Russia to benefit strategically by building Turkey’s first nuclear plant – the Independent

Turkey’s drift away from its Western partners in favour of Russia is underpinned by Moscow’s strategy of “turning economic power into political influence and strategic advantage”, said journalist Borzou Daragahi in a column for British daily the Independent.

This has brought Moscow the opportunity to operate a port on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast thanks to shrewd energy diplomacy.

Turkey was firmly fixed to its NATO allies during the Cold War by its staunch opposition to communism and fear of Russian imperial ambitions.

But the fall of the Soviet Union removed a significant obstacle to Russian-Turkish détente, and Russian officials have managed to build up economic and, crucially, energy links, Daragahi said.

“A former Western diplomat described how Russia’s state-owned Gazprom seduced Turkish officials in the late 1990s into signing the Blue Stream gas pipeline deal that bypassed transit countries,” said the journalist.

“The U.S. argued against it, but Turkey signed anyway. Among the tools in Russia’s arsenal was a private jet filled with prostitutes, according to the former diplomat,” he said.

A crucial advance for Russian interests came in 2010 when the state nuclear power company Rosatom won the bid to build Turkey’s first nuclear plant in Akkuyu, in southern Turkey.

“The original deal allowed Rosatom and its Turkish partner to build factories, warehouses, commercial enterprises, administrative buildings and other buildings at the site. But construction kept being stalled, until Ankara came back with new terms,” Daragahi said.

The new deal places Rosatom in full control of the plant, and allows it to build and operate sea ports and terminals, he said.

The creation of the new port could grant Russia a strategic logistics base in the eastern Mediterranean for its operations, Daragahi quoted Turkish foreign policy expert Yörük Işık as saying.

With Russia playing a major role in the Syrian conflict, this would be a great advance for Russia’s strategic goals.

Turkey’s tightening links with Moscow have also led to the Turkish acquisition of Russian-built S-400 missile defence systems in a 2017 deal that came to fruition this year.

The deal is seen as a striking example of Turkey’s drift away from its NATO allies, which view the presence of a Russian system on allied territory as a potential major security breach.

Russia has also been closely cooperating with Turkey in the Syrian conflict, despite the two governments supporting opposing sides in the war.

Turkey and Russia are both participants in the Astana peace talks, which are being run as an alternative to the stalled negotiations endorsed by the United Nations.

The two countries signed a deal to prevent an attack by the Syrian regime on Idlib, the last opposition-held province, last year.