Edited by Desi Tzoneva
Turkey has carried out a turn towards Russia in light of the growing tensions between Ankara and the West. The personal meeting between Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already led to the growth of analysts’ anxiety, although, there is nothing supernatural in Ankara’s steps towards Russia. These steps have only one goal – Erdogan’s desire to keep his monopoly of power. In general, this motivation was presented in all recent major steps of the Turkish leader in domestic and foreign policy directions. In this case, Russia was chosen as a counterweight to the battered relations with the West, but not as something global, as Western analysts try to present.
The first and main point that determines Ankara’s turn to Moscow is economy. The damage caused to the Turkish economy by Russia in response to the incident with the Su-24, is extremely ‘painful’ for Turkey. The economic factor is starting to play a major role in the plans of Erdogan now. If we look at the base of electoral support for the Turkish leader, we can easily understand that the reason for his political success was predefined by the breakthrough in the economy. Therefore, Turkish voters can forgive him a lot, and Russia in this context, is one of the ‘leading engines’ of this process. Russia’s market provides the main part of the contracts, jobs etc. And that is not to mention the import of Russian gas, which by the way, was not touched by the sanctions.
Amid worsening relations with Moscow, Ankara, represented by Erdogan, made a choice in favour of strengthening the alliance with Brussels, striving to achieve a visa-free regime with the EU and financial assistance for solving the immigration crisis, as a minimum, and intensification of the process of its accession to the EU, as a maximum. Both of these tasks would provide the unconditional support of the Turkish electorate, because everyone knows the close attachment of the Turkish labour market to the EU. In this scenario, Erdogan strengthened his personal position and relatively easily allowed himself to pass through the fateful referendum on actual transformation of Turkey into a presidential republic. But this plan has not worked because Erdogan used ‘migratory blackmail’ against the EU. And European capitals do not forgive such things.
In this regard, some analysts seriously say that the purpose of Erdogan’s steps toward Moscow are an “intimidation of the West, in order to obtain from him the promised.” This is not true. The turn toward Moscow took place at the moment when Erdogan was convinced that any visa-free regime with the EU was impossible, and tranches for the resettlement of migrants are provided with a ‘big scratch’. Brussels just cheated him, getting an agreement on migration flows without giving anything in return. This, by the way, is a classic European policy.
The electorate has not accepted ‘European values’ as a ‘carrot’, and the government started to seek an alternative. In this case, there was only one alternative – establishing relations with Russia, which would lead to the rise of economic relations and the flow of Russian tourists to Turkish resorts, as well as to the prospect of the transformation of Turkey into a gas hub for European consumers that would be more effective for dialogue with Brussels than a continuous exhortation of refugees fleeing to Europe. By the way, the presence of refugees in Turkey is also beginning to irritate the electorate and something must be done with this. We have already seen how Turks neutralise the threat of a migration crisis – they just open fire on people crossing the border.