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Fyodor Lukyanov: Erdogan’s goal is to qualitatively raise Turkey’s status in international affairs, but the means may be different – Rossiyskaya Gazeta

For us, elections in another country would have a purely pedagogical interest, if not for the importance that Turkey has acquired in matters that directly affect Russia. During the year of the Ukrainian campaign, the situation only worsened.

During Erdogan’s 20 years of rule, Turkey’s place and behavior on the world stage has changed dramatically. The initial trajectory and its subsequent direction are far apart. Erdogan, feared by the Turkish military (the most influential force in society throughout the 20th century) because of Islamism, came to power under the flags of Europe and democracy. And in the early years, it sought to move towards EU membership as soon as possible. The lack of enthusiasm on the European side, increasingly evident as pro-European reforms proceeded, led to another setting of targets. Turkey is a key power in Western Asia at the junction of the Eurasian space and the Mediterranean. The stormy socio-political crisis of the beginning of the last decade, which did not bypass Turkey itself, strengthened Ankara’s position in regional affairs – due to its involvement in the processes, its ability to maneuver and of his willingness to take risks. Now everyone needs Turkey, it is impossible to circumvent it, and this applies not only to regional problems, but also to a series of problems of global importance. The other side of the coin is the growing internal problems in the economic and social sphere.

Erdogan’s goal is to qualitatively raise Turkey’s status in international affairs, but the means may be different

Attention on the elections is riveted mainly because of the main question – whether Erdogan will remain in power. The Turkish policy described above is inextricably linked to its personality. Will this change just as significantly if another person spawns on the captain’s bridge?

Various ideological aspirations have been attributed to Erdogan, but none of them seem to mean much to him. Its goal is to qualitatively raise the status of Turkey in international affairs, but the means may be different. From joining a united Europe (if successful, Turkey of 80 million people would become one of the defining players there) to expanding influence over vast territories around national borders, something like new ottoman outlines – dotted but clear. Again, the packaging is varied: strengthening democracy, protecting co-religionists, Turkish national pride, whatever works right now.
Erdogan’s character is a factor that can hardly be overstated. The role of his personal relations with world figures is great, the Russian-Turkish example confirms this. And the possible departure of the outgoing president will inevitably affect the style of Ankara’s politics, rectify the nuances. But about gasoline – not necessarily.

Erdogan grasped from the start the main international trend – the fragmentation of the political and economic landscape and its restructuring on other grounds around new or resurgent centers. And the cultural and historical factor will play a decisive role in this process. The task is for Turkey to become one of these centers. The strengthening of Turkey’s independent international identity began even before Erdogan, under him the process acquired a purposeful character. And now the changes both in Turkey’s self-perception and in the global context are so striking that a return to the old role is impossible.

Whoever takes Turkey further, the objective conditions on the world stage will not change

As you know, on almost all geopolitical issues, Moscow and Ankara are on opposite sides of the barricades. This does not prevent us from constantly developing cooperation in all areas. A clear division into blocks according to the principle “with us/against us” does not correspond to the emerging international context. It presupposes: a) flexibility in establishing and maintaining links, b) a greater role for the regional factor and a lesser role for the ideological factor. Whoever takes Turkey further, the objective conditions on the world stage will not change. The softening of contradictions with the United States and Europe is possible, too much personal stuff has accumulated in Erdogan’s relations with other leaders. But Turkey’s interest in developing economic and logistical relations with Moscow will remain. And this will be the dominant factor. The main thing is that we ourselves are calm, realizing that statements are one thing, and deep interests are often another.

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