Russia-Turkey: a new era of strategic partnership?

Russian-Turkish relations have experienced such rocky times in the last couple of years that it would have been almost impossible to predict the further development of the partnership in the foreseeable future. Yet, since the beginning of 2017 the relationship between the two countries have started to warm up as both leaders, Putin and Erdogan have managed to find some important touch points to strengthen the sustainable economic ties with strategic political cooperation.

The recovery of the diplomatic relations has been gained much due to the Turkey’s collaboration with Russia and Iran over Syria and their further fight against terrorism and the ISIS in the region. The successful development of the Astana process led by Russia, Turkey and Iran and the perspectives of hosting the National Dialogue Congress in Russia’s Sochi have raised a wave of anxiety in Washington as the United States were counting much on Ankara’s support in pursuing its military plans in Syria. Provided that Turkey’s decision to join Russia and Iran and its engagement in the Astana process met some serious controversies and tensions with the United States and the European Union one cannot help but ask the question if Turkey is shifting away from NATO toward the East.

The facts speak for themselves: since the beginning of 2017 Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayip Erdogan have held eight face-to-face meetings not to mention multiple visits of Russian and Turkish diplomatic representatives and military officers in both ways.

Apart from the cooperation over Syria and the joint fight against terrorism, the renewal of business, trade and economic relations as well as the prospective cooperation in the energy sector might launch a new era of partnership for both Russia and Turkey not only at the international or at federal levels but also at the regional levels as well.

On December, 13-14, Husseyin Dirioz, Ambassador of the Turkish Republic to Russia visited the city of Yekaterinburg, situated in the Urals and known as the country’s industrial hub. During his meeting with the local government authorities Mr. Dirioz expressed the intention to strengthen the mutual collaboration in such industries as machine building, oil and gas, construction and development, pharmacy and chemical sector as well as in the spheres of tourism, science and education.



However, a closer partnership with Russia is pulling Ankara in quite a confusing situation in which Turkey will have to make bigger efforts to keep the balance with the U.S. and the EU. While the European Union continues to remain the major region for Turkish exports Ankara still benefits from holding the NATO membership on some political and military matters. Given that, the United States will likely to start manipulating Turkey’s vulnerable position and take the target the Turkey’s most sensitive issues. For instance, Washington has reportedly been encouraging Syrian Kurds for military interventions to the territories on the East bank and further overtaking the key Syrian natural resources fields. The move, explained by the United States as an effort to create a Syrian Kurdish autonomy, has been highly criticized by Ankara as a driving force for the U.S. that will enable Washington to take control over Ankara and Damask.

But despite both leaders Recep Tayip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin look at the mutual partnership through the prism of their domestic interests which sometimes causes some structural controversies in such questions as pursuing policies towards the U.S. and the E.U, the possibility of a fast development of Turkey-Russia cooperation into a strategic partnership is very high.  What’s bringing together Turkey and Russia today is perhaps the common mistrust of the Western policies. The emotional statements by U.S President Donald Trump such as announcement of Jerusalem as an Israel’s capital, the U.S. support of Syrian Kurds (that directly crosses the Ankara policy towards the Kurds) consolidate the strategic collaboration between Moscow and Ankara against “moody” President Trump and unfold incredible opportunities for expansion of economic and trade relations between Turkey and Russia. Moreover, with Turkey’s recognition of the Crimea as a Russian territory Moscow will open the “green corridor” for Turkish companies that will also let Turkey pursue its policy towards the Crimean-Tatar community in the peninsula.

As the historical experience proves, the strong partnerships are created by those countries who have manage to resolve the most controversial and unwanted situations between each other. The common historical background, strong cultural and ethnic ties and the geographic proximity can become a solid ground for Russia and Turkey to build a strong alliance.

Turkish President Erdogan: Europe is siding with terrorist organisations

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during the NATO Parliamentary Assembly 62nd Annual Session in Istanbul, Turkey, November 21, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during the NATO Parliamentary Assembly 62nd Annual Session in Istanbul, Turkey, November 21, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer


Erdogan says EU lawmakers’ vote on Turkish membership ‘has no value’

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that a vote by the European Parliament on whether to halt EU membership talks with Ankara “has no value in our eyes” and again accused Europe of siding with terrorist organisations.

“We have made clear time and time again that we take care of European values more than many EU countries, but we could not see concrete support from Western friends … None of the promises were kept,” he told an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in Istanbul.

“There will be a meeting at the European Parliament tomorrow, and they will vote on EU talks with Turkey … whatever the result, this vote has no value in our eyes.”

Leading members of the European Parliament on Tuesday called for a halt to membership talks with Turkey because of its post-coup purges, in which more than 125,000 state employees have been dismissed or detained.

Fed up with EU, Erdogan says Turkey could join Shanghai bloc

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, November 16, 2016. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, November 16, 2016. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

Reuters –

President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted on Sunday as saying that Turkey did not need to join the European Union “at all costs” and could instead become part of a security bloc dominated by China, Russia and Central Asian nations.

NATO member Turkey’s prospects of joining the EU look more remote than ever after 11 years of negotiations. European leaders have been critical of its record on democratic freedoms, while Ankara has grown increasingly exasperated by what it sees as Western condescension.

“Turkey must feel at ease. It mustn’t say ‘for me it’s the European Union at all costs’. That’s my view,” Erdogan was quoted by the Hurriyet newspaper as telling reporters on his plane on the way back from a visit to Pakistan and Uzbekistan.

“Why shouldn’t Turkey be in the Shanghai Five? I said this to (Russian President) Mr Putin, to (Kazakh President) Nazarbayev, to those who are in the Shanghai Five now,” he said.

“I hope that if there is a positive development there, I think if Turkey were to join the Shanghai Five, it will enable it to act with much greater ease.”

China, Russia and four Central Asian nations — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in 2001 as a regional security bloc to fight threats posed by radical Islam and drug trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan.

Turkish membership of the SCO, which had initially not included Uzbekistan and been known as the Shanghai Five, would be likely to alarm Western allies and fellow NATO members.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan speak Turkic languages, and Ankara signed up in 2013 as a “dialogue partner” saying it shared “the same destiny” as members of the bloc.

Mongolia, India, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan are SCO observers, while Belarus, like Turkey, is a dialogue partner.

Dialogue partners are entitled to take part in ministerial-level and some other meetings of the SCO, but do not have voting rights.

Erdogan last week urged Turks to be patient until the end of the year over relations with Europe and said a referendum could be held on EU membership in 2017.

The EU is treading a fine line in relations with Turkey: it needs Ankara’s continued help in curbing a huge flow of migrants, especially from Syria, but is alarmed by Turkey’s crackdown on opponents since a failed coup attempt in July.

More than 110,000 people have been sacked or suspended since the abortive putsch, and some 36,000 arrested. Media outlets have also been shut down.

The government says the crackdown is justified by the gravity of the threat to the state from the events of July 15, in which more than 240 people were killed.

The Resurgence of ‘Strongmen’ Like Trump Threatens Our Liberal World Order

    • Thomas Weber Author and Professor at the University of Aberdeen

      Hitler-centered historical comparisons with the new “strongmen” of the world are dangerous. They are perilous not so much because they tend to miss their target by a wide margin, but rather because they act as a smokescreen. They obscure the very worrying parallels between the great crisis of liberalism of the post-1873 world that lasted at least for three generations and the current crisis of liberalism. It is these parallels that should be the source of grave concern for the future of a liberal world order, as it was the post-1873 crisis of liberalism that was the root cause for the darkest chapters of the history of the last century.

      Neither any of the new or aspiring strongmen and women — be they Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Donald Trump or Marine Le Pen — are reincarnated Hitlers. Yet the fact that we do not have to fear the emergence of a new Auschwitz or Hitler-style world war should be no cause for complacency. The conditions in Europe after 1873 that gave rise to Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin and Stalin look eerily similar to the conditions that have brought the strongmen of today to the fore.

      Prior to 1873, liberalism and old-style conservatism had competed for dominance all over Europe and the Western world. Yet for all their differences, the interaction of liberals and conservatives had been of a dialectic nature. Despite all the noise that their struggle had produced, all European countries had moved slowly, often painstakingly so, towards a more liberal order. Furthermore, there had been awareness both within states and between states that polities as well as the international system could only be governed if all players accepted the rules of the game. The pre-1873 world had been full of flaws, to be sure. Yet in comparison to the more than a century that followed, it had been a world that had worked.

      The conditions in Europe after 1873 that gave rise to Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin and Stalin look eerily similar to the conditions that have brought the ‘strongmen’ of today to the fore.

      The crash of the Vienna stock market of 1873 heralded a new age, in which the losers, imagined and real, of the ensuing great depression and of industrialization abandoned the promises of liberal democracy and of conservatism alike. They flocked to left-wing and right-wing protest movements instead. By the end of the First World War, the struggle between liberalism, the old order and the new protest movements had metamorphosed to devastating effects into a three-way world war of ideologies between liberal democracy and right-wing and left-wing collectivism.

      In recent years, just as a century ago, it has been the losers, imagined and real, of liberalism — in our case marked by globalization, the move towards a new economy and a liberal world order based around ideas of free trade and pooled sovereignty — that has given rise to right-wing and left-wing populism.

      It is these forces that have fueled the rise of new and aspiring strongmen and women in the Americas, Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. Their rise does not imply that the kind of wars and kind of polities that the world experienced between 1914 and 1945 are awaiting us in front of our doorsteps. Unlike a century ago, we do not live in an age of disintegrating empires and social Darwinism. Nor are we experiencing the transformation of the fundamental organizing principles of the states in which we live akin to the transformation of multi-ethnic dynastic empires into nation states that the world witnessed between the early 19th and mid-20th century.

      Yet if we peel away the differences between the world of a century ago and of today from their similarities and focus on fitting historical analogies, the emergence of a new world order comes into sight that, while different from the world of Hitler and Stalin, should worry us all. If we do not manage to stem the flow of the new populism and the rise of new strongmen in today’s age of globalization, we are likely to witness a breakdown of the liberal world order that has at least five elements.

      The emergence of a new world order, while different from the world of Hitler and Stalin, should worry us all.

      Domestically, we will witness the electoral erosion of liberal democracy, as we did in the age of revolutions preceding and following the First World War. This has already happened in several countries in Eastern, Central and Southern Europe. Yet alarming signs abound even in stable, affluent countries such as Germany. For instance, 42.6 percent of voters in the state of Saxony-Anhalt recently cast their votes for right-wing and left-wing populist or radical parties. Anybody who has ever dared publicly to criticize Putin, Erdogan or Hugo Chavez when he was still alive will need no further elaboration about the grave consequences of the rise of illiberal democracy or outright authoritarianism for the fate of liberty and our ability to determine our own lives.

      Second, despite the many ills of a liberal economic order, no alternative economic order has produced comparable levels of wealth (and social welfare). A pursuit of illiberal and isolationist economic policies driven by a belief in autarky, rather than of reformed liberal policies, by the new strongmen would likely result in economic collapse, as it did in the past. The ensuing result would be a fanning of further political radicalization, hence triggering a vicious and self-reinforcing cycle of political, social and economic disintegration. It is thus very troubling indeed to see African news outlets making the case for autarky, sometimes even invoking the example of how Hitler’s turn to autarky reduced levels of unemployment in Germany.

      Third, just as then, we are now experiencing an alarming rise of xenophobia and racism in all countries that have experienced the rise of new strongmen. It is a hallmark of the strongmen of both the past and the present to blame the problems members of their core constituency experience on people not belonging to their own tribe. We do not need images of Auschwitz to foresee that a further rise in populism will thus have dire consequences.

      Trump speaks during a rally at JetSmart Aviation Services on April 10 in Rochester, N.Y. (AP/Mike Groll)

      Fourth, the rise of aspiring strongmen and of populist movements in Europe makes it well nigh impossible to strengthen common institutions and to coordinate policies at a time at which most of Europe’s periphery stands in flames and in which half of Europe is in dire straits itself. Due to ill-designed institutions, Europe had already been in crisis and in urgent need of fundamental reform prior to the rise of the new populism.

      Yet just as in the pre-1873 world, there had been, despite all the European Union’s problems, a rough agreement about the rules of the games and the common purpose of the EU. With the emergence of illiberal democracy in the Visegrad states, the rise of economic radicalism in parts of Southern Europe, the flourishing of isolationist nationalism in Western and Northern Europe, a revival of a belief in autarky in parts of Europe, the resurgence of parochialism on the British Isles and federalists in defensive rather than in innovative reformist mode, there is no longer any agreement over the rules of the game, let alone about the future of Europe.

      Fifth, and most worrying of all, the rise of populism and of new strongmen fatally undermines functioning global governance. Putin, Erdogan and Trump share a contempt for international organizations, formalized rules and formalized systems of collective security. Their rejection of common liberal institutions and formalized rules would not be quite as grave if they at least shared common informal rules.

      We should fear the return of the world of Barbary piracy after the decline of the Ottoman Empire or of Europe after the fall of Rome.

      Yet the contempt displayed by the new strongmen of a G20-style system of global governance rivals that to their rejection of the UN and NATO. Putin, Erdogan and many others have been driven by short-termism in their pursuit of political goals. They have engineered conflicts that bring them short-term political advantages that they have been unable to consolidate and control. In doing so, they have opened Pandora’s box. Furthermore, they have been unwilling to use a formal or informal system of global governance to contain the forces flowing from Pandora’s box.

      The EU, meanwhile, has been in a state of near foreign and security policy paralysis, while the U.S. has allowed red lines to be drawn and crossed without consequences. The result of all this has been a mushrooming of ungoverned spaces — in other words a Somalification of parts of the world. It is thus not a renaissance of Hitler’s world order that we have to fear. Rather it is a return of the world of Barbary piracy in the wake of the decline of the Ottoman Empire or of Europe after the fall of Rome.

      Whether or not the rise of populism and the emergence of new strongmen will succeed in destroying our liberal world order will depend on all of us. It will depend on our ability to reform liberalism and to innovate our systems of domestic and global governance rather than to limit ourselves to pouring contempt over the supporters of populist movements. By timidly defending the status quo, we will be fighting a losing battle, not least since many criticisms of the liberal world order by left-wing and right-wing populists are well on target, even if their proposed alternative remedies are a recipe for disaster.

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