On August 9 in St. Petersburg will be the first after the incident with the Russian Su-24 meeting between the leaders of Russia and Turkey Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It was originally planned that it will be held in September at the summit of “Big Twenty” in China, but then it was moved to an earlier date, and the failed attempt of military coup in Turkey is likely led to more rapid organization of the meeting.
Despite the fact that relations between Ankara and Moscow began to build after the Turkish president sent a letter to his Russian counterpart, there are still many unresolved issues between the parties. On August 5, the presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said that during the meeting could be raised issue on compensation for the downed bomber. The next day, the Turkish Ambassador to Russia Umit Yardym noted that it’s still “inappropriate” to share information on this matter, as this is a”sensitive issue, which is of great importance for both countries.”
The question of compensation in this case is rather symbolic, but between Moscow and Ankara are much more fundamental disagreements, which will undoubtedly be discussed by the presidents. Yuri Ushakov said that they will discuss the issues on the abolition of the Russian embargo on Turkish food products, the resumption of charter air service, the “Turkish Stream” project, Syrian settlement, the fight against terrorism and other issues.
Economic issues are certainly important for the parties. If a few years ago, Moscow and Ankara has talked about plans to increase trade turnover to $ 100 billion, then in 2015 it dropped to 23.3 billion, and for five months of this year fell to 6.1 billion dollars. Turkish Ambassador to Russia Umit Yardym suggested that now that figure could grow to 20, and in the best case, up to $ 30 billion before the end of the year. But if it will not be difficult to agree on the economy, according to experts, then the policy could be a stumbling block.
Yuri Ushakov said that Moscow hopes that Ankara’s approach to the issues of the Syrian settlement “would be more constructive”. The Russian government hopes that the discrepancies in the positions on this topic “would be narrowed”. The question is, how is this possible? Erdogan who is dissatisfied with insufficient support from the West, is particularly interested in rapprochement with Russia after the failed coup. Umit Yardym even said that the European Union uses the rebellion as a pretext to stop the process of European integration of Turkey.
But the head of the Research Center of the International Institute of the newest states Stanislav Tarasov believes that even if Russia and Turkey would be able to reconcile their political positions, the emerging alliance can hardly be called as strong and durable.
– Too early to talk about full-fledged political union between Russia and Turkey. Ankara is now quarreled with the West, believing that it did not support her after the coup attempt. In addition, Erdogan convinced that geopolitical project, which West is building in the Middle East, does not meet the interests of Turkey. It is, first of all, on the Kurdish issue. In this regard Ankara has long does not receive support from its NATO allies, and therefore begins to look for alternatives. Now Erdogan tactically inclined towards Russia, seeking its support.
Russia also needs support, or at least, not confrontation with Turkey in the Syrian conflict, otherwise we risk to get stuck there, as in Afghanistan. So from our side this convergence is a tactical move. In addition, the economy could not be ignored. Breaking of ties and sanctions imposed by Moscow have damaged the two countries. Economic balance must be restored.
– But could it be done so quickly?
– I think that the economic direction would be restore quickly. But how logical and consistent Erdogan will act in alliance with Moscow in the settlement of the Syrian crisis – is the question. First of all, he must abandon its doctrine to overthrow Assad, from support of radical forces of the Syrian opposition, in particular, to start a real fight against ISIS. If all this would happen, it would be possible to talk about a military-political alliance. But, again, just on tactical properties.
After all Turkey, going to a rapprochement with Moscow, says it’s not going to exchange the West to the East. They want to work in both directions. Today Ankara is playing the Russian card only to get certain preferences in the West. But Russia uses the Turkish card to take advantage in the dialogue with the West. Because both Ankara and Moscow in a global sense are going in a westerly direction. Now they are interested in a tactical alliance with each other, believing that if they unite, they would have more chances to succeed.
– That is not talking about the formation of a long-term strategic alliance?
– This would be possible if Moscow adopted a completely different geostrategy and started a full turn to the East. I mean the establishment of close ties on the Chinese direction, not declared, but a serious alignment of the Eurasian Economic Union, followed by a transition in the military-political cooperation. If Turkey will be actively involved in these processes, it would mean that they, too, abandon the western project and move to the eastern positions. Then we would be dealing with an entirely different geopolitical picture of the world.
It seems to me that neither the one nor the other party is not ready to this global shift of the center of gravity in the world politics.
– Can this tactical alliance be joined by the third players?
– Of course they can. Erdogan, for example, has already said he would like to engage Iran, Iraq and other neighboring states. But we must understand that the Middle East is in a state of chaos because of American policy. To change the relations of the states, which are based on centuries-old foundation is not so easy. Between Iran and Turkey were very serious historical contradictions, and a presidential decree won’t change this situation. Therefore, they will resort to this alliance, or move away from it in opportunistic, short-term considerations, but not on a strategic basis.
– On what concessions Ankara is ready to go to normalize relations with Russia?
– Ankara has verbally hinted that she is ready to change Syrian policies. But so far only in words. It will, in fact, be shown during talks in St. Petersburg between Putin and Erdogan.
– What political concessions may take parties for convergence?
– As practice shows, any serious compromises for rapprochement are often not necessary. Just look at how happened the improvement of relations between Russia and Turkey. There were half apologies which satisfied Moscow.
It seems to me that the differences between Ankara and Moscow have not gone away, because they are quite fundamental. A compromise on these issues would mean that the country has radically changed its policy in some positions. Can you imagine that Turkey suddenly abandon its long line on Syria and recognizes Assad as the legitimate president? Or suddenly abandon support of Turkomans? Personally I do not believe in it.
The parties will try to act on the formula of relations that have developed between us and Israel on the same Syrian issue. We have completely different views and interests, but we are keeping abreast of and assume a strategically important position for our relations: do no harm and do not interfere with each other. Try to divide the responsibilities and to minimize the possible collision. I think that such a formula would be laid in the foundation of the Russian-Turkish relations on the Syrian conflict.
– Against the background of cooling relations between Russia and Turkey with the West, whether this alliance would wear anti-Western direction?
– Not quite right to say that it is an alliance against the West. Turkey throughout its modern history has been focused on the West, to be integrated into the European community economically and politically. Just as Russia after the Soviet collapse was Western-oriented country. The conflict that occurred between Russia, Turkey and the West doesn’t really changed that orientation. Both countries hope that they will return to the level of cooperation, which was before these conflicts. Another issue that it is a good pressure on the West and get to improve relations is easier together than alone. We want to encourage Europe to review the relations on an equal basis, and this, I think, is an important strategic goal of both Russian and Turkish elite. It will also be one of the tasks of the alliance between Russia and Turkey.