Russia not decisive factor in Turkey-West relations - analysis

Turkish-Western relations, despite suffering setbacks in recent years, will not break over Turkey’s fickle ties with Russia, wrote visiting scholar at the University of Oxford Galip Dalay in Foreign Policy Magazine.

While it is fair to discuss whether Turkey and the West are heading for a real separation, it is premature to say Ankara ready to join forces with Russia, particularly in the Middle East, Dalay wrote.

Both Ankara and Moscow are ‘’recalibrating’’ their foreign and regional policy amid transformation in the Middle East, it said, and such their relationship is bound to be both cooperative and competitive.

Turkey’s multidimensional economic cooperation with Russia was tested when Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 military plane for having violated Turkish airspace on November 24, 2015. Fast-forward to a year later and the countries were had already began cooperating on Syria, as well as defence and nuclear energy. 

What the West must keep in mind is that the two countries’ geopolitical aspirations are largely incompatible, Dalay stressed, and that cooperation today does not guarantee cooperation in the future.

Underlining that Russia virtually controlled northern Syria west of the Euphrates, the article noted that Turkey had to rely on Russian consent to undertake military operations along its border.

When Ankara is frustrated with the West—as it is now over U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish militants —it finds in Russia a sympathetic ear.

Furthermore, Both Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin are leaders likely to stay in power and have a penchant for suspicion of the West, the article pointed out.

Should Turkey go through with implementing the Russian S-400 system and the United States enacts heavy sanctions on the country as they have threatened, the article said, Turkey’s dependence on Russia for defence would further increase.

Ankara has repeatedly stated the S-400 is a done deal and it will not bow to U.S. pressure on the matter.

However, there are also issues pushing Russia and Turkey apart.

The two economic interests are misaligned, Dalay wrote, noting that Russia, along with Saudi Arabia are aiming to keep the energy prices up while Turkey, as a major importer of energy, prefers low energy prices.

Add to this, their largely opposing interests in the Middle East, and one can see the limitations on Ankara-Moscow relations, the article opined.

Turkey’s ties with Russia are too loose to cause irrevocable damage to its relations with the West, it said.