Turkey’s economic future is solidly dependant on Russia and the eastward looking markets that cooperation with China represents. This attitude was confirmed by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu who criticised the Russian sanctions which are on the books in the United States and European Union.
Mevlut Cavusoglu further stated that Turkey has often been the victim of such sanctions and as a result Ankara has developed a strong apprehension about such measures.
The Turkish Foreign Minister said,
“Turkey itself has greatly suffered from sanctions in the past. Sanctions against our neighbours and partners (Russia) have greatly damaged our economy. This is why, when we hear about sanctions, we do not approve of it. This is why we did not join sanctions against Russia and prefer political cooperation.
Russia and the United States impose sanctions on each other while the European Union is preparing sanctions against the United States as the US sanctions have a negative impact on the EU. We are trying to address all the issues through dialogue in order not to be awash with these development”.
This statement and particularly the use of the word “partner” to describe Russia’s relationship with Turkey is indicative of Turkey’s geo-political/geo-strategic and economic pivot towards Russia.
Russia and Turkey’s current good relations defy history but make perfect sense within the paradigm of economic pragmatism as well as when one understands just how hard the US and its allies have worked to push Turkey away.
As I wrote previously in The Duran,
“Turkey and Russia are historic enemies and indeed some would say still are in respect of alliances in Syria. But from a broader perspective, both Erdogan and the Turkish people, including Erdogan’s opposition are aware that Russia has consistently treated Turkey with respect, even in 2015 when both countries stood on the verge of war over Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian military jet near the Turkish-Syria border.
Russian President Vladimir Putin engaged in an important dialogue with Turkey designed to ease tensions and it has largely succeeded. Russia has been able to get Turkey to be a member of the Russian initiated Astana Peace Talks. Iran and Turkey have also started to increase trade. Turkey and Iran’s technically co-equal position in the Astana process has without doubt played some part in easing historical tensions between Iran and Turkey.
Russia and Turkey continue to expand in areas of trade and technological exchange. 2017 also marks a year of Russian-Turkish cultural exchange wherein both countries will host important arts and cultural events.
Where the west’s push of Turkey has been rather aggressive and frankly crude, Russia’s pull has been quiet but steadfast. It is now impossible to ignore. Russia based its policy on respect for Turkey’s status as a powerful and important nation. The west cannot get over its own ideological obsession, let alone its diplomatic incompetence
Turkey’s active participation in China’s One-Belt, One-Road trade initiative, which the US effectively boycotted in all but name, is a further sign that Turkey is increasingly finding itself on the Russian side of the multi-polar global axis.
It’s almost surreal that the US will bend over backwards to insure that the geo-politically weak and deeply inconsequential small states of eastern Europe remain firmly in the US sphere of influence/control, yet are doing almost nothing to prevent Turkey from slipping east.
There are several possible reasons for this.
1. Turkey is too big to control
Unlike the weak Baltic states of Europe with tiny, decreasing populations, Turkey is a massive regional power with a young and growing population.
The Ottoman Empire is gone, but unlike many former colonial European powers, Turkey remains a vibrant and important player on the world stage. One can hate Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman policies while still admitting that Turkey is a deeply important country whether led by secular Kemalists or led by Erdogan and his allies.
Perhaps America’s own declining power means that it is easier to shove Latvia around than Turkey? America may simply be going for the easy game in this respect.
2. Containment via Kurdistan
Kurds in northern Iraq are set to hold a referendum on creating an independent Iraqi Kurdistan this year. Iraq and Turkey both oppose this move. Turkey opposes it because it is hellbent on opposing the creation of any Kurdish state and Iraq because it does not want to lose the oil reserves in Kuridsh majority regions of the country and frankly also doesn’t need another blow to its pride after decades of utter hell.
America’s project to keep Iraq together after the illegal 2003 invasion of the country led by George W. Bush and Tony Blair, would also officially be a failure if the Kurds decided to fully go their own way.
That being said, many in the US think that Kurdish separatism in Iraq is inevitable and because of generally good relations between the US and both Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, that the US should and perhaps will ultimately support a Kurdistan in Iraq and perhaps later also even in Syria, though this remains more ambiguous at this time.
With a hostile Kurdistan on Turkey’s borders, Turkey would be either contained by the Kurds or in a constant conflict that could seriously inhibit Turkey’s ability to expand its northern and eastern alliances.
In other-words, why should America worry about Turkey if the Kurds will keep them busy for the foreseeable future?
Often times the simplest explanation is the best. America’s foreign policy has become so ideologically driven and so dogmatic that perhaps they simply are ill-equipped to deal with Erdogan and his nation.
Under Obama’s radical schoolboy government, it was easy to be friendly with a neo-liberal EU and easy to a hate a sovereignty minded moderately conservative Russian Federation.
Turkey was and is neither of these things. Under Erdogan Turkey has become a strongman dictatorship in all but name. Democratic institutions have been weakened severely. Yet in spite of this, Turkey is militarily a ‘good guy’ in American eyes. Erdgoan hates secular Arab governments and funds the same kinds of jihadists that the US does.
At the same time Erdogan is deeply unpredictable. One day he’s a self-styled new European the next day he’s a Sultan to rule over conquered Arab subjects. One day he’s friends with Israel, the next day he’s a holy warrior for Palestine.
One day, he’s using his NATO jets to shoot down Russian planes and the next year he’s sitting happily beside President Putin.
The mechanistic, unthinking, under-educated and overly ideological America diplomatic corps may simply not be able to handle such a man and therefore such a country.
The real answer is probably a combination of these three factors, but one is inclined to lean most heavily on the ‘incompetence option’.
America and the west have pushed Turkey away through a combination of stupidity and blind liberal ideology. Russia has embraced Turkey due to its pragmatic policy of respecting all great nations, even those it profoundly disagrees with in key areas.
A man like Erdogan prides himself on marching to the beat of his own drum, even though the rhythm is often erratic, making it difficult to dance to. But just as Russian ballet dancers mastered the odd rhythms of Stravinsky, so too do Russian diplomats know how to follow the beat of Erdogan’s drum, while America settles for the droning dirge of its own increasingly out of touch ideology.
In this sense America did all the pushing. Russia did some of the pulling and now Erdogan has few options but to work with Russia as best he can. Whether he can work with anyone in the long term however, still very much remains to be seen. Furthermore, there is no danger of Russia abandoning its traditional allies in Orthodox southern Europe to placate Turkey. The west doesn’t know this yet, but Turkey does which is why Erdogan would be wise to stay out of the Balkans and wider Hellenic world”.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.