Türkiye's maneuvers in foreign policy
    Mikhail Shereshevskiy's analysis

    ANALYTICS  29 November 2022 - 15:05

    Mikhail Shereshevskiy

    The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) received the high-precision missile system TRLG-230 manufactured by the Turkish defence giant Roketsan. This information is simultaneously confirmed by the Russian and world media. The question is about a promising system that has recently entered into the service of Türkiye itself. The multiple-launch rocket systems are guided by the Bayraktar drones. By the way, over the last six months, the Bayraktars have been continuously arriving in Ukraine.

    Today Türkiye, along with the PRC, is successfully conducting political maneuvers against the backdrop of the events in Ukraine. How does this work? Türkiye sells ultramodern weapons to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and has blocked Russian warships from entering the Black Sea. Strengthening Ukraine is part of Türkiye's project to successfully compete with Russia in the Black Sea region; the latter is a traditional objective of Turkish policy.

    At the same time, Türkiye is receiving Russian investments since it has not joined the anti-Russian sanctions. Russia, according to the Wall Street Journal, is lending Türkiye up to $25 billion for the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant. In fact, Moscow is building the nuclear power plant for Ankara at its own expense. Of course, Türkiye has borrowed money, but a loan of this scale is a huge favor, and Türkiye using it to stabilize the lira while developing its energy infrastructure.

    Türkiye is a major buyer of some Russian goods, primarily Russian gas, which accounts for about half of all gas supplies to the country. It talks about the need for the West and Ukraine to negotiate with Moscow, acting as an intermediary, and this suits the Kremlin. Türkiye has also purchased the S-400 missile defence system from Russia.

    But at the same time, Ankara is developing the OTS (Organisation of Turkic States), clearly pulling influence from Russia in its direction in the former Soviet Union.

    Türkiye puts conditions on the West, including Sweden and Finland, which have rushed into NATO against the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis. "Okay, we are not against your membership, but only if you break your ties with the PKK," Türkiye tells them.

    Perhaps someone in Russia thinks that due to Türkiye's rejection to join sanctions, it will become Russia's friend and leave NATO. I don't think so. Türkiye can increase its influence precisely because it is inside the Alliance. Ankara has the bloc's second-largest army and covers its southeastern flank as NATO's protective shield against Russia and Iran. Türkiye hosts critical military facilities of the North Atlantic Alliance. It also confronts Russia and pro-Russian groups in Libya, where its armed forces and pro-Turkish formations fought the Wagner Group; in Syria, where its troops and militias loyal to it oppose the Assad regime linked to Russia and Iran; in the South Caucasus, where Türkiye supported Azerbaijan, which defeated pro-Russian (at the time) Armenia in a 44-day war; in Central Asia, where it is creating an OTS to counter Russian influence; and in Ukraine, supplying it with arms. Thus, there are five points of confrontation between Türkiye and Russia.

    Precisely because Ankara does all this while maintaining its membership in NATO, it can lobby for its interests within the bloc. It can always say to the Swedes or the Americans - you don't want to offend us during a crisis as dangerous as today, i.e. during a conflict with Russia, right? You care about every ally today, especially a powerful one like us, don't you? Then kindly coordinate your policy with us.

    For its part, Russia is trying to use Türkiye to its advantage, including selling energy resources, negotiating on Syria, or meditating on Ukraine. Besides, Moscow does not need another strong enemy. But in the same way, Türkiye tells Moscow: "Yes, we supply weapons to Ukraine, we strengthen our influence in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, so what? Our interests and Russia's interests do not coincide in everything, but we have meeting points and let's proceed from that fact. You do not want us to become enemies against the background of confrontation with NATO, do you?

    Türkiye will continue to expand its influence in regions where Moscow would like to dominate - the Black Sea, Central Asia, and the South Caucasus. At the same time, it will enjoy an influx of foreign currency and tourists from Russia. It will continue to buy gas from Russia, ignoring anti-Russian sanctions, while protecting NATO's southeastern flank. After all, Türkiye does above all what is beneficial to it. And it benefits from maneuvering between Russia and the collective West, strengthening its military and geopolitical power, as well as developing its energy infrastructure.

    In principle, Ankara has been pursuing this policy for a long time. However, shortly before February 24 a number of Turkish analysts expressed the opinion that this cannot last forever, and that in the very near future Türkiye will have to make a choice between the collective West and Russia. But this did not happen, primarily because in the conflict in Ukraine Ankara proved to be an exceptionally valuable partner for both Moscow and Washington. And neither of them wants to lose such a partner.



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