erdogan: Turkey and Russia: Are they rivals or cooperating competitors?
In recent years, Turkey and Russia have had a complex and strange relationship, as in some issues they act as cooperative competitors, while in others they are clearly implacable rivals.
After his talks with Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Erdogan told reporters he had the opportunity to discuss with the Russian president “measures that could be taken regarding aircraft engines, war planes and the construction of ships and submarines “.
He also said he had proposed that Ankara and Moscow could work together to build two more nuclear power plants in Turkey, on which the Russian side agreed to cooperate.
Erdogan and Putin also discussed the situation created in the rebel stronghold of the Idlib region in northwestern Syria, an area that was under the control of Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies. In recent weeks, Moscow has stepped up its airstrikes there.
Ankara fears that if Russia continues its airstrikes, a huge new wave of Syrian refugees fleeing to Turkey will be created. For Erdogan, the endless war in Syria has become a handicap, as there is widespread resentment in Turkey towards the 3.6 million Syrian refugees living there.
However, it appears that the two presidents did not come to an agreement on this matter, as evidenced by the fact that they did not address reporters at a joint press conference after their meeting, and the following days. avoided questions about the situation in Idleb.
Although Ankara and Moscow are on opposing sides in Syria, which is a flagrant affront to the NATO alliance, Erdogan said Turkey’s military cooperation with Russia was “of the utmost importance” . This clearly shows that Erdogan ignores NATO policies towards Russia and defiantly follows his own views on what serves Turkey’s interests.
The fact that Turkey, a member of NATO, purchases weapons systems and engages in military cooperation with Russia undoubtedly undermines the credibility of the Alliance.
Despite having NATO’s second largest military force, Turkey is now very close to the point where it becomes a possible responsibility, rather than an asset for NATO.
In response to the purchase of the S-400 air defense system, the US administration excluded Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program and imposed further sanctions on Ankara.
Istanbul Bilgi University Professor Ilter Turan said: âThis purchase has raised doubts about Turkey’s commitment to NATO and sowed the seeds of discord within the alliance.
In an interview broadcast on CBS News on September 26, President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey still intends to purchase a second batch of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia and added, âTo the future, no one will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defense systems we acquire, from what country and at what level.
While this statement surely pleased the Russian side, all is not well in Turkish-Russian relations. Moscow is generally unhappy with Turkey’s positions on regional conflicts ranging from Syria and Libya to Ukraine and the Caucasus.
Days before his meeting with Putin in Sochi, Erdogan, in his address to the 76th United Nations General Assembly, said Turkey believes it is important to maintain the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea. . This, of course, angered the Russians.
Reacting to a similar statement by Turkish officials on Crimea last May, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned his Turkish colleagues “to carefully analyze the situation and stop fueling militarist sentiments in Kiev.” . Encouraging aggressive Ukrainian initiatives in Crimea amounts to an encroachment on the territorial integrity of Russia. ”
Ignoring Moscow’s warnings and wishes, in October 2020 Turkey and Ukraine signed an agreement under which Ankara would supply drones to Kiev, while Ukraine would supply Ankara with gas turbines and engines for them. Turkish T129 Atak helicopters.
Moscow is quite sensitive to this issue, because it has an open dispute with Ukraine and because the same Turkish drones played a big role in Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia in the clash against Nagorno-Karabakh . Moscow sees the region as its own backyard and has a defense deal with Armenia, which was defeated in the war. The Azerbaijani victory was a serious loss of international prestige for Russia, which saw that its dominance over the South Caucasus is not compromised by NATO but by Turkish interference and Erdogan’s arrogance.
In the protracted war in Libya, Russia and Turkey find themselves supporting opposing sides in the civil conflict. Russia sent mercenaries from the dark Wagner group to support âField Marshallâ Khalifa Haftar.
Turkey helped the besieged Government of National Accord (GNA) stop the offensive by Haftar’s forces on the outskirts of Tripoli. Erdogan’s main objective was to force the Libyan government to sign a maritime boundary delimitation agreement, the validity of which is questionable by international standards.
Thus, we see that despite the purchase by Turkey of the Russian S-400 missile defense system and the possible cooperation of the defense industries of the two countries, the relations between the governments of the autocratic presidents of Russia and Turkey remain complex. and troubles. Turkey’s faltering policies and orientation add to the confusion.
As Galip Dalay, a specialist in Turkish politics, points out, âThe loss of strategic orientation of Turkish foreign policy, coupled with the problems of Turkey’s traditional alliance structure, prevents Turkey from sufficiently appreciating the geopolitical challenge that it faces. Russia poses to Turkey as a result of it is present on almost all of its borders.
Yet once a certain level of calm and normalcy reigns in Ankara, it is inevitable that Turkey will be disturbed by Russia’s strong military presence in its neighborhood. Turkey is likely to see this presence as both a geopolitical challenge and a threat.