Waiting for Turkish tomatoes

Roman Tsymbaliuk
10:00, 30 June 2016
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Opinion

No one likes the poor and the sick. Everyone loves the rich and healthy. This is the formula of the Turkish foreign policy. This is a basic setup of the Turkish mentality. That is why counting on a long "winter" in Turkish-Russian relations was initially short-sighted. Erdogan’s message to Putin and yesterday’s telephone conversation between the two leaders are just the tip of the iceberg of non-public negotiations in the context of the return to business as usual. The only question was how the parties could save face and show their citizens that they caved their opponent. Linguistic tips would help to tell the difference between the shades of the words “excused” and “apologized”.

Turkey and Russia receive an opportunity to coordinate their policy against the European Union, which may give the conspirers hope to get more bonuses from Brussels

In the meantime, 22 cargo ships in the Turkish port of Samsun, loaded fruits and vegetables (also Turkish, of course) are set and ready to depart to the Russian shores to win their share of this huge and hungry market. Turkish hotels are in anticipation of Russian tourists, Russian money, and “Go Russia!” chants.  Therefore, Erdogan received a decent compensation for being the first party to first publicly show the will to normalize economic ties. Plus, there is a chance to return to the frozen project of constructing an Akkuyu nuclear power station in Turkey and start talking about a gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine – Turkish Stream. Turkey and Russia receive an opportunity to coordinate their policy against the European Union, which may give the conspirers hope to get more bonuses from Brussels.

This sudden ‘friendship’ in no way resolves the major contradictions which, in fact, have become a real cause of the attack by a Turkish fighter jet on a Russian Su-24 bomber last November. Turkey and Russia will remain the main rivals in the Black Sea region and will continue to promote the opposite scenarios in Syria. Russian planes will keep guarding the Assad regime, while the Turkish foreign policy will do everything possible to facilitate Assad’s leave. Only the rhetoric will change as Moscow and Ankara will sing in one choir a song about the need for joint efforts in fighting terrorism.

Turkey and Russia will remain the main rivals in the Black Sea region and will continue to promote the opposite scenarios in Syria

But even given this outlook, nothing will change on the ground. The Turkish leadership will never block the Turkish-Syrian border as it will continue to support the Turkomans, of whom the Russian president "never heard" not so long ago. Neither will Turkey seize to support the so-called Free Syrian Army and the other opponents of Assad. This is the basic foreign policy of Ankara, and it is actually similar to that of the Kremlin in eastern Ukraine. Moscow keeps coming up with hundreds of reasons not to return to Kyiv control over parts of the Ukrainian-Russian in the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. And the reason is simple: it will lead to termination or self-destruction of the Russian forces, in which the Kremlin has been investing so diligently for over two years.

Turkish-Russian relations gone to a waste seven months ago also led to the deepening of ties between Ukraine and Turkey. However, frequent bilateral visits could not lead to any major shifts. The reason is simple: Ukraine has nothing to offer to its Turkish partners. The volume of trade between the Russian Federation and Turkey, in spite of Putin-Erdogan cold war, is several times higher than that between Turkey and Ukraine in the same period. And it seems to be clear for Ankara, which partner is more valuable. This is measured in real projects worth billions of dollars.

Turkish-Russian relations gone to a waste seven months ago led to the deepening of ties between Ukraine and Turkey

Turkish officials stand firm on the position that Crimea belongs to Ukraine, they do not recognize the annexation, and they will continue expressing concerns over repression of the Crimean Tatars, but no one will ban Crimean operations of Turkey-affiliated businesses and prohibit Turkish ships from going into seaports on the occupied peninsula.

In the end, the Turkish-Russian conflict once again reminded that there can be no eternal allies, there are eternal interests. And it’s only the strong partners who are counted with. Besides, the behavioral trends of “bullies from the hood” have not gone anywhere.

Roman Tsymbaliuk, Moscow

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