МОСКВА, 14 декабря 2021, Институт РУССТРАТ.

Until recently, it was difficult to imagine such a thing, but as a result of the «summit of democracies» organised by the United States, to which, apart from Russia, Turkey, publicly referred to as the «closest ally» of the United States and a NATO partner, was not invited, Moscow and Ankara found themselves together on the anti-American flank.

Therefore, when US President Joe Biden promises that he intends to double «support for democracies around the world and interaction with them» to ensure «transparency and accountability» of the work of governments of other countries, «including support for freedom, the fight against international corruption”, it has a direct bearing on both Ankara and Moscow.

The next paradox. Russia, in dialogue with the United States and the West, actively opposes the expansion of NATO to the East, and itself actively cooperates with Turkey as a NATO member in the Syrian direction and in Transcaucasia. So Moscow supported Ankara’s project to create a «3+3» format of cooperation and regional security in Transcaucasia, which removes the feeling that everything is being done in a hurry, and that Turkey’s initiative turns out to be «as always hasty and imperfect”.

If this were the case, then Russia, formally participating in this process, could «quietly sabotage» it. This does not happen. On the contrary, it revives the geopolitical presence in the region of the historical Russia-Turkey-Iran triangle.

Moreover, Turkey, despite its membership in NATO, has a very advanced level of military-technical cooperation with Russia. Finally, after the Riga NATO summit, at which it was decided to strengthen the North Atlantic Bloc conceptually and militarily, it suddenly turned out that Russia and Turkey found themselves almost on the same line of defence.

We are talking about a new strategic concept of NATO, covering the period up to 2030, which reflects five positions that frankly do not coincide with Turkey’s foreign policy of the last decade.

The text of the concept includes such items as the protection of «liberal freedoms and laws» threatened by authoritarian regimes, the presence of threats from Beijing and Moscow showing «aggression» abroad and «despotism» at home, the need to reduce Russian gas supplies, etc. The new basic document of the alliance should be adopted at the summit of NATO heads of state in Madrid in June 2022, when the concept of NATO’s work «in the new reality» will be approved.

It would seem that everything is going to the point that Ankara can be forced to choose its final place between the «Atlantic» and «Eurasian» communities. At the same time, everyone understands that Turkey will not withdraw from NATO. But then what role in the ranks of the North Atlantic Alliance is assigned to the obstinate Ankara, which US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, after Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system, calls only as a «so-called strategic partner»?

In addition, the US State Department has suspended the implementation of several arms supply deals initiated by the former administration, including the approved sale of F-35 fighter jets. By the way, some analysts see in Turkey Vladimir Putin’s «Trojan horse» inside NATO. It doesn’t sound so extravagant, given Ankara’s unwillingness to sign documents with packages of anti-Russian economic sanctions.

But the popular Istanbul publication “Turkiye” believes that the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan «manages to use the resource of great countries in their own national interests and to promote the country on an absolutely independent domestic and foreign policy course”. And, if necessary, to offer himself as a «convenient and effective mediator for both Russia and the West to reduce the degree of confrontation.»

By the way, Erdogan recently announced his intention to be a mediator in relations between Russia and Ukraine. Previously, such services were offered for the settlement of the post-conflict situation after the second Karabakh war. The whole intrigue of such proposals lies in the fact that Ankara, under such scenarios, is balancing on the verge of alternative projects that do not have to be rejected outright and completely exclude the possibility of Turkish mediation, which begins to stimulate the search for other solutions. Sometimes this leads or may lead to positive changes.

As for Turkey itself, it thus positions itself as, if not a major, then a notable player in major international politics. Erdogan himself is strengthening his domestic political agenda ahead of the presidential elections. That is why Ankara is acting on the verge of a foul in order to get successful examples of its international activities and gain an appropriate reputation.

Moscow, of course, sees and understands this, but tries to avoid categorical opposition to Turkey. But it is also a fact that Turkey is under pressure from Western sanctions for partnership with Russia on a wide range of military-technical issues and indirectly for a geopolitical alliance with Moscow in general.

This time, America is being offered to transfer Turkey to the unofficial category of «hostile friends» («frenemy»), «withdraw nuclear weapons, minimise the use of military facilities on its territory, as well as the exchange of intelligence information and arms sales”.

But the United States does not intend to lose Turkey either, although it is difficult for them to get used to its new geopolitical ambitions and identify convincing priorities for which Turkey would be willing to sacrifice its relations with Russia. Moreover, France and Germany are talking about the need to create a fully-fledged European army, but without Turkey, and the US position on the future of NATO is becoming increasingly ambivalent.

In a word, Ankara is in a situation of diagnostic uncertainty, waiting, bluffing, balancing between the main «centres of power» so as not to miss later. They are clearly trying to delay the moment when they will have to formulate a new long-term political line towards the United States and the West as a whole.

But the wait-and-see tactics may be obviously losing for the Turks if they make another historical mistake. We are talking about long-term challenges from the emerging new system of international architecture. Whether Turkey be there is the main question for it now.

Институт международных политических и экономических стратегий Русстрат

(@russtrat)

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