TURKEY-RUSSIA RELATIONSHIP: FROM CRISIS TO STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
On 24 November 2015 Russian aircraft violated the border of Turkey at least 2 km. After that, Turkey and Russia relationship had a crisis because Turkish Air Force jet shot down the Russian aircraft. Also during the violations of the Turkish border, Turkish officials gave multiple warnings to the pilot. Although Russian officials denied the violations of the Turkish border, it was proved with strong evidence. It should not forget that after the case of Russian aircraft, the measures taken by the Russian authorities, the crisis deepened. And this despite the fact that Turkey has not done anything illegal: the state violated airspace and was shot down by an intruder. Everything was within international law. Despite this, Russia began to accuse Turkey and tried to put the Turkish authorities to the guilty party. This crisis has been increased with the remarks and policies of Russia and Turkey until the letter of President Erdogan's. This letter has helped to improve and began to recover relationship between Turkey and Russia.
With the letter of President Erdogan, addressed to Putin, in which he expressed his condolences to the families of the dead pilots, began the process of normalization of relations between Turkey and Russia. Of course, at once to return to previous relations as they were before 24 November 2015 (before the incident with the Russian aircraft), it is impossible. To improve relations must pass a certain period of time. And the statements of the parties are the first positive step in this direction.
In the normalization period of Turkey and Russia relationship, the Foreign Ministers of both countries met in Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in Sochi. A real surprise after a meeting of Lavrov and Cavusoğlu was the statement by the Turkish Foreign Minister. Cavusoğlu stated that the Presidents of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, Nursultan Nazarbayev and Ilham Aliyev played an important role in the normalization period of relations between Turkey and Russia. Until the meeting, this has never been mentioned about their mediation initiative. Only after the meeting, Cavusoglu was publicized their efforts, and I can say that his statement in which he noted the role of presidents of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, he congratulated the heads of two states with their achievement. And the fact that Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have undertaken the mission of the mediators in the issue of normalization of Turkish-Russian relations is important for the dynamics and safety of the region. Azerbaijan - a brotherly country, and as such, always and under all conditions expressed its support for Turkey. And the fact that Azerbaijan has assumed the role of mediator, has increased the importance of Azerbaijan for Turkey.
After the letter, Putin has lifted a ban on visits to Turkey by Russian tourists, and, in addition, in the near future, agricultural trade will be made in Turkey to the Russian markets. The first steps were taken in the sphere of economy, as well as the political crisis, both countries are experiencing a huge economic crisis. Even the smallest actions will help resolve the economic crisis.
The important point of this meeting was to announce the meeting of the Presidents Erdogan and Putin before the G20 Summit. The upcoming meeting of the President Erdogan and Vladimir Putin on 9 August could be a breakthrough in the normalization of political relations between the two countries. No phone calls, no statements by the media do not give the same effect as a meeting and discussion of the problems face to face. This is the surest way to help and understand each other and develop further relations. I think that the meeting at the summit of Turkey and Russia will soften the crisis situation.
One of the important cases during the normalization period was to behaviours of Russian people. Turkey faced a terrorist attack on 29 June 2016 and dozens of people came to the Embassy of Turkey to lay flowers and to express solidarity with the Turkish people. And this is clear evidence of improving relations between the two nations.
Another important milestone of this period is the coup attempt in Turkey. Russia directly expressed their ideas about the coup attempt in Turkey and they support the legal government. Turkey has not seen this support from West and this situation is getting closer Turkey and Russia. Anti-Western propaganda which began after the military coup in Turkey and the indifferent behavior of the West will push Turkey closer toward Eurasia.
The Presidents of both countries met on 9 August and some topics was talked during the meeting. Of course, the first topics was to solve political-economic problems of both countries but after that, on the agenda of the meeting, the presidents of Turkey and Russia was also the Syrian issue. There is a disagreement on this topic. In particular, at a time when Turkey is looking for an alternative regime of Bashar al-Assad ways to solve the Syrian problem, Russia cooperates with Assad. In addition, Bashar al-Assad's regime forces fired rocket and mortar fire Turkmen Mountain region, which is of great importance for Turkey, and the shelling of the region is a very sensitive issue for Turkey. I believe that the only Turkish and Russian point of contact in the Syrian issue - it is a struggle against ISIS. Note that the two sides since the inception of the conflict in Syria were in favor of the territorial integrity of the country. The terrorist organization "Islamic State" and PYD (PKK Syrian Wing) are among the main obstacles to ensuring the territorial integrity of Syria. I think that Putin and Erdogan also discussed the possible steps to combat the terrorism problem. Also at the meeting, the parties touched upon the issue of terrorists FETO, in the territory of Russia and the property owned by a terrorist organization.
There are some important points of the meeting, for example Turkish officials strongly states that Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant will be supported with the strategic investment and Russia will use these strategic investment status. The means of this strategic investment is that investor country cannot pay value-added tax and customs. Also other conclusions of the meeting are about the trade, tourism and visas. Both countries will try to improve trade capacity and they will again begin to do Turkish Stream. All of them will take some processes and it is hoped that all of these important steps will be taken in a short time.
In short, I would like to say this about state policy; the authorities are pursuing a policy in accordance with the public interest, according to which and produced the short-term or long-term strategy. Under the influence of political or economic crises, they adjust their policies so as to minimize all possible risks. If the letter was dominated by the emotions of the people, the tone of the document would have been somewhat different. In Turkey, the views on this issue are divided: there were those who supported Russia and those who were on the side of Turkey. President Erdogan went the right way, and apologized to the bereaved families of pilots, thereby, contribute to the normalization of relations between Turkey and Russia.
But given the changeable Turkey's foreign policy, it is possible that in the coming days, the authorities may change their minds and come up with other proposals on the Syrian issue. One of them may be a transition period with the regime of Bashar al-Assad, as the issue of Syrian refugees is still relevant. Europe has been unable to find a solution to this issue, and Turkey was left alone without the help that is so needed for the solution of the refugee crisis.
Mehmet Emin Erendor, Analyst, Strategic Outlook
This interview was published by Magazine N in South Korea