Update: January 31, 2022 08:38 STI
By John Solomou
Nicosia [Cyprus], Jan 31 (ANI): As Europe heads into its worst security crisis in decades, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will try to bring together Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky soon.
Turkey, however, could be walking a fine line because, if there is a Russian armed attack on Ukraine, it will be forced to take sides in the conflict and jeopardize its economic relations with Moscow or Kyiv.
Erdogan said Turkey was ready to do whatever was necessary to avoid a war. He also expressed hope that Russia would not launch an armed attack or occupy Ukraine, stressing the need to engage with Russia to listen to its reasonable security concerns.
Speaking to reporters on January 18, Erdogan, who supports Kiev’s NATO aspirations, said: “I don’t see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a realistic option because Ukraine doesn’t is not an ordinary country. It is a powerful country”.
The Turkish president announced that he will visit Ukraine on February 3 and will also visit Moscow soon. A Turkish diplomat said last week that Russia and Ukraine were open to Turkey playing a role in easing tensions.
It should be noted that Moscow is unlikely to see Turkey as an honest broker, as Ankara has sold Ukrainian defense industry Bayraktar TB2 drones, which Kiev has used against pro-Russian forces in Donbass three months ago.
Last December, Putin criticized Ukraine for using the unmanned aircraft and called on Turkey to pressure Kiev not to use Turkish drones, which in 2020 played a key role in the Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In a phone call, Russian President Putin told Erdogan that Ankara was involved in “provocative and destructive activity”. In addition, a Kremlin spokesperson pointed out that Turkey’s ongoing arms sales to Ukraine threaten to destabilize the region.
Although Ankara knows very well that it risks angering Moscow if it continues to supply the drones to the Ukrainian government, as it has done in recent months, it must have felt that its military-technical cooperation with Kiev was good for it. more beneficial.
As Turkey was expelled by the United States from the F-35 joint strike fighter program, following Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system, and began to build her own fighter jet, she found that she did not have the technology to make the engine for the fighter.
For example, last October Turkey struck a deal with Ukrainian engine company Motor Sich to supply Turkish defense company Baykar with 30 turboprops for use in its Akinci strike drones.
According to press reports, in 2019 the Ukrainian government purchased Bayraktar drones for $69 million and a year later the Ukrainian Defense Minister and the CEO of the Turkish company that produces Bayraktar signed a memorandum for establish joint training and maintenance. center in Ukraine.
Technology transfers with Ukraine have helped the Turkish defense industry to circumvent, at least in part, the US sanctions imposed on it following the purchase of the S-400 defense system, and at the same time , Ankara has found a willing buyer of its military hardware in Ukraine.
This, of course, did not go down well with Moscow, which said arms sales to Ukraine were destabilizing the region.
Turkey has a rather complex relationship with Russia, involving cooperation in some areas and competitive, even conflicting, relations in others. In the economic field, it relies on Russian natural gas for its industry and on the millions of Russian tourists visiting Turkey who bring much-needed hard currency.
In the geostrategic field, they support opposing camps in the war in Syria and Libya. However, in Syria, Turkish and Russian troops carry out joint military patrols and ceasefire agreements, while Russia is building a nuclear power plant at Akkuyu in Turkey.
It should be noted that Ankara had criticized Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and expressed support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity – angering the Russian government – but on other issues, Erdogan and Putin have similar views.
Erdogan’s offer to mediate the impasse in Ukraine can be seen either as a genuine effort to prevent war between two countries with which Ankara has important relations, or as an attempt by Erdogan to attract the attention and approval of international audiences. But if war breaks out, Turkey will be one of the first countries to feel its fallout.
Sinan Ulgen of the Istanbul-based Center for Economic Studies and Foreign Policy says: “If we talk about conflict, Turkey will also be under pressure to align first with the sanctions policy, and that would be a dilemma. major. The dilemma would be on the continuation of relations with Ukraine, in particular, whether or not Turkey will continue to supply armed drones. And there, there is very little neutral ground, in the sense that the answer can only be ‘yes’ or ‘no’, ‘and the two would put Turkey firmly on the same side.”
A similar opinion was voiced by Turkey Pulse columnist Fehim Tastekin, who points out: “Even if Ankara manages to take an even-handed stance, Turkish-Russian relations could hardly emerge unscathed from this turbulence. It’s hard to imagine Putin ignoring Turkey’s sale of armed drones to Ukraine or Erdogan’s description of Crimea as “usurped” territory… Putin’s ability to bleed Turkey’s nose when he deems it in Russia’s interest without a doubt.” (ANI)