by Alex Hartl

Turkey’s diplomatic position is not enviable in a high level game. Austria always wants to see you dead, Italy almost always wants to see you dead and Russia probably wants to see you dead. All in all, there is little room to maneuver. Given that Russia is Turkey’s best chance for finding an local ally, the prevalence of the Turkish opening to the Black Sea (BLA) is surprising. This is especially true because Turkey’s decision to move there (as well as the Russian’s) is more often motivated by fear of letting the other guy in rather than a genuine desire to wage aggressive war. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with attacking Russia from the start, but if hostilities are not desired, the move to the Black Sea has the double negative of threatening your best prospective ally and leaving your fleet stuck in Ankara because Russia will most often move there himself. By moving to Constantinople (CON), Turkey can make the most of its benevolence toward Russia by setting itself for an attack westward with (hopefully) Russian help.

Such a move is not without risk, as Russia may not be friendly and common arguments against moving Arm-Con are as follows:

  1. It allows Russia to occupy BLA with fleet Sevastopol (SEV)
  2. As such a move suggests a Juggernaut alliance, it unites the rest of the players against Turkey (and Russia)
  3. If Russia does ally with Turkey, Russia will benefit the most.

Allowing the Russian move SEV-BLA to succeed is risky but hardly signals the fall of the Ottoman Empire. A Russian fleet in BLA can attempt to capture a Turkish home center or participate in an attack against Bulgaria (BUL). However, the greatest likelihood is that the Russian will use that fleet to secure Rumania. Russian occupation of BLA becomes more serious if Moscow (MOS) is moved to SEV, however such a move is unlikely if Turkey does not tell Russia of her intentions to move ANK beforehand because moving MOS - SEV is a complete waste if Turkey moves ANK-BLA thus Russia rarely tries it unless they think it will succeed. So don’t tell Russia what ANK is up to and you will be fine.

The longer term threat of having the Russian in BLA is real however. Russia certainly could use fleet BLA to good effect against Turkey should she choose to attack after 1901. To avoid this from happening, Turkey needs to negotiate. It could go wrong but the advantage of negotiating at the end of 1901 rather than in the beginning is that Turkey has something to negotiate with. By not occupying BLA, Turkey has put the prospect of a Juggernaut alliance on the table in a way that first season promises and proposals cannot match. Remember that conventional Diplomacy wisdom is that the Juggernaut favors the Russian, so there is a good chance that a conventional Russian will take the opportunity to be the senior partner in the most feared alliance in the game.

If the Russian buys into the alliance all is not won. As stated above most players feel that the alliance favors Russia and that it likely will result in the other powers uniting in order to stop the alliance. Indeed it is this impression that makes Russian participation in the alliance more probable. While the criticisms of the alliance be valid, clearly Turkey is better off with Russia as a partner in a flawed alliance than having no ally or to have Russia as an enemy. Furthermore, if played properly by the Turk, the weaknesses of the Russia-Turkey alliance can cancel each other out. Consider that from the TURKISH perspective, the thought of nations allying to stop the dreaded Juggernaut changes very little because the Turk is already a marked man during the diplomacy rounds. Most of the blowback from a potential Juggernaut will fall on Russia, as Austria looks to her defenses and Germany and England will be more hostile to Russian advances in the north. This is entirely in Turkey’s favor because it will even things up.

Leaving the Black Sea open to Russia has its risks, but absent an intent to actually attack Russia, moving to the Black Sea only raises mutual suspicion, alienates Turkey’s best prospect for an ally and occupies units far away from where gains can be made. Long term it is less risky to boldly move west and let the chips fall where they may.

Alex Hartl
([email protected])

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