoid of naval power.
As you book your trip to Sochi, keep these happy geo-political thoughts in mind. Or, stay home and watch it on TV.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.