Turkey’s friendship with Russia

Turkey’s friendship with Russia

Relations between Turkey and Russia are moving towards a “strategic partnership” status, even if they are still not officially described that way. 

The latest example of this is Turkey’s purchase of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia. Turkey was only able to carry out the Afrin operation because Russia opened up air space there too, while cooperation between the two countries in the field of energy has been developing fast.

Mehmet Ögütçü, an energy diplomacy expert, told Ahu Özyurt on CNN Türk that relations between Turkey and Russia “resemble relations in the early Republican era.”

Is it really so? 

Nuclear power plant

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Ankara on April 3 and construction of the first phase of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant was kicked off. When all four units go online, the plant will have an installed capacity of 4,800 megawatts.

Turkey’s installed capacity is some 85,000 megawatts. The power plant will add another 4,800 megawatts to this capacity. As fuel is cheap, nuclear reactors can work non-stop,” according to energy expert Professor Sadık Kakaç.

Turkey, which wants to become a developed nation, needs to increase and diversify its energy resources. I am aware of the objections, but nuclear power plants equipped with high-level safety standards do not pose any threat. There are 450 nuclear power plants in the world in 31 different countries, while another 55 nuclear power plants are under construction. It should also be kept in mind that Turkey became a member of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency in 1984.

Natural gas

Putin wants to sell natural gas to Europe via Turkey, and of course we can also benefit from this.

In October 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Putin signed an agreement for the Turkish Stream project that will carry natural gas to Turkey’s Thrace region and from there onto Europe and the Mediterranean.

Turkey should become the transit country for the pipelines that will transfer natural gas from Iran, the Caspian, the Middle East and Israel. We can raise revenue from those pipelines and at the same time this means we can diversify our energy resources and reduce our dependency.

Russia’s power comes from its natural resources, military and nuclear technologies. But it is not so advanced in the field of civilian technologies. What’s more, for Russia law and democracy are not really important values. 

Atatürk and Russia

During Turkey’s War of Independence, Mustafa Kemal and Kazım Karabekir, the commander of the Eastern Front, often talked like the Bolsheviks, saying they were fighting against capitalism and imperialism. During the war they received substantial arms and financial aid from Russia.

After the achieving independence they dropped this rhetoric, but friendship with Russia remained one of the main principles of Ankara’s foreign policy. When the issue of the status of Turkey’s straits was discussed in Lausanne, Turkey demanded that Russia be invited to the talks and that indeed happened. 

After the 1930 crisis, economic relations with Russia also improved. Indeed, the Republic Monument in Istanbul’s Taksim Square also depicts Soviet generals Frunze and Voroshilov behind Atatürk, İsmet İnönü and Fevzi Çakmak. A Soviet representative was in Lausanne thanks to Ankara’s efforts but Turkey ended up siding with the West on the issue of the status of the straits, not with the Soviets. 

Indeed, Atatürk and his friends - as well as the opposition in Turkey at the time - preferred the West. The new republic was ultimately founded based on the Western model, not the Soviet model.  

All in all, today we certainly have to improve our relations with Russia but we should not break ties with the West. After all, we have long been busy negotiating the simple issue of trading tomatoes with Russia – even though half of our exports go to Europe and half of foreign investments in Turkey are from Europe.

Turkey, Russia, foreign policy, Eurasia, Erdoğan, Putin, Middle East, Atatürk, Lausanne Treaty, opinion, analysis