Turkey’s awkward role in the Russia-Ukraine war

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It was supposed to be quite straightforward. For weeks, Finland and Sweden have telegraphed their decision to abandon decades of semi-neutrality and join the NATO military alliance. The two Nordic countries have long maintained strong defense ties with the alliance, but Russia’s push for an invasion of Ukraine has finally forced them to close the gap.

Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO will mark a historic turning point: with countries officially on board, NATO’s border with Russia will double overnight. The Baltic Sea, a region in constant competition with Russia, could effectively become a NATO-patrol lake. And it will only underscore how geopolitically wrong this conflict has become for Russian President Vladimir Putin: far from examining NATO’s eastward expansion, its attack has deepened Russian isolation, widened the curve along the country’s western border and already put a lot of pressure on it. Created. Sick economy.

But then Turkey entered the stage. On Wednesday, after the two countries formally submitted their application, it used its privilege as a NATO member to block the start of negotiations on the accession of Finland and Sweden. Most of the reasons mentioned were related to Ankara’s anger with Sweden for working with rebel Kurdish groups in Turkey and Syria and for harboring members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which both Turkey and the United States view. As a terrorist organization.

At a meeting of foreign ministers this past weekend, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlুতt Cavusoglu clashed with his Swedish counterpart Anne Lind, allegedly raising her voice while criticizing her “feminist” foreign policy. A NATO diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity that “we were trying to understand what our Turkish counterpart wanted – you know, really wanted.” “It was embarrassing.”

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Such as his habitPerhaps Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking advantage of the crisis to get more concessions from the West.. Erdogan told members of his political party in Ankara, “We are one of the most supportive countries in the coalition, but that does not mean we will say ‘yes’ to every proposal we have.” Wednesday. “NATO’s expansion makes sense to us in proportion to the respect we show for our sensitivities.”

“NATO diplomats still strongly believe that Turkey will eventually abandon its objections and allow expansion,” my colleagues reported. “But a process that was already expected to take months could be slower and more complex than other coalition members expected.”

On Thursday, President Biden hosted Finnish President Sauli Ninisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson at the Rose Garden and pledged “full, full, full support” from the United States in two Nordic NATO bids. He said Finland and Sweden “each meets the requirements of NATO and then some.” In his remarks, Ninistো acknowledged Turkey’s position and said he was “open to discussing all Turkey’s concerns.”

Critics of Erdogan’s democratic rule suggest that his absurdity should now call into question Turkey’s place in the alliance. Analysts Joe Lieberman and Mark de Wallace wrote on the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page that “NATO’s biggest strategic failure in the last two decades has been to thwart Putin’s harmful intentions as well as undermine its members’ ability to work together.” “The alliance risks repeating the same mistake with Erdogan.”

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The Turkish president has played a complex game since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. His government hosted initial diplomatic talks between Moscow and Kiev, but those talks seem to have ended even after the war ended. Ankara has also resisted Western sanctions on Russia and has continued to import Russian oil. It has kept its doors open for Russian travelers and hopes to encourage authorized Russian oligarchs to plow their resources into Turkey’s tanking economy.

At the same time, Turkey has a long-standing historical enmity with Russia in the Black Sea and has approved the sale of lightweight byeractor TB2 drones to Ukraine, which has been seen as a significant Ukrainian attack on Russian targets and has provoked Russian outrage. Turkish drones have become a tool of diplomacy for Erdogan in another way: his government has supplied them to neighboring countries and their effectiveness in the Ukraine war has been reflected in years of warm relations with the West, not because of Turkey’s controversial purchase of Russian military equipment in the past. Last month, the Biden administration approved the possible sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

“Erdogan’s strategy in Ukraine … is to provide calm military assistance to Kiev, although he wants to maintain the diplomatic channel with Putin and economic gains from Russia,” Sonar Kagapte and Rich Outgen wrote in Foreign Affairs. They added that “it is unlikely that the Russian leader will fight Turkey right now, especially if Erdogan gives him and his oligarchy an economic lifeline.”

Of further concern for Erdogan and his colleagues are the country’s growing economic problems and the political pressures ahead of next year’s elections that could actually be competitive. For them, the sooner the war finds a diplomatic conclusion – and the sooner the economic disruption caused by the conflict stabilizes – the better.

“Senior Turkish officials are calmly concerned that the conflict is now turning into a NATO-Russia war and that the risk of escalation is increasing due to greater arms support for Ukraine and the absence of a negotiating framework,” wrote Asli Idintasbas, Senior Policy. Fellow of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “They are also frustrated by the reluctance of the West to rally behind the Turkish-brokered ceasefire talks. Top Turkish officials have accused “some NATO countries” of not wanting to end the war to Russia’s detriment.

According to recent polls, a large majority of the Turkish public has blamed the United States and NATO – a bloc in which Turkey is a member, above all – for inciting conflict rather than blaming Russia. Part of this is due to years of anti-Western rhetoric in the country’s media, often by Erdogan himself. However, as observed by Merve Tahiroglu on the Middle East democracy project, many of Erdogan’s opponents also resent the condemnation of Western countries, some of which are repairing the fence with Erdogan because they see Turkey as important in ensuring Ukraine’s victory.

“For many Turks, this kind of Western attempt to build a relationship with a hated Turkish dictator – while trumpeting the cause of democracy in Ukraine – is no less – only serves to reassure some of the main reasons for distrusting Western intentions in Turkey. Ukraine in the first place, “wrote Tahiroglu.

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