Question: It has been announced Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will pay a visit to Russia in early August. It appears this will be Erdogan’s first foreign visit since the aborted coup. What is the significance of this?
Answer: This is huge! Before the coup Erdogan signaled he wanted the “cold war” with Russia to come to an end. Turkey apologized for the shooting down of a Russian military aircraft last November; the Russian pilot lost his life. This was a very important first step. It is possible Russian intelligence tipped-off Erdogan about the planned coup. If this is the case, Erdogan may feel he has a debt to repay.
Q.: What are some of the other reasons behind this possible Russia-Turkey rapprochement?
A.: In one word: Syria. Ankara was gravely mistaken to pursue a policy of forced regime change in Damascus. That was its first blunder. The second was to believe Washington would have Turkey’s back. The Turks feel terribly betrayed by Washington’s callous indifference to Turkey’s security interests. America’s support of Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) infuriates Ankara. The Turks sees this group as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist organization. Washington’s crossed a red line that Ankara can allow to stand – the possible creation of a Kurdish state on its southern border with the help of the American military.
Q.: Shortly before the coup attempt Erdogan sent out feelers that relations with Syria could again be normalized. That should have been a wake up for Washington’s so called “anti-Assad” coalition. Do you think Washington saw this is as a bluff?
A.: This is difficult to determine. However, I am not surprised. Washington’s arrogance has no bounds. It expects its NATO allies to fulfill orders and not ask questions – even if a member nation of the alliance cites serious security concerns like in the case of Turkey. Also, for those of us paying attention, it was more or less clear that Erdogan was looking to mend some fences (Russia, Syria, and Israel – even with Iran). Of course when it comes to Russia, Syria and Iran, Washington should have been on its toes and not a sleep at the wheel. Erdogan probably felt he has an opportunity to step away from his disastrous foreign policy and its unreliable friend in Washington. The failed coup attempt – which Washington probably was aware of and even tacitly supported – now allows Erdogan a free hand domestically in the realm of foreign policy.
Q.: Turkey is a very important geopolitical asset underpinning Washington’s plans to surround Russia militarily and in tandem with its Asia pivot to hem in China’s geo-economic ambitions. If Turkey turns away from the EU and NATO, what are some of the implications?
A.: First this would be a harsh blow to NATO. The alliance’s reason to exist is so-called “Russia aggression.” With Turkey and Russia in a strategic relationship NATO looks weak, ever foolish. Second, Russia and Turkey would win a decisive round against Europe in terms of energy relations. TurkStream natural gas pipeline looks to be reactivated – which means Washington’s coveted natural gas pipelines intentionally going around Russia (and through Syria) would be made null and void. This is no small victory. Third, as part of any deal to mend Russia-Turkey relations Ankara will have to seal its border with Syria – effectively denying western supported terrorist groups a safe haven. If this is to happen, the Syria war could be ended and soon. Fourth, Washington’s plans to militarize the Black Sea against Russia will have to be put on the back burner. Fifth, China would more than welcome having firm strategic relations with Turkey – a perfect fit for Beijing’s New Silk Road.
Q.: You have mentioned some truly tantalizing possibilities – how likely will this actually happen? After all, Washington doesn’t like taking “no” for an answer.
A.: Washington is to blame for all of this. Though it never takes any responsibility for its actions. It arrogantly demonizes Russia and is thoughtlessly dismissive of its own allies, like Turkey. Of course Washington’s favorite tool in its toolbox is to overthrow governments it does not like. This is unlikely to happen anytime soon in Turkey. As a result of the failed coup attempt against Erdogran, Turkey is now essentially coup-proof. This is another amateurish blunder on the part of Washington. I hope Erdogan has a productive trip to Russia. No matter the outcome, it will be “Putin’s fault.”
Peter Lavelle is host of RT’s political debate program CrossTalk. His views may or may not reflect those of his employer.