Turkish Foreign Policy

How Does Turkey maintains its good relationship with Russia, despite of having much dissidence

Russian Turkey relations refer to the bilateral relationship between the Russian federation and Republic of Turkey and their predecessor states. Both states and nations have longstanding history from era of war to an era of where bilateral commerce relationship have strongly provoked by the leaders of both states, for the sake of improvement in each sector, nowadays. In my paper, i will mainly address early Turkish and soviet relations where the relations were tougher, to the republican era where main area of interest was based upon cooperation between two strong states of the region. Finally, i will consider touching upon recent regional based dissidences between Turkey and Russian federation on subjects such Crimea, Syria and many other and try to put applicable and valid reasons on where both states prefer to cooperate and enhance their trade volumes although there is much dissidence going on.
The early cooperation began with the Brest-Litovsk agreement that was signed between the Bolshevik government of Russia and the Central powers on March 3 1918, where Ottoman government was a part of the agreement. Russian leader Lenin, then viewed Turkish national movement under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal as positive and held a positive view then (Huntington, 2010). Moreover, it is noteworthy to emphasize that the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was the second state to formally recognize the Kremalist government of Turkey, in March, 1921. In the meantime, Moscow agreement was signed in March 1921 between the Lenin government and the Grand National Assembly of Turkey that is followed by on-going agreements that can improve bonds between two countries. Treaty of Moscow was followed by a similar treaty of Kars by Kremalists with Soviet Armenia, Soviet Azerbaijan and Soviet Georgia, which formed part of the Soviet Union. The first serious tensions in the Turkish-Soviet relations emerged during the negotiations that consequently led to signing of Montreoux Convention in 1936. In montreoux convention, Turkey regained possession over the Straits which allowed them to remilitarize. At the Potsdam conference, with the backing of the west Turkey prevailed over Russia on the issue of having Black Sea military powers in the straits. Truman doctrine as an important phenomenon in the history of international relations, kept countries such as Turkey and Greece non-communist unlike the Soviet Union countries (Ismael & Perry, 2013). In regard of that , one can claim there were always dissidence and different level of opinions among two countries; Russia and Turkey as it is applicable to today’s political environment just as past. Turkey then chose to be at the side of non-communist parties in favour of the United States, just as Turkey followed a different path from Russian federation in cases of Crimea and Syria in the recent period of time. Turkey and Soviet Union were in different camps in the Korean War and throughout the Cold War period.
Bilateral trade has for a long time given rise the Russian-Turkish relation due to their interdependence and their proximity to each other. It is believed that though the two nations are faced by challenges that threaten to loosen their friendship they have maintained a good relation. Turkey benefits a lot form the energy that is supplied from Russian natural gas that accounts to more than 60% of oil that is consumed in the country (Morell, 2012). This translates to saving a lot from the transportation costs if it is got from other nations that supply gas. They also benefit from the cheap supply due to the long term relation and also being the main customer within the region. Such economic ties make the two nations to have mutual benefits that strengthen their interdependence. This makes the two nations to experience a dramatic upswing in their friendship despite the misunderstandings that they experienced in their history.
Initially Crimea was a Russian territory until 1954 when Ukraine edged out of the Soviet Union. This region is home to an ethnic group known as Turkic Tatars who have a common bloody relationship with Turkish people. During 1940’s Turkic Tartars were brutalized and suffered mass deportations under the hands of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (Durham, 2014). That’s the reason why they have been so vocal in opposing the annexation of Crimea back to Russia. The Russo Turkish war of 1768-1774 which was won by Russia made it possible for them to sign a treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca declaring Crimea as their territory (Kuzio, 2007). It was until 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev placed that region under Ukrainian territorial borders. Ukraine attained their independence in 1991 and Crimea officially became part of Ukraine.
Crimea is one of the main factors under which Turkish-Russian relationship is based. It has been a central point of contention and Turkey has openly differed with Russia on some of the Russian military activities in that region. The Crimean crisis whereby Ukraine was caught in a power struggle with Russia presented Turkey with a dilemma due to reserved relations that they have with Russia. Turkey knows very well that Russia was wrong to invade territorial boundaries of an independent republic; however, they risked to lose trade relations from Russia if they adopt a hard-line stance in dealing with Moscow. It is important to note European countries and US imposed economic sanctions to Moscow after it annexed Crimea. On the other hand, Turkey made rhetorical statements against Russian military action in Ukraine without taking any substantial measure to force Russia out of Crimea. Turkish actions showed that they were deeply concerned about Ukraine, but were reluctant to risk a military confrontation with Russia (Madden, 2006). They always insisted on making emphasis about Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It was clear that Turkey was not ready to assume a more aggressive stance on dealing with Ukrainian crisis due to bilateral trade ties that they have with Russia.
Russian military incursion to Crimea was informed by what they termed as legitimate and necessary step to protect Ethnic Russians living in Crimean peninsula (Madden, 2006). Historical reasons on the ownership and control of Crimea may be one of the main reasons for its recent annexation, though Moscow denied such claims and purported to be protecting the interests of native Russians in the region. Despite all the historical struggles and fight between Russian and Turkey in controlling power in the Peninsula region, they both have put their interests aside and focused on promoting trade and economic ties which are of great benefit to both regional powers. Majority of people living in the Crimean peninsula are the Russian speaking people and Russia feels entitled to control the region as well as the resources. Crimea is strategically placed and can be a great window for Russian entry and relations with Eastern Europe. On the contrary Turkey has a history of defending their ethnic people wherever they are in the world be it in Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan or in Russia (Panibratov, 2013). For instance, the Turkic Tartas is an ethnic group that represents about 12% of Crimean population is the main reason Turkey opposes Russian Incursion in that region.
Turkey is a non EU member of NATO. In that regard, it is highly unlikely that USA and European Union could push Turkey into imposing sanctions on Russia regarding Ukraine crisis. So Turkey has felt little pressure from EU members. Turkey relies on EU primarily on military instruments and personnel rather than on Economic issues. It would not forego its economic its economic benefits that it enjoys from Russia. For instance, Turkish energy demands to a tune of 60% gets from Russia. These includes, oil, natural gas and power. It also receives Russian tourists who in 2014 were up to 14 million and that translates to about $40 billion increase in GDP (Madden, 2006). No European nation is in a better position to push Turkey in imposing sanctions on Russia because Russian has been one of their historical allies and both support each other economically to a level where each needs the other despite numerous geopolitical differences arising from power struggles in the region.
According to the Russian Central Bank statistics turkey is the leading trade partner in services, being the number one destination for Russian tourists. Turkey is endowed with beautiful beaches such as Aegean beaches that attract a big number of tourists from all over Europe and Asian continent. The foreign exchange that is got from the service trade enables the company to service the balance of trade for the country especially from its imports from Russia (Ismael & Perry, 2013). The two countries have organised for a visa free travels for their citizens allowing them to stay for more than two months. This increases the confidence of the investors in the service industry in that they are assured of their job security. EU and Turkey have also established a road map for visa free travels although it has not been completely finalised. This clearly depicts the level of confidence the two countries have to strengthen their relations and can never be willing to go against each other as a result of disagreements. They would therefore rather solve their issues amicably to salvage their benefits due to their over reliance to each other.
Russia is also more developed than Turkey and benefits from the contracts that its investors get from other countries with most of them coming from Turkey. The construction companies such as the real estate invest heavily from such opportunities that the Turkish government assigns to them. The Russian government also benefits more from the Turkish market for their Engineers than any other country in Asia and therefore the need to maintain their good relation. Russia being a superpower and having invested in education, a lot its citizens has very qualified civil engineers that it prides itself and are sourced to build infrastructure in Turkey.
The interdependence between the two economies has enabled the circulation of money that has spurred the development and circulation of knowledge and wealth. The support that each country gets from the other enables it to grow its economy through the investment in infrastructure further strengthening their ties. The cooperation between the two countries has also enabled them to defend themselves from the menace of terror groups such as ISIS in Middle East. This is because in case of an attack by an enemy each is available to offer a helping hand thereby protecting them from being controlled by their enemies.
When Russian government had invaded Crimea, the Turkish government was against but unlike other nations it was soft to Russia. Turkish government only voiced their views and never engaged to wars or sanctions unlike countries such as Ukraine. Turkey being home to approximately 5 million citizens of Crimean Tatar who had their ethnic heritage, but opted not to engage in violence. Russian involvement in Crimea also attracted a lot of attention from the western countries and resulted to sanctions as punishment. Russia reacted by banning the food stuffs that it used to import from Europe and instead Turkey supported them and supplied them with food stuffs despite taking different sides in Crimea. This clearly shows the unity that exists in the two countries despite the external forces that can be facing them. It therefore serves as a way of fighting control of other super powers such as US and other western countries as they oppressively does to smaller countries that depend on them.
The two governments meet to discuss on the various ways of improving their economic ties by several meetings of their respective countries presidents and cabinet ministers. Such meetings allow them to air their views and what they think should be done to stir up the economies such as that they can allow more investments. A good example of such meeting is the council meeting held in 2013 that increased the trade volume to $33 billion from $32.7 billion with a projection of reaching $100 billion in 2020 (Özdal, Özertem, Has, & Demirtepe, 2013). With such strategies being accomplished, it is unlikely for the two nations to stage wars against each other even in cases of disagreements arising from external forces. Russia, having most of it land arid and semi-arid depends on importing food stuffs and the safest it can get is from Turkey where there are no conditions. On the other hand Turkey has lesser oil and natural gas deposits and relies entirely on the imports from Russia since natural gas is the main source for power in its industries. This clearly shows how the two nations are interdependent on each other and they can never in any way strongly differ however a situation can be tough.
The two nations being united have been able to challenge the super powers such as Europe and US since they can entirely rely on their synergies in their resources. A good example is when Russia was sanctioned by Europe countries following the row with Ukraine over Crimea. Being stable nations, the sanctions did not affect Russia but instead they also banned their imports from Europe that had more adverse effects to them than in Russia. Russia also banned the use of dollar as the standard currency in their bilateral trade and started using their own currency. It further worsened the Europe countries that relied on the exports from Russia and turkey since the two nations united against the common enemy and shared their resources without adhering to any countries commands.
Following the 1936 Monteux convention that gave Turkey control over the straights that guarantees free passage of ships in peacetime, it also restricts the passage of ships not belonging to Black sea states. Russia not being one of the Black Sea states enjoys leniency from Turkey since it is a good ally to Turkey. Russia is therefore able to navigate to the Eastern Europe with its ships to transport its natural resources such as natural oil and gas without any restrictions from Turkey as long as they do not cross the red line (Ismael & Perry, 2013). This makes it clear that in case they are faced with any disagreements then the two countries can suffer a lot from their competitors and rivals. Both countries supplement each other by being the main market for the other’s goods and services.
The two countries cover a vast area and they are strategically positioned in the 3 continents. Russia is therefore forced to depend mainly on Turkey to get into either of the African or Europe using the shortest route. It is therefore rational for the two countries to maintain a good relation so that they can utilise their potential without being forced to look for other trading partners who at times will have conflict of interests. Turkey has also maintained the best relations with many of the Middle East and its neighbours like Ukraine and also shares a common origin. Russia benefits from the good relations created by its ally and so does Turkey from the many benefits it accrues from Russia. They are able to interlink and benefit much from their networks.
In the bid to accommodate the emerging economies, Turkey and Moscow have defined a policy to reform the International financial system. By incorporating the other smaller economies that are coming up, then it is obvious that the market for their products and access to raw materials in the smaller countries will be utilised. The emerging economies have little knowledge and they can provide manpower for the firms and companies in the two giant Nations. Their area of operation is thereby adjacent to each other and their success is dependent on how best they remain united. It is probably the basis of the target of $100 billion worth of trade in the year 2020 (Madden, 2006). This definitely marks a big step in their economies and the two can remain to have enormous influence over their neighbouring economic rivals and terrorists who have sabotaged economies of several countries in the Middle East.
Turkey has never been ready to align herself with European Union and United States in confronting Moscow for obvious reasons. It benefits more economically than any other state in the region. That was clearly seen in October 2013 when Turkish ambassador to Russia Yardim Umit made a declaration that his government would not impose sanctions on Kremlin if asked to do so by NATO allies (Hall, 2013). When European Union and USA declared to impose sanctions on Kremlin, Russia made retaliation by banning all European foodstuffs. That development lead to loss of business ties between Russia and Europe. Turkey moved in and increased their food exports to Russia and provided a remedy to the Russians. On that note, Russians also banned the use of dollars as the bilateral trading currency and opted to use their local currency for trade. This move was a show of might as well as a protest vote against The US and European Union powers.
The conduct of Turkey not to align herself with USA and NATO powers in isolating Moscow has made Russia to firmly believe that NATO is not unified as their leaders claim. Historically, Russia has been making efforts in exacerbating tensions among the members of the alliance. They have constantly used non provocative techniques to cause tensions and disunite NATO alliance and it has worked well for them. Russian foreign policies are aimed at creating unfavourable environment among allied forces and this strategy has seen Russia succeed in creating a formidable alliance with Turkey not only in creating an active diplomacy with them, but also in changing their perception of their interests and goals. The change of perception has made Turkey prefer their economic interests and their national goals against European Union’s military support. In that regard, Turkey has remained hesitant for a very long time to join the European Union despite its strategic location.
Russia sees Turkey as a key market to their goods and services especially in the energy sector. Moreover, they see Turkey as a strategic partner in counterterrorism due to its economic might and closeness to Middle East countries such as Syria and Iraq. Being a country dominated by Muslims, its religious closeness with Middle East countries makes them a great partner in applying diplomacy on some of underlying issues of terrorism in the region. United States and European Union prefer coercive counterterrorism measures which are widely disregarded by Kremlin. Kremlin sees US in roads to Middle East as a strategy to control the region. Being a second superpower, Russia adopts a different strategy to frustrate US counterterrorism strategies by portraying their as the best and the most effective way of dealing with global terror. Kremlin also sees terror as an US problem which should not be made a global problem by dragging each and every nation in fighting US wars. It is important to note that most of the terror activities in Middle East were initially done in protest of US invasion in those countries.
Moscow and Ankara differs entirely on some regional issues such as the civil war in Syria. While Turkey Is firmly opposed to Bashar al Assad’s brutal mistreatment of rebels, Moscow sees it as the only best way to deal with emerging extremism and radicalization in the Arab nation. The Russian involvement in Syrian crisis and their take on civil war in Syria is guided by their interests on the ground. Russia has a lot of strategic interests whereby their order of priorities inform their actions and policy. For instance, Russia has a long standing arms-trade relationship with Syria whereby Syria provides a huge market for Russian arms. In that regard, it is highly unlikely that Kremlin can support the regime change in Syria. They would continue to work with president Bashar al Assad since that promotes their business interests (Morell, 2012). On the other hand Turkey is a regional player and powerhouse who would want to see a secure region. Being a stable economy, Turkey promotes activities that would not interfere with their business interests. For instance, the tourism sector in Turkey is flourishing and it is under threat with the rise of ISIL terror network in Syria and Iraq. Civil war in Iraq and Syria would affect their trade relations with her neighbours. Turkey was firmly opposed to President Al Assad’s violent attacks on civilian rebels who were demanding a regime change. Turkey and Russia had differing opinions and take on this particular issue because each of them focused on business and national interests. However, this did not train the bilateral relations between the two due to one common bond which is trade.
There are several thousands of Russian people living in Syria. The people are married to Syrians and they form the Syria’s Orthodox Christian Community. Russia has good relations as well as the sympathy to the Orthodox Christians who live along the Black Sea and Mediterranean regions. Turkey adopted a different stand on this issue as they have hard-line stance on Orthodox Christians living both in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Turkish take on this group is informed by the fact that majority of their citizens are Muslims and the minority Christians are never allowed to control the Black Sea waters. Russian interest on this issue is informed by the fact that it seeks to protect the interests of their countrymen and women who are either married in those regions. However, their differences on Orthodox Christians still did not pose any threat to Russian Turkish relations although it strained them a little bit.
Some of the strong issues that keep them together is the fact that there is still a room for growth in terms of bilateral trade and bilateral relations. Turkish strategic location running across three different continents creates a synergy that appeals Russia. For instance the state owned Gazprom from Turkey and Russia’s energy relations and the presence of Black sea as a route to Eastern Europe strengthens their economic ties with Russia despite regional power differences that exist between them in history (Madden, 2006). Turkey appears to share some of the Russian financial perspectives and policies on the need to strengthen international financial systems so as to strengthen trade ties with small and emerging economies. Meanwhile, the Soviet’s dismissal of western capitalism and political influence in the regions goes well with the Turkish national interests as it stands to benefit from trade relations across the Balkan and Middle East region more than any other country (Panibratov, 2013).
In conclusion, Turkish relations with the Soviet Union and later the Republic of Russia have a historical background that dates almost two centuries ago. The points of relations are based on political power struggles in the region, bilateral trade relations as well as opposition to western influence and capitalism whereby the Soviet Union advocated for socialism and regional unity without necessarily seeking assistance from the West. Regional power struggles have created several differences of opinion between Turkey and Russia. For instance, the Incursion of Crimea by Russia where both countries have interests in their respective kinsmen. Syrian civil war also created differences which were economically based as Russian wants to trade with Syria while Turkey wants a stable region to promote their local investments such as tourism. With all the underlying differences in opinion and foreign policies between Turkey and Russia, their bilateral trade ties in Energy, food, Infrastructure and Tourism have held them together putting their Geopolitical differences aside for the sake of their respective national interests and goals

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