Deblockade of ports and Ukrainian grain: an interview with an expert about Erdogan's game and the US position


Deblockade of ports and Ukrainian grain: an interview with an expert about Erdogan's game and the US position

Pragmatic Turkey and the interests of major players: an interview with an expert/Collage of Channel 24 site

Pragmatism in Turkish foreign policy against the backdrop of Russia's open war against Ukraine continues to dominate. Ankara is constantly trying to pursue a policy of balancing with a pronounced emphasis on its own interests.

What is the issue of export of domestic grain being solved and what is the role of Turkey in this process, why does Erdogan need a new Syrian aggravation, what are the prospects for the Turkic union and whether Ankara will be able to become a full-fledged arbiter at the table of future negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow – an expert from the Ukrainian Institute told the Diplomacy Channel 24 website exclusively future Iliya Kus.

Ankara's position

Ankara has taken a very pragmatic position in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict and is trying in every possible way to maintain a balance between Kyiv and Moscow based on their own interests. In the first phases of the war, Erdogan tried to play the role of a mediator in a peaceful settlement – it did not work out. How effective are further attempts?

For three months, Turkey has demonstrated that their main goal is to get the most out of this situation:

  • Firstly, to maintain the position in the region and in the international arena that they have achieved in recent years.
  • Second, bail out something new and get stronger.

Turkey seeks to strengthen its status as one of the leaders in the region, to expand its trade expansion, including through companies leaving the Russian market. They are trying to maintain close relations with Europe, Ukraine and Russia through their mediation in this conflict, because of which, in fact, they have an argument about not joining the anti-Russian sanctions. In the context of Turkey's interests, Ukraine is actually of secondary importance, as they are guided by certain two reasons to achieve their goals.

The Turkish edition of Milliyet, citing the words of the Minister of Agriculture of Turkey Vakhit Kirisci, reported that the Turks want to buy Ukrainian grain with a discount of at least 25% – is this a story about profitable earnings on intermediary?

The situation currently looks vague, because there is simply not enough public information. From what I understand, they plan to export grain from Odessa through a certain green corridor, which will be accompanied by Turkish ships. At some stage, they may be replaced by Russian ships or not – this aspect remains to be discussed. I oppose this.

In any case, ships with grain will have to be escorted to the Bosphorus, and then they will have free access to world markets. For me, this is exactly how it looks. The only thing that remains unclear is the question of the discount.

One more question: who will clear mines in Odessa and should it be done at all, taking into account the security situation? Our authorities have justified concerns about the fact that demining could potentially weaken the defense capability of Odessa. And again, there must be some party that is trusted – it's either Turkey or the UN, in my opinion.

Deblockade of ports and Ukrainian grain: an interview with an expert about Erdogan's game and the position of the United States 

<p><em><strong>Has Turkey received a green light from the US to participate in this?</strong></em></p>
<p>Perhaps, but it is difficult for me to assess the potential for playing together between Ankara and Washington, because their relations are far from being in the best condition right now , and during the war they rather worsened. I'm leaning towards the fact that this is a Turkish game with minimal US influence. The Americans are not against Turkish mediation, they simply do not have alternative partners in the Black Sea in terms of their combined capabilities.</p>
<p class=A purely situational game that the United States agrees to because they cannot do anything else. But Turkey is playing this to stabilize relations with the West. They seek to remove restrictions from their own military-industrial complex and obtain the actual status of one of the poles of power in NATO, and not one of the members. This is what Erdogan wants, but he is not given.

I see more prospects in the UK-Turkey link. But the information about the huge influence of Britain on Turkey is somewhat exaggerated by the British.

Turkey's demands regarding Sweden and Finland

Turkey is expanding the export opportunities of its military-industrial complex. This is an important component of trading with Sweden and Finland: will they be able to agree? There is already information about the purchases of Bayraktar by the Kyrgyz and Kazakhs. There were even separate stuffing of a new potential buyer – Russia. Will Erdogan sell weapons to Moscow under these conditions?

I don't think it's relevant at all. Russia has its own drones that compete with Turkish ones. Russia really doesn't need it. The fact that the Turks make a business out of this is a fact, but in this aspect it looks unlikely for a number of reasons.

There have already been many statements from the Swedes that they are ready to go for compromises and agreements. The most difficult thing will be on the Kurdish issue, because the Turks demand not just any statements, they seek to close all offices, organizations, media.

In Stockholm, I personally know several sites and institutions of the opposition segment, which are quite hard-lined against the Turkish authorities. I don't see how Swedish or Finnish politicians can even theoretically make concessions to Turkey, avoiding a sharp reaction from within. They are afraid that their own public will not understand them and will start protesting. This is contrary to their core values, and they pay a lot of attention to values.

Deblockade of ports and Ukrainian grain: an interview with an expert about Erdogan's game and the US position

Erdogan plays his game/Photo by Getty Images

Situation in Syria

Ankara's next escalation in Syria. Is this an attempt to completely oust Russia or an attempt to gain an additional trump card in negotiations with Washington and Brussels?

For Turkey, this is not a closed gestalt. Erdogan has been talking about a 30-kilometer buffer zone since 2018. Why would they create this zone? Thus, they plan to solve several problems at once:

  • They are cementing their positions in Syria for any post-war settlement. They completely control the occupied territories of Syria, introduced their own currency and management model there. There, their fighters, who can always be reintegrated into the Syrian Armed Forces as part of a broader political settlement, is a scheme of quasi-republics in the Donbas in its purest form.
  • Potential resettlement area for Syrian refugees from Turkey. Erdogan has publicly stated that he wants to return about 1.5 million refugees.

The key question that has always arisen for refugees: where to resettle them? For the most part, they do not want to return to the territories controlled by Damascus, and Turkey does not want to allow this either, because then it will lose a huge lever of influence. These are people who lived in Turkey for many years, learned their language, received social benefits – they went through, in general, a certain assimilation.

They can be loyal to Turkey. For them, this is an opportunity to resettle them in the north of Syria, where the Kurds live compactly. It will also solve the problem of refugees in Turkey, because the 3.5 million Syrian refugees have created very serious problems in the labor market.

  • Increasing Erdogan's personal rating. Every time Turkey launched a military operation in Syria, some kind of electoral processes took place inside the country. Referendums or elections in which the authorities got the desired result.

I am more than sure that this operation is used to strengthen Erdogan's position before the presidential elections in 2023, because from the point of view of the economy, Turkey is a very difficult period. The authorities are afraid of the consolidated actions of the opposition, which has already formed a conditional front of six parties. If the opposition politicians manage to agree on the nomination of one presidential candidate, then the current government will have serious problems.

  • Map for bidding. A new trading format between the US and Russia. Turkey is negotiating with both players on the zone of its own operation. Judging by Lavrov's statements, Russia is pushing the Turks to conduct an operation in areas closer to the American zone of influence. The Americans will do the same.

How promising is the topic of the so-called Turkic Union between Turkey, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan?

< p> Potentially yes, but, it seems to me, it about medium-term prospects. I cannot say now that they have enough opportunities to activate this alliance. The January story with Russia's intervention in the Kazakh crisis confirmed that Russia remains the key player in Kazakhstan. The fact that the Turks will strengthen their positions in Central Asia is beyond doubt, but this will be extended over time. Much will depend on whether Turkey emerges from the Russian-Ukrainian war as one of the winners and what kind of victory this will be for them.

Leave a Reply