The recent “explosion” of anti-Turkish comments in the Russian media, on the occasion of the reappearance of the Stratfor map, which presents the scenario of an oversized Turkey in 2050, with influence or domination throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, but also in southern Russia, was for some “Lightning in the air”. However, those who more closely monitor the fluctuations in Russian-Turkish relations could see that the frustration of many pillars of Russian power with Ankara’s extravagant ambitions, and that of Erdogan himself, are no longer limited to small, public websites. In any case, he never “digested” the tactics of the Russian leadership and the compromising “bargains” with Turkey.
Without a trace of the official line for maximum cooperation with exhaustive frictional negotiations, as determined by the Putin-Erdogan keynote talks in their regular consultations, warnings to Ankara are now being sent by interacting closely with the Kremlin. However, it is difficult to accurately assess whether this is mainly an attempt to detect the intentions of Erdogan and the Turkish elite in the face of US pressure to review its cooperation policy with Russia or whether a “next day” in Russian-Turkish relations is now being intensively prepared. The current president of Turkey loses power or is forced into a naughty fold.
In any case, however, when the program director of the Valdai International Club, President Putin’s privileged interlocutor, loudly states that “unpredictable Turkey loosens Russia’s hands,” he obviously wants to say something important, and not only that. to the inner Russian public. The “reason” for the tension of Timofey Bordachev is the recent release of the extreme Turkish nationalist and member of the “Gray Wolves” Alparslan Celik, after only five years in prison for illegal possession of weapons, a move that is interpreted as an impunity. , at an extremely sensitive point in bilateral relations, which will hardly be completely forgotten. Although he changed his initial statement, Celik repeatedly claimed responsibility for the murder of Russian pilot Oleg Peskov when he crashed his parachute after the downing of a Russian Su-24 aircraft by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet. Syria in November 2015.
“Turkey is a country in which Russia has no illusions that its behavior could be theoretically limited by moral rules or even formal agreements. Nevertheless, the Turkish Republic, in the person of its leader, is the partner with whom “cooperation is pleasant and reliable”. “Even if one day – no one hides such a thing – the Russian-Turkish cooperation leads to the necessity of violent pressure in Ankara”, writes T. Bordachov ironically enough in the Vzglyad portal, which reflects views close to the “Slavic”, that is, those related to security services and the military and are a dominant group in the Kremlin’s power relations.
Impressive is the pragmatic sincerity with which an analyst, unlike diplomats or politicians, can express himself when he finds that Turkish foreign policy not only refers to the late 19th – early 20th century, but corresponds to a “typical international media grab for which rules of law and agreements do not matter, only validity. The assessment that Turkey is “not militarily dangerous” is doubly impressive, and any conflict with Russia would not automatically lead to a conflict with the West. After all, in Syria Russia has repeatedly used its military power in circumstances where Turkey suffered military losses, which is why T. Bordachov estimates that “Moscow could easily put Turkey off the regional chessboard, but without the “The situation in an extensive area from Libya to Iran is unlikely to be easier for Russia.”
Tolerance of Turkish “peculiar behavior”, as long as it does not harm Russia’s strategic interests and undermines the image of NATO and US world domination, is therefore the main motive of Russia’s policy in recent years, as the Kremlin is convinced. “Turkey remains a ‘weak side’, despite its aggression, and ‘it is up to Russia to decide whether, when and to what extent it should punish Ankara’.”
This over-optimistic about Russia’s interests and Russia’s role in our wider region reads in other words the “carrot and whip” policy that Moscow is pursuing towards Turkey, expanding with tempting proposals the range of existing cooperation with Ankara. . Alongside the gas pipelines, the S-400s, the Akuyu nuclear power plant and many other bilateral projects, Putin and Erdogan discussed at length in their latest telephone conversation the co-production of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in Turkish industries, which is expected to increase many more years.
At the same time, Moscow, along with Iran, appears to be pushing Turkey more than ever to abandon jihadists it protects in the Syrian, terrorist-targeted Idlib enclave of Moscow, Tehran and Damascus, thus facilitating the impending escalation of the operation. of the Syrian army. Ankara has even been forced to condemn, albeit in the uncertain form of a joint tripartite announcement, the seizure and smuggling of Syrian oil, which is proven to continue with the active assistance of Turkish state and parastatal mechanisms.
The Russian Institute for International Policy and Economic Strategy estimates in its latest report that Moscow will be repeatedly forced to clash with “Turkish geopolitical expansion,” as was evident during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Moscow seems to recognize some of Turkey’s “rights” in the former Islamic Soviet republics, but warns that growing Ankara-Kiev military cooperation is a “red line” if it pushes the Ukrainian leadership to withdraw from the Minsk diplomatic process and a military solution to the “recapture” of the de facto autonomous “Donbass People’s Republics” in eastern Ukraine.
The Kremlin says it will continue to protect the Russian-speaking population there, without specifying exactly how, it denies the existence of a Russian army in the two provinces, and denounces any subversive activity by Turkey to augment Crimean-Tatar organizations now illegal in Russia. The current internationally unrecognized status of the strategic peninsula, which Ankara has historically been eyeing, is being left by Moscow to imply that it can cease to be Russian territory only after a nuclear war.
* Mr. Thanasis Avgerinos is a correspondent in Moscow.
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