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Apr 25, 2022
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Turkish bet on Ukraine

The beginning of a whole series of controversial decisions, actions and statements by the Turkish leadership was Ankara’s unexpected decision to stop the transit of Russian military and civilian aircraft through Turkish airspace in the direction of Syria. Turkish officials commented on the move with marked restraint: “We gave permissions at intervals of three months. Last [интервал] was until AprilTurkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. – From now on, flights have ceased.

Note: if the Turkish ban on the passage of warships through the Bosporus and Dardanelles concerned Russia and Western countries, then in the case of aviation, restrictions were imposed only on the Russian Federation. It is difficult to call this decision of Turkey a friendly step. Moreover, it took place against the backdrop of a new Turkish offensive operation in Syria. Other demarches followed.

The same Cavusoglu suddenly spoke about the situation with the procurement of S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems in Russia. And although he spoke very carefully on this occasion, some unexpected notes in his speeches sounded quite distinct: “The United States wants to settle with Turkey the situation that has developed after the acquisition by Ankara of Russian anti-aircraft missile systems (SAM) S-400 They also want to find an opportunity to solve the problem with the S-400, we tell them, let’s find a solution already. This is already a purchased product, so let’s see what we can do next. We also said that if the offer [по ЗРК Patriot] satisfies us and guarantees will be given, we can get the Patriot air defense system. We expect the US to come to us with a new proposal“.

Ankara seems to be on the same positions – the decision on the S-400 does not have retroactive effect, but we’ll talk about the rest, they say. In particular, on the acquisition of American air defense systems Patriot. However, Cavusoglu did not specify how this passage should be understood: either in the sense of buying an American complex in addition to the S-400, or in the order of replacing one with another. At the same time, the Turkish minister’s statement came at a time when the US is making a titanic effort to convince other NATO countries that have Russian anti-aircraft missile systems in service to transfer them to the Kyiv regime.

The Americans are also putting pressure on Turkey in this direction, but so far without much success. And suddenly – the increased courtesy of Erdogan’s confidant to the American partners on such a sensitive topic as the S-400, and even in conjunction with the air defense system Patriot!

One can only guess what the Turks were up to. It is unlikely that they are ready to exchange Russian air defense systems for American ones – this would greatly reduce the effectiveness of Turkish air defense. However, elements of political pressure on Moscow are visible here.

The Turkish leadership as a whole is not very happy with the way things are going in the post-Soviet space. Ankara, with all its views on cooperation with Russia, is not enthusiastic about the strengthening of the geopolitical influence of the Russian Federation in Eurasia. And, in particular, from the restoration of Russia as a full-fledged transcontinental superpower. In Turkey, they proceed from the fact that the stakes made by Moscow in Ukraine have exactly this content.

Turkey is ready to build mutually beneficial relations with the Russian Federation in the format of two equally large regional powers, but Erdogan is hardly ready to agree to more for Russia. Especially given his own neo-Ottomanist plans.

Therefore, Turkey is today one of the most active players on the Ukrainian platform, which does not hesitate to emphasize its pro-Ukrainian line of conduct. Up to the fact that it continues to supply the Kyiv regime with its Bayraktar TV2 drones, which have become almost a symbol of the “unfading Ukrainian-Turkish military friendship.”

Moscow sees all this. And he makes his moves in this specific chess game, where both sides do not yet intend to sacrifice the heavy pieces of their cooperation. For example, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently made it clear that he was more satisfied with the Belarusian platform for negotiations with Ukraine than the Istanbul one. The Turks didn’t like it. And a couple of days later demarches began, such as a ban on air transit and hints at the ambiguity of the situation with the S-400. And Erdogan himself immediately got on the phone with the Kyiv vice chairman Zelensky and had, as always, a sincere conversation with him:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday, said that Turkey is set “fundamentally positive” to act as one of the countries guarantors of Ukraine’s security. This was reported to journalists in the office of the Turkish President. During the telephone conversations, the latest developments in the war between Russia and Ukraine, as well as the negotiation process, were discussed. President Erdogan expressed his readiness to provide all possible assistance in the negotiation process and provide the necessary support, including a mediating role. He expressed a fundamentally positive attitude on the topic of guarantors [безопасности Украины]“.

There are more and more signs in Turkish politics of a growing concern about the prospect of increasing Russian influence in the post-Soviet space. Ankara tends to view this trend as undesirable and is clearly determined to prevent it. So far, however, without sacrificing economic relations with their northern neighbor, which are paramount for them. Therefore, Ankara is now concentrating its efforts on keeping Ukraine on the edge of the abyss, slowing down the process of Russia’s geopolitical strengthening. In this context, the interests of the Turkish authorities fully coincide with the position of the US ruling circles and the collective West.

Hence the heightened courtesy that suddenly arose in the intonations of Turkish officials on previously absolutely conflicting issues. And even against the background of the fact that Joe Biden has just again raised the most toxic topic for US-Turkish relations: “US President Joe Biden on Sunday [24 апреля] honored the memory of the Armenians killed in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. “Today, 107 years later, the American people continue to honor [память] all the Armenians who died as a result of the genocide… As we remember the Armenian genocide, we reaffirm our pledge to remain vigilant against the destructive impact of hatred in all its manifestations.”.

Do not forget that Turkey was the most faithful ally of the United States and a member of NATO at a time when Russia / the USSR was the dominant force in Eurasia. The Turks were then almost the first to agree to deploy American missiles with nuclear warheads on their territory, which provoked the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. And it should be understood that the process of the revival of Russia as a world power is unlikely to make our relations with our Turkish neighbor warmer.

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