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Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Union of two lonely people: why Putin and Erdogan suddenly need each other

“Just met two of loneliness, lit a fire near the road” — at first glance, these lines from the famous song is hardly applicable to the St. Petersburg summit, Putin and Erdogan. The luxurious interiors of the Constantine court is not a road roadside. And the leaders with the same amount of power as the presidents of Russia and Turkey, always surrounded by a huge crowd of courtiers, each of whom wants to catch a glance of the first person.

But in physical reality there is the geopolitical reality. And here it is just what it is in the spirit of the song so brilliantly performed by Vakhtang Kikabidze. Both Putin and Erdogan appeared today in the international arena in a position that can be described as something close to isolation. And for the President of the Russian Federation and the President of Turkey rapprochement is primarily a way to break through that isolation and gently to blackmail the West.

However, why only gently? I do not believe in the possibility of long-term strategic Alliance between Moscow and Ankara. We are too different. We have a different environment, different interests, different traditional historical ties and tendencies. But the threat of such an Alliance is a great bugbear exemplary “political bludgeon”, the perfect diplomatic tool, skillful use of which promises great benefits to the authorities of Russia and Turkey.

Rapid Russian-Turkish rapprochement has been, as you know, even before the recent coup attempt in Ankara. But the failure of the coup gave the convergence a whole new dynamic. My interlocutors from the Russian power structures repeatedly drawn my attention to revealing detail: a demarche to the rebels of the Turkish military caught the Russian foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of state Kerry in the company of each other. At a joint press conference at the moment when the outcome of the coup was not yet clear, Lavrov immediately condemned the coup and called for the restoration of Turkey’s constitutional order. But Kerry, in contrast, said something vaguely-meaningful.

From the point of view of the leaders of Turkey, the usual scheme of things has been flipped on its head. Main strategic ally, I would even say, “big brother” have shown their duplicity and unreliability. But the traditional historical rival, with which relations in recent times balanced precariously on the verge of the outbreak of hostilities, suddenly expressed willingness to “lend a shoulder”. This unexpected development was opened by Putin, and Erdogan’s a lot of completely new possibilities.

For the first time in many years Russia will have a chance to drive a wedge into the heart of NATO. Turkey is a very important member of NATO, “the Keeper of the keys” in the Black sea. The estrangement of Ankara from Washington and Europe, NATO denies freedom of maneuver in this very important for Russia region of the world. Naturally, this is very beneficial to Moscow. Russia now has an additional lever of influence on the West: do not want to negotiate with us on key issues? No problem, we will deepen our cooperation with Turkey!

For Erdogan, the situation is almost symmetric. The prospect of deepening cooperation with Russia is a very powerful lever of influence on the West, a way to knock out the US and EU concessions on issues of importance to the current Turkish leaders. It turns out that recent sworn friends Putin and Erdogan was very much need each other.

How long can last this situation? The Alliance with Russia may not be right for Turkey to be a viable alternative to the Alliance with the West. Turkey is associated with the Western world a million threads. Break them — not in Turkish interests.

As shown by the period from fall 2015 — summer 2016, Turkey can’t afford long — term quarrel with Russia- especially since it can’t afford long-term quarrel with the West.

But today’s Turkey is not even similar to the Turkey, as it was three months ago. In relation to the development of their political institutions, Turkey has taken a giant step back. And it will not allow the West to restore the relations that were before. For example, I think, a question on joining of Turkey to the European Union for the foreseeable future removed from the agenda.

Summarizing can be done like this: to detach Turkey from the Western Alliance, Russia just will not work. However, in the process of interaction with the regime of Erdogan in a completely new international context, Moscow may gain a considerable number of political points. And it can not but rejoice. But what can not disturb: towards Turkish-Russian understanding is still there is an obstacle or at least a bumpy section of road it is absolutely impossible to get around. Name of this site: Syria.

Erdogan has already hinted at its willingness to change its policy towards this country. But what exactly will be the change? How the Turkish President is willing to associate itself with the Russian position? Or agreement is reached, rather in words but not in deeds? All these questions are absolutely vital. In recent times, there are signs that the Assad regime has again started to fizzle out. For Russia, this is a worrying sign.

“Just met two of loneliness, lit a fire near the road. And the fire to flare up not want to. That’s all, that’s the whole conversation” — it is the continuation of the mentioned above songs performed by Vakhtang Kikabidze. I have no sympathy either personally to Erdogan or to a fundamentally new political system, which he now creates in Turkey. But I sincerely hope that Moscow and Ankara will be able — if not immediately, albeit not in all — to agree on Syria.

In 1848 the British foreign Minister Lord Palmerston said in the House of Commons: “it is Shortsighted to consider any country a constant ally or perpetual enemy of England. We have no constant allies. We have no perpetual enemies. Only our interests are eternal and unchangeable. And it is our duty to follow them.” Looks like Russia 2016 also applies a similar idea.

Relations between Russia and Turkey. Chronicle of events

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