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Jun 20, 2021
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Erdogan sharpens scimitar, drawing NATO into conflict with Russia, but fears Macron

Photo: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (foreground, left to right) during a meeting.

Photo: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (foreground, left to right) during a meeting. (Photo: Press Service of the President of Azerbaijan / TASS)

Turkey can deploy a military base in Azerbaijan, the president of this country said Recep Tayyip Erdogan

At the same time, he did not indicate the timing of the appearance of such objects, but stressed that first the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev should consult with the President of Russia Vladimir Putin on this topic.

Let us remind you that recently Baku and Ankara signed the so-called. “Shusha Declaration”, which obliges the parties to come to each other’s aid in case of war. Many experts started talking about the emergence of a new military bloc near the borders of Russia.

In this case, the appearance of a Turkish base in Azerbaijan is logical. But this is essentially a NATO base.

– Erdogan intends to further expand his influence in the Caucasus, and will use every convenient moment for this, – I am sure Head of the Expert Council of the Fund for Strategic Development Igor Shatrov

– And not only through Turkish-Azerbaijani relations. For example, in Georgia, Adjara has long turned into a Turkish outpost. And in Ankara, Azerbaijan is generally seen as a “little Turkey”. At the same time, I know for certain that among a part of the Azerbaijani elite these fantasies are perceived with satisfaction.

For both Turkey and Azerbaijan, a military base is both a demonstrative step and a practical necessity. With the provision of land for the construction of a military facility to Turkey, Azerbaijan expects to receive guarantees of protection from Armenian aggression and to show “a fig in the pocket” to the CSTO countries.

Turkey, like Azerbaijan, demonstrates its expanded room for maneuver to the region and the world. Therefore, at the same time it is a signal from NATO and specifically to the United States, testifying to Turkey’s capabilities that go beyond NATO. This is also a signal to Russia in confirmation that Turkey is capable of pursuing a policy that does not depend on either the United States or Russia.

At the same time, a similar product is excellently sold on the domestic market. A small victorious war is always a good addition to any election campaign. And the notorious military base on a foreign territory, if it is opened, will appear, as you know, only as a result of such a war.

“SP”: Turkey is a NATO member. If she gets involved in a war for Azerbaijan, will NATO also fight?

– We see that NATO is always ready for only one thing – to sacrifice principles if it is beneficial to Brussels and Washington. For example, NATO countries did not take part in the Five Day War on the side of Georgia, no matter how she asked. But Georgia is not a NATO member either, you say. This is an important argument, and at the same time it does not say anything. Because if the conjuncture was in their favor, they would get into the war. Let’s remember the former Yugoslavia.

In any case, the approach of NATO’s military infrastructure to the Russian borders at a time when Russia is openly called an enemy in Brussels and Washington cannot but cause concern.

“SP”: Did we not allow Erdogan to get too far into the affairs of Transcaucasia? There is a lot of talk now about Turkey’s growing military cooperation with the countries of Central Asia. Is the emergence of a new military bloc near our borders possible and how will this be combined with our relations with the former republics?

– You forgot: Georgia is also counting on NATO membership. If these plans are to come true, the South Caucasus could eventually become as hostile to Russia as the Baltic region. And the factor of Turkey in this matter will be decisive. In this case, Ankara acts as a Trojan horse of the North Atlantic Alliance, while satisfying its geopolitical ambitions along the way.

First, hiding behind the screen of Russia, it solves its issues in Syria. Now he uses exactly the same tactics in the Caucasus. But it is hardly possible now to create a new bloc near the Russian borders, consisting of the Caucasian and Central Asian republics of the former USSR. Nevertheless, as a task in the long term, it can be feasible. For this, common values ​​such as Islam or Turkic unity can be used.

– The “Shusha Declaration” assumes that the parties will provide assistance to each other “in the event that one of them is threatened by its independence, territorial integrity, inviolability of borders or security,” reminds Leading Analyst of the Agency for Political and Economic Communications Mikhail Neyzhmakov

– The parties may well interpret this thesis broadly, that assistance can be provided not only in the event of aggression, that is, help each other to fight potential threats, and this is already an argument for the deployment of bases.

Erdogan probably took this approach when he said that this option does not go beyond the scope of the declaration. But Baku and Ankara in relations with each other are connected not only by the “Shusha Declaration”, representatives of the two states may well declare that they are free to take steps that are not directly spelled out in this document.

Erdogan’s remark that “now the main thing is to ensure the security of the borders” can be understood in two ways – both as an additional argument for the official creation of the base, and as a reservation that makes it possible to take a step back (now there are other measures to ensure the security of the borders, and the base is only in within one of the possible scenarios).

From the point of view of Ankara’s interests, there is no acute political need for the early creation of such a base. It is unlikely that it will bring serious internal political points to Erdogan now. From the point of view of domestic political interests, it would be even more profitable for him to raise the topic of creating such a base closer to the national elections in 2023, if by that time the topic of strengthening Turkish influence in the international arena (and not, for example, purely economic issues) will be advantageous.

From the point of view of foreign policy motives, the base is usually a marker of the interest of the state that created it in the corresponding region and a factor of deterring other players who may show interest in this territory.

For example, the deployment of military operations in the region of presence of such a base may already carry additional political risks for the initiator of such military operations. But all interested players already consider any conflict in which Azerbaijan may be involved in the context of possible participation of Turkey in it.

Perhaps Ankara will want to use the right moment to create a base in this way – in the event that circumstances for this will be less favorable in the future. But again, world experience shows that the base itself, given an unfavorable foreign policy environment, may not be such an effective instrument of influence. Again, the base is the costs (especially sensitive during the economic crisis), and Turkey is now simultaneously active in different regions of the world. Therefore, Erdogan probably also takes into account the arguments in favor of the option that with such a base it is worth waiting for now.

“SP”: Erdogan stressed that first Aliyev should hold consultations with Putin on this topic. You have to understand that Putin will be against it. Will this stop Erdogan?

– It is not excluded that this topic has now been raised by Ankara, in many respects, precisely in the context of foreign policy bargaining with Russia. No wonder Erdogan mentioned his own upcoming meeting with Putin. Perhaps the Turkish side will not raise the issue of opening the base in exchange for some reciprocal steps by Moscow.

“SP”: What will be Moscow’s reaction? We have already let Erdogan into the Transcaucasia too deeply. Maybe they will close their eyes in order not to quarrel with Ankara?

– Most likely, it will be part of non-public negotiations. It is clear that for Russia the appearance of such a base would hardly be welcome news. On the other hand, let’s not forget that the Turkish military can already quite openly deploy its forces in Azerbaijan, for example, during the period of joint exercises, and such exercises, if desired, can be carried out with high frequency.

“SP”: What danger does this base pose to Armenia?

– From a purely political point of view, this is another potential reason for Turkey’s intervention in regional conflicts, or at least for Ankara’s pressure on Yerevan and Moscow in the event of a rise in tensions in the South Caucasus.

In the event of hostilities in the region, in which Ankara will not be directly involved (and even despite the provisions of the “Shusha Declaration” on “necessary assistance to each other”, this is possible). It is not excluded that there are incidents where Turkish servicemen may suffer, which will become an additional source of political risks, for example, for Yerevan, if it is involved in such a conflict. For an example of the impact of such incidents on the course of armed conflicts, let us recall at least the incident on November 9, 2020 with the downed Russian helicopter.

On the other hand, the presence of its own base in the region is also political risks for the leadership of the state, which has deployed its military on such a base. For example, this is an additional argument for the partners of such a state and its own opposition politicians, why, given the presence of a base, it does not interfere in the conflict situation that has developed in the region – even in a situation where it would not be profitable for this state to take such intervention.

“SP”: Theoretically speaking, Turkey, as a NATO member, is obliged to defend the countries of the alliance, and Turkey, according to the “Shusha Declaration”, is obliged to defend Azerbaijan. This could lead to a clash between NATO and the CSTO. Is this possible? Or will NATO not get involved in all this?

– It is interesting that some of the Azerbaijani experts argued the possibility of the emergence of such a base by the need to contain one of the NATO countries showing interest in the region – France. Although it is clear that scenarios related to the military intervention of France in military conflicts on the side of Armenia, or even the presence of French peacekeepers in the region, look unlikely.

At the same time, a hypothetical conflict, in which, for example, Turkey and Armenia could be involved, if such a thing happened in the near future, would hardly mean a direct confrontation between NATO and the CSTO. As you know, there are members within the CSTO who would like to avoid being drawn into a conflict with Turkey as much as possible (for example, Kazakhstan or Belarus, taking into account contacts with Baku), on the other hand, some NATO members are unlikely to want to participate in such a conflict on the sides of Ankara ( the same France).

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