Russia and Turkey must overcome tensions
The recent incident with Syrian civil plane grounded by Turkish air force because of suspected carrying of military equipment from Moscow to Damascus seriously overshadowed relationship between Russia and Turkey.
The bilateral controversy over Syria is well-known. The two governments’ approaches to the situation have diverged to such an extent that a compromise doesn’t seem likely. However, until that incident the parties managed to keep their differences, though deep-seated, apart from the bulk of basic relations.
That was very wise, because beyond a complex intersection of interests in the gas, and economic spheres, the two countries also share a certain conceptual affinity.
Russia and Turkey have a similar history of relations with Europe. They both enjoy long-standing traditions as great powers and have been actively involved in European policy for centuries, yet the main European powers have never regarded them as equals. Over recent decades (20 years in the case of Russia and 50 years for Turkey), both countries have on numerous occasions declared their intention to join Europe, one way or another, while at the same time maintaining a pronounced sense of independent identity. And finally both had to admit that there is no realistic chance to join esteemed European club, at least in its current form.
Now Russia – for good or for bad reasons – is stopping its attempts to stick to European guidelines as drawn up in the 1990s and wants equal treatment as a sovereign power. Turkey realized that despite all its reforms, the EU is not going to accept Turkey, not for a lack of democracy, but due to the Muslim factor. If Europe could not imagine a Muslim country of 80 million people enjoying the rights and opportunities granted to EU members before, then the growing fear of Islam in Western Europe today has finally put an end to any possibility of this happening. It is difficult to say when Turkey became aware of this, but at a certain point its behavior changed.
Now Turkey has increased its activity in the region, positioning itself as a major power pursuing an independent policy and trying to develop equal relations with all countries, including the United States. On the other hand, despite its economic and political achievements, Turkey is short of resources for going it alone, especially as it plans to move all over the region.
Prime Minister Erdogan has pinned his hopes on the cumulative effect, charging in all directions at once to convince everyone of the seriousness of his intentions. But he seems to have overdone it and the complexity of developments in the region makes more hurdles than expected and Ankara is encountering growing resistance and troubles. The “zero problems with neighbors” policy proclaimed by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu a couple of years ago, turned into the opposite: now there are no neighbors with whom relations are fully OK. Traditionally, through the history, Turkey uses to have many partners, but absolutely no friends: nearly all its neighbors are suspicious of it, although each of them hopes to exploit the situation by moving in Turkey’s wake. In this respect, Turkey is similar to Russia.
Hopefully the plane incident will remain isolated in mutual relations. Ankara and Moscow really need each other. In a rapidly and chaotically changing world, the main stability factor for any country is its ability to choose the right priorities and spheres of interests and to achieve a stable identity. Russia and Turkey, which are undergoing fundamental transformation, have only just embarked on this path. It is this factor, rather than the common global and regional problems they face, that will encourage their mutual interest for each other.
Fyodor Lukyanov for RT
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.