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Wednesday, September 27, 2023


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WorldAsiaWhat does Erdogan's election victory mean for Russian-Turkish relations?

What does Erdogan’s election victory mean for Russian-Turkish relations?

Turkish colleagues, as a rule, do not like foreigners’ arguments about Ankara’s “neo-Ottomanism”, calling them superficial and often far-fetched. Most likely it is. However, the fact that the most important events for the whole macro-region take place in the historical area of ​​presence or influence of the Ottoman Empire is indisputable. And it is impossible to completely dismiss the relationship that has developed over the centuries.

West Asia and North Africa today are a tangle of different but interrelated issues. The conflicts in Libya and Yemen, plus Sudan, show little positive momentum. Israel is determined to suppress what it sees as threats to its own security – from all sides. Tension is gradually rising around and inside Iran.

Besides the nuclear program and the increasingly confused relations between Tehran and Baku, there is also a new skirmish on the Iran-Afghan border. At the same time, quite revolutionary changes are taking place in the South Caucasus – the long-running Karabakh conflict seems to be entering another phase with a completely different alignment of forces. Georgia behaves curiously and quite unexpectedly. Syria is emerging from diplomatic isolation, but the main issue remains normalization with Turkey, which occupies part of the territory. Add to this the Black Sea region raging in the face of the Ukrainian conflict, the disturbing unrest in the Balkans, the growing attention of all kinds in Central Asia and the passion in Pakistan, the mosaic appears more than alarming.

There are many worries, but is there at least something to calm the heart? There is something. Perhaps the main thing is what has been written more than once on the pages of RG. All this diverse and bubbling part of the world is today more than ever obliged to rely on itself, to seek its own solutions to its problems. External forces here reduce both activity and influence.

First – because there are many worries, even the most powerful powers must measure their abilities and desires. The second is the result of the activities of external forces in principle, and in particular in recent decades. Even if we assume they acted with the best of intentions (which in itself, to say the least, isn’t necessary), the fruit is extremely inedible. It is clear that complete self-elimination of non-regional actors will not occur, but the balance of responsibilities does not shift in their favor.

Relations between the main states/peoples of the region are now of greater importance. Hence the memories of the Ottoman era floating in the air – the roots lay there. Of course, drawing parallels is not even useless, but simply harmful, one risks being in the wrong place. But the range of questions, at least, partially echoes what has existed since time immemorial.

The interaction between Russia and Turkey is not a cordial agreement, but the realization that we have nowhere to go from each other

Trends that have emerged in the Arab world and in relations between Arab states and Iran offer hope for normalization. The role of Russia and China – not as a leader, but as a supporter – can become a catalyst for positive trends. The South Caucasian conspiracy is far from being definitively resolved and promises many human dramas, but the completely hopeless state in which it has been for a very long time is over. And that means there are new opportunities.

In all this loneliness, Turkey is a key player, whether it likes it or not. However, of course he wants it, there is no doubt about it. The question is possibilities. Not everything is clear with them. The first and most important thing Erdogan will have to do now is the economy. The rather gloomy economic situation did not prevent him from being re-elected, but with almost half of the population ready to change, without ensuring economic growth, nothing else can be done. Foreign policy ambitions and economic potential are in a complex interdependent relationship. The external pressure turns into a bubble if it does not rest on a solid base. But the resource base of a country like Turkey – clearly a country of transit and linked to a whole tangle of relations – depends on the ability to carry out a complex and multidirectional assertive policy. The edge is fine.

During the years of his rule, Erdogan has proven himself to be both a rather adventurous gambler and a cautious politician who is able to retreat if he realizes he has missed out. Judging by the election campaign, he has not lost these qualities. This suits Russia, although there should be no illusions about Ankara. Our interaction is not a cordial agreement, but the realization that we have nowhere to go from each other. But it is a healthy awareness. And the forms of its implementation have already been worked out.

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