By Ahmed Necip YILDIRIM
Turkish President met his Russian counterpart for bilateral talks in Sochi, the Black Sea coastal Russian city.
The meeting, I believe, is more related to regional and global strategic issues than merely topics related to mutual relationship between two countries.
We are facing a flux international structure. Especially after Donald Trump was elected in US and UK decided for Brexit, global balances in international relations required a redefinition.
Vladimir Putin held a phone conversation with Trump and he hosted Merkel in Sochi. The future of European Union is unclear. North Korean crisis has erupted in South China Sea. Russia is persistent (together with Iran) on Syrian problem. Global terror is escalating all over the world.
After his victory in constitutional referendum, President Erdoğan managed to change the political system into Presidential democracy, further consolidating Turkish democracy and his post in Turkish political scene. After India, he is traveling to Russia as part of his tour of global powers.
Relationship between Turkey and Russia is warm and friendly again. Both parties exhibit their determination to increase the mutual trade between two countries to pre-crisis period caused by shooting down of a Russian fighter jet over Syrian-Turkish border by Turkey in November 2015.
Erdoğan and Putin explained their plans to further improve economic ties between the two countries.
Good relationship between Turkey and Russia is not welcomed in most of the Western capitals. Whenever the tension is strained between Moscow and Ankara, Western newspapers tend to appreciate in ovation.
It has been speculated that Russia secret service has been supporting Erdoğan against the risk of Gulenist Movement, a semi-clandestine organization that was behind the failed military attempt in July 2016. The leader of the movement is still in Pennsylvania, USA.
Turkey and Russia have managed to differentiate between problematic issues and cooperation fields. They have been striving to eliminate the negative effects of conflictual interests to hinder the subjects of cooperation.
Turkey and Russia are important trading partners. President Putin underlined that one third of the entire Russian tourists preferred Turkey in May.
The biggest disagreement subject between two countries is about future of Bashar al-Assad. Turkey wants Assad to leave and Russia has been backing him up. Leaders, however, emphasized that they are supporting Astana process. During the meeting, Turkey and Russia are expected to decrease their ideas about how Syria’s post-conflict future should look like.
Relations between Turkey and Russia should not be evaluated under the light of short term, daily and conjunctural events.
The export based Turkish economy is in need of diverse and multiple markets. In this case, Russian Federation and other former republics of the Soviet Union (who are under Russian influence) are among the prominent markets for Turkish manufacturers and exporters.
The population of Russian Federation is nearly equal to half of the population in Arab countries. The sum of the GDP in all Arab countries hardly reaches that of Russian Federation alone.
I have been in Russia for more than ten times and I had a chance to visit several cities in this country. There are many products that can be exported to Russia. Economically, Turkish Foreign Policy should take Russia seriously. It must be kept in mind that negative relations with Russia will have negative implication over Turkey’s relationship with (some of the) other ex-Soviet countries, who are under the influence of Russian Foreign Policy.
Clash of interest in minor, regional and local problems should not hinder the overall good relations approach towards Russia. Both Russia and Turkey should not risk their mutual relations.
Turkey has strong relations with Western countries and it is quite obvious and understandable that Turkey cannot follow antagonistic relations with the Western countries. Moreover, Westernization (or Westernism) has been one of the most important elements of Turkish Foreign Policy for the last 90 years. However, this reality does not necessarily have to force Turkey ignore “multidimensional foreign policy”.
Currently, there are some procedural difficulties in exportation of Turkish goods to Russia. Eliminating these obstacles will develop economic ties further and Turkish exports to Russia will boom. It can easily be claimed that in tourism, construction, textile, furniture, machinery, energy, services, and many others sectors Turkish exports to Russia is not even in the beginning stage. The economic potential that Russia is offering Turkey is beyond comprehension.
Russian Federation constitutes an important market for Turkey that has to be taken under a serious consideration.
In the last decade, Turkey has been increasing its international popularity by pursuing an active foreign policy. The shape, depth and type of policy between Turkey and Russian will not only have significant implications for regional and international balances, but also to the direction of Turkish foreign policy. In spite of the fact that Turkey and Russia have different standings on certain fields, they both tend to prevent the crisis affect other fields in mutual relationship.
It has been traditionally been said that Turkey’s direction is the “West”. Turkey’s modernization endeavors and Cold War dynamics played important role on this discourse. In today’s conditions, however, this one-dimensional approach has lost its validity. Turkey’s relative power has changed. Regional and global dynamics are not the same.
Should Turkey join the Eurasian Customs Union, founded between Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia?
Does rapprochement between Turkey and Russia necessarily mean a divergence from the West in general and USA in particular for Turkey?
What effect Turkey’s close ties with Russia will have on its relations with Europe?
What about Turkey’s relations with other Turks; both in Russia and other Turkish Republics? Cooperation or rivalry (and collision) will best serve Turkey’s cause towards improving its relations with other Turks in Asia?
With its vast mass of land, young population, big economy, rich natural resources… etc. Russian market constitutes a great opportunity for Turkey. Is there any serious reason for not improving our relations with Russia?
What should be the scope of mutual relationship?
The 2023 Vision declared by Justice and Development Party of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan requires Turkey to come up with brand new approaches in foreign policy. The instability and fluctuations in Middle East and the persisting economic crisis in Europe have explicitly demonstrated that Turkey should establish close relations with the former Soviet Union region. In the same way, cooperation with Turkey will have contributive results in Russian Federation’s economic, political and social development.
So; Turkish and Russian intellectuals, diplomats and politicians should elaborate possibilities of Turkish – Russian cooperation that will be for the benefit of these two nations and the region.
By Ahmed Necip YILDIRIM
(Originally published in Turkey Tribune)