.
R

ussia and Turkey have been major rivals throughout most of history but now they behave as situational partners, co-arbitrating several conflicts around the globe. Their geopolitical deals can have a serious impact on countries such as Syria, Libya, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, although Moscow and Ankara continue to remain at odds over some crucial issues.

For the Kremlin, Crimea is an integral part of Russia. Turkey, on the other hand, strongly opposed Moscow’s incorporation of the peninsula into the Russian Federation in 2014. Moreover, Ankara openly supports Ukraine’s Crimean Platform—a diplomatic initiative announced by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose goal is to coordinate international efforts to restore Kyiv’s sovereignty over the region. In August, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu participated in the Inaugural Summit of the Crimea Platform, and the country’s President Recep Tayip Erdogan told the world leaders at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly that Turkey supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, including the territory of Crimea, the annexation of which Ankara does not recognize. Previously, the Turkish Foreign Ministry called Russian parliamentary elections held in Crimea “illegal and invalid,” which drew criticism in Moscow. Still, Russia’s reaction on such statements was rather soft. The Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Erdogan’s remark had left “an unpleasant trace,” but Moscow decided not to excessively inflame the situation.

"After all, Turkey is our partner with which we have quite developed relations, and with which we also have persisting differences against the background of these developed relations," Peskov pointed out.

Indeed, the Russo-Turkish situational partnership prevails over such disagreements. In southern Turkey, Russian nuclear conglomerate Rosatom is building a nuclear power plant worth USD $20 billion. According to reports, the Akkuyu plant’s first reactor could become operational next year. The TurkStream pipeline, providing natural gas from Russia directly to Turkey, and further to Europe, has already been completed. The pipeline, with an annual capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters, has an enormous importance for Ankara, given that it has turned Turkey into a regional gas hub.

“And now, when we see quite difficult, turbulent processes on the European gas market, Turkey is feeling absolutely confident and stable,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said during the recent meeting with his Turkish counterpart in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Besides energy, over the past few years the two nations have also increased defense cooperation. In 2019, Russia delivered the S-400 missile system to Turkey, which led to the U.S. sanctions against its NATO ally. In spite of that, Ankara is determined to buy a second batch of the sophisticated Russian weapons.

“In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defense systems we acquire, from which country at what level,” Erdogan recently said.

Washington, on the other hand, already warned Ankara that sanctions are mandated for any entity that does significant business with the Russian military or intelligence sectors.

“Any new purchases by Turkey must mean new sanctions,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote on Twitter.

Such threats do not seem to worry Ankara too much. Russia and Turkey reportedly agreed to deepen their defense partnership, particularly in the field of the construction of the aircraft engines, fighter jets, and submarines. On the other hand, Turkey is actively increasing military ties with Ukraine, which is something that Moscow verbally condemns, but is not taking any practical steps to prevent. Days after the summit between Putin and Erdogan, Kyiv and Ankara signed a memorandum to establish joint training and maintenance centers for Turkish armed drones. Previously, Ukraine purchased 12 Bayraktar drones from Turkey, and now plans to buy 24 additional unmanned combat aerial vehicles from Turkish defense company Baykar.

Bayraktar drones played a crucial role during the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between Russia’s ally Armenia and Turkey-backed Azerbaijan in the Fall of 2020. The 44-day war resulted in the Armenian defeat, and Russia strengthened its position as a regional arbiter after Moscow deployed some 2000 peacekeeping troops to the turbulent region. However, although the Caucasus has traditionally been in Russia’s geopolitical orbit, the Kremlin will now have to share its influence in the energy-rich region with its “partner” Turkey. Ankara is now an ally of Azerbaijan, and reports suggest that Turkish leadership is interested in opening a military base in the Caucasus nation that borders Russia.

The Kremlin, for its part, can respond by building additional military facilities in Syria, and continue conducting air strikes on Turkey-backed forces in the north of the country. The problem, however, lies in the fact that Russia’s presence in the Middle Eastern nation is heavily dependent on Ankara. In order to reach the port of Tartus, Russian navy ships have to pass through the straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles that have been effectively controlled by Turkey. Thus, the two nations will likely have to keep negotiating and making deals regarding the future of Syria.

Libya is another war zone where Moscow and Ankara support opposing sides. While Turkey backs the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, Russia acts as an ally of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army. Ankara has already secured a long-term military-political presence in the North African country, whose oil reserves are believed to be the largest on the continent and the ninth-largest in the world. But to secure the oil, and potentially natural-gas supplies, Turkey must establish control over Libya’s energy-rich Sirte province, which will not be very easy given that Sirte seems to be Russia’s red line.

The recent summit between Putin and Erdogan is just paving the way for future meetings between Russian and Turkish officials, given that conflicts and disputes the two counties are involved in, are far from being resolved.

About
Nikola Mikovic
:
Nikola Mikovic is a freelance journalist, researcher and analyst based in Serbia covering foreign policy in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

a global affairs media network

www.diplomaticourier.com

Russia and Turkey’s Love-Hate Diplomacy

Illustration via Adobe Stock.

October 3, 2021

The recent summit between Putin and Erdogan is just paving the way for future meetings between Russian and Turkish officials, given that conflicts and disputes the two counties are involved in, are far from being resolved.

R

ussia and Turkey have been major rivals throughout most of history but now they behave as situational partners, co-arbitrating several conflicts around the globe. Their geopolitical deals can have a serious impact on countries such as Syria, Libya, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, although Moscow and Ankara continue to remain at odds over some crucial issues.

For the Kremlin, Crimea is an integral part of Russia. Turkey, on the other hand, strongly opposed Moscow’s incorporation of the peninsula into the Russian Federation in 2014. Moreover, Ankara openly supports Ukraine’s Crimean Platform—a diplomatic initiative announced by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose goal is to coordinate international efforts to restore Kyiv’s sovereignty over the region. In August, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu participated in the Inaugural Summit of the Crimea Platform, and the country’s President Recep Tayip Erdogan told the world leaders at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly that Turkey supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, including the territory of Crimea, the annexation of which Ankara does not recognize. Previously, the Turkish Foreign Ministry called Russian parliamentary elections held in Crimea “illegal and invalid,” which drew criticism in Moscow. Still, Russia’s reaction on such statements was rather soft. The Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Erdogan’s remark had left “an unpleasant trace,” but Moscow decided not to excessively inflame the situation.

"After all, Turkey is our partner with which we have quite developed relations, and with which we also have persisting differences against the background of these developed relations," Peskov pointed out.

Indeed, the Russo-Turkish situational partnership prevails over such disagreements. In southern Turkey, Russian nuclear conglomerate Rosatom is building a nuclear power plant worth USD $20 billion. According to reports, the Akkuyu plant’s first reactor could become operational next year. The TurkStream pipeline, providing natural gas from Russia directly to Turkey, and further to Europe, has already been completed. The pipeline, with an annual capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters, has an enormous importance for Ankara, given that it has turned Turkey into a regional gas hub.

“And now, when we see quite difficult, turbulent processes on the European gas market, Turkey is feeling absolutely confident and stable,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said during the recent meeting with his Turkish counterpart in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Besides energy, over the past few years the two nations have also increased defense cooperation. In 2019, Russia delivered the S-400 missile system to Turkey, which led to the U.S. sanctions against its NATO ally. In spite of that, Ankara is determined to buy a second batch of the sophisticated Russian weapons.

“In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defense systems we acquire, from which country at what level,” Erdogan recently said.

Washington, on the other hand, already warned Ankara that sanctions are mandated for any entity that does significant business with the Russian military or intelligence sectors.

“Any new purchases by Turkey must mean new sanctions,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote on Twitter.

Such threats do not seem to worry Ankara too much. Russia and Turkey reportedly agreed to deepen their defense partnership, particularly in the field of the construction of the aircraft engines, fighter jets, and submarines. On the other hand, Turkey is actively increasing military ties with Ukraine, which is something that Moscow verbally condemns, but is not taking any practical steps to prevent. Days after the summit between Putin and Erdogan, Kyiv and Ankara signed a memorandum to establish joint training and maintenance centers for Turkish armed drones. Previously, Ukraine purchased 12 Bayraktar drones from Turkey, and now plans to buy 24 additional unmanned combat aerial vehicles from Turkish defense company Baykar.

Bayraktar drones played a crucial role during the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between Russia’s ally Armenia and Turkey-backed Azerbaijan in the Fall of 2020. The 44-day war resulted in the Armenian defeat, and Russia strengthened its position as a regional arbiter after Moscow deployed some 2000 peacekeeping troops to the turbulent region. However, although the Caucasus has traditionally been in Russia’s geopolitical orbit, the Kremlin will now have to share its influence in the energy-rich region with its “partner” Turkey. Ankara is now an ally of Azerbaijan, and reports suggest that Turkish leadership is interested in opening a military base in the Caucasus nation that borders Russia.

The Kremlin, for its part, can respond by building additional military facilities in Syria, and continue conducting air strikes on Turkey-backed forces in the north of the country. The problem, however, lies in the fact that Russia’s presence in the Middle Eastern nation is heavily dependent on Ankara. In order to reach the port of Tartus, Russian navy ships have to pass through the straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles that have been effectively controlled by Turkey. Thus, the two nations will likely have to keep negotiating and making deals regarding the future of Syria.

Libya is another war zone where Moscow and Ankara support opposing sides. While Turkey backs the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, Russia acts as an ally of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army. Ankara has already secured a long-term military-political presence in the North African country, whose oil reserves are believed to be the largest on the continent and the ninth-largest in the world. But to secure the oil, and potentially natural-gas supplies, Turkey must establish control over Libya’s energy-rich Sirte province, which will not be very easy given that Sirte seems to be Russia’s red line.

The recent summit between Putin and Erdogan is just paving the way for future meetings between Russian and Turkish officials, given that conflicts and disputes the two counties are involved in, are far from being resolved.

About
Nikola Mikovic
:
Nikola Mikovic is a freelance journalist, researcher and analyst based in Serbia covering foreign policy in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.