A critical time requires reconsideration of relations between Russia, Turkey

Dr. Stanislav Ivanov
Latest posts by Dr. Stanislav Ivanov (see all)

For a long time, the Kremlin tried to ignore the unfriendly statements of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters regarding Russia in many Turkish diaspora forums of the Crimean Tatars and Circassians and the calls on Turkish leaders to restore “historical justice”, which means reviving the Tatar state in Crimea and Greater Circassia in the North Caucasus. Same trend observed in Ankara’s situation when it had sided with Ukraine over the ownership of Crimea and the conflict with the new Russia.

An official Russian trend to reassess the relationship between Moscow and Ankara on the grounds of repeated disappointments coming from the Turkish partner

It seems that in Moscow there is a reassessment of the role and value of Erdogan in regional politics. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov previously said that Russia considered Turkey only a partner and not a strategic ally.

Recep Erdogan has been successful in jockeying between the West and Russia for a long time and he speculated that their relations will increasingly deteriorate. Moscow has forgiven Erdogan a lot in the hope of keeping Turkey away from the United States and NATO and using them for its own interests.

Even the downed Russian military plane, the assassination of the Russian pilot and then the Russian ambassador in Ankara could not seriously destabilize the general course of cooperation between the Russian Federation and Turkey. Actually fields of cooperation (Gas pipelines, construction of a nuclear power plant, supplies for S-400 air defense missile systems, tourism, etc.) was promising a lot for Russian leadership and business.

Unfortunately, most of Russia’s hopes related to Erdogan have not been fulfilled, rather, global projects were turned to be not profitable to us in the context of the Coronavirus pandemic, the global financial and economic crisis, the collapse of the Turkish lira, etc.

Turkey has sharply reduced the volume of its gas purchases from Russia, and has not followed the expected deals to sell it to the countries of the European Union. Nuclear energy and air defense systems are mainly invested by the Russian Federation or provided on credit and the returns from them will not come to the state budget soon.

By verbally joining the Russian Federation and Iran in the Astana formula to solve the Syrian conflict, Ankara sought, according to what was turned out later, to achieve only its selfish goals. The common fight against terrorism promised by Erdogan has been reduced to several punitive military operations for the Turkish armed forces in the Northern provinces of Syria, during which the Turks avoided clashes with the jihadists of the Islamic State (an organization whose activities are banned in the Russian Federation) and preferred to negotiate with them over the division of spheres of influence. As for the Syrian radical Islamic groups consisting of Sunni Arabs and Turkmen in the northwest of the country, they remained reliable allies for Erdogan in the added conflict against Assad regime.

Erdogan has used the international war on terror to exterminate Kurdish militias and civilians in northern Syria

The real targets of the Turkish military invasion of Syria were the Kurdish militias that bore the brunt of the fight against ISIS in the ground battles. Thus, rocket shells and bombs were fallen on Kurdish areas that were also attacked by artillery and mortar. Civilians were subjected to genocide and tens of thousands of Kurdish families were forced to seek refuge in Iraq and other countries.

 Ankara has turned the Syrian north into enclaves of support for Erdogan, which threatens to change the Assad regime in Damascus.

From the representatives of the armed opposition and the militants of radical Islamic groups in the Syrian territories occupied by the Turkish forces, new authorities, police and special services have stemmed. A new Syrian army has been formed as Erdogan had repeatedly stated that he didn’t recognize the legitimacy of Bashar al-Assad’s government, accusing the latter of killing a million Syrians and of other war crimes. All armed opposition units and Islamist groups that survived the civil war with the help of Turkish forces were concentrated in the in the areas bordering Turkey in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo and Ankara supplies them with modern weapons and ammunition (armored vehicles, drones, MANPADS, etc.) and is constantly increasing troop concentrations in these and other areas. Instead of the promised peace and stability in Syria, Erdogan has only strengthened the actual partition of northern Syria into enclaves, creating a broad pro-Turkey bridge in the northern regions, from which he threatens to bring about a change in the Assad regime in Damascus.

As part of his expansionist policy to revive the Ottoman Empire, Erdogan actively intervened in the armed conflict in Libya and sided with Fayez al-Sarraj government. The Huge technical military assistance with the participation of Turkish military advisors, specialists and jihadist units deployed from Syria, contributed to the military defeat of the opposition group of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and here Russia and Turkey found themselves on opposite sides.

Actually, Erdogan does not refuse the role of the leader of NATO’s southern wing and of the custodian of nuclear ammunition and US military bases, as he enthusiastically drags Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine to NATO (joint military exercises and maneuvers, training of military personnel, supplying weapons and military equipment according to NATO standards, etc.).

The last straw that undermined Russia’s confidence in Erdogan was his active intervention in the Karabakh conflict on the part of Azerbaijan, despite the continuing tension on the borders of Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan and the periodic outbreak of violence there, mainly due to the aggressive actions of the Azerbaijani side.  The joint efforts of the concerned countries managed for a long period to avoid incitement to a new large-scale war and to remain committed to the so-called Tripartite Protocol of Bishkek and the subsequent ceasefire agreement as of May 12, 1994.

The presidents who participated in the Minsk Group affiliated to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (Russia, the United States, and France) and the periodic summit meetings between Azerbaijan and Armenia, mediated by the Presidents of Russia, played a positive role in containing new stages of the conflict.

However, recently, the Turkish leadership has begun to take an increasingly hard-line and aggressive stance towards the conflict around Nagorno Karabakh. In addition, Ankara enhanced the military and technical assistance to Baku and has begun to openly call for a military solution to this conflict and for the liberation of the “occupied territories” by military means.

One of the arguments that called for a new “lightning war” of the Azerbaijani armed forces against Stepanakert was that Erdogan’s had convicted the Azerbaijani leadership of his great military, financial and economic superiority over Yerevan. Under the pretext of joint exercises, the matters ended up with squadron of Turkish F-16 fighter bombers and about 20 attack drones from Bayraktar model. In Azerbaijan, many sources claim that during the active phase of hostilities, Turkish military advisers and specialists continued to work in the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.

Nevertheless, what annoyed the Russian side most was the confirmed information repeatedly about the transfer of hundreds of mercenaries from Libya and Syria to Azerbaijan to be among the militants of radical Islamic groups such as the former “Al-Nusra Front”, the current Front for the Liberation of Al-Sham, and the like.

There was a real threat from the spread of all these in the border regions of Russia (North Caucasus, Caspian Sea coast).

Attempts by Russia and other interested countries to reach a ceasefire and to stop hostilities in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict area have not been successful so far, despite the officially declared willingness of the warring parties for a humanitarian truce. Indeed, calls from the Turkish leadership to Baku to wage war to the end victorious still playa provocative role in many respects. It is clear that the time has come for Russia to reconsider its relations with Turkey that is increasingly becoming a one-way party.

With his rapprochement with Russia, Erdogan achieves the maximum benefit for himself and doesn’t deprive himself of the pleasure of provoking regional conflicts. At the meantime, he ignores the interests of our country in many important areas in regional politics, and this time, Erdogan directly touched the issues of regional security and stability in the post-Soviet region. Given that Russia and other member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization have reciprocal obligations corresponding to Armenia regarding collective defense, the war in Karabakh may lead to further escalation.

Quoted from “Realist

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