"...Why Turkey Aims for 'Zero Problems' With Russia's War in Syria
Posted: 10/09/2015 9:47 am EDT Updated: 10/09/2015 2:59 pm EDT
Assistant professor at Marmara University; Author
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ISTANBUL -- Russia's intervention into Syria shines a light onto the stark contrast between Ankara and Moscow on what to do about the Syria conflict. Since the outbreak of the Arab Uprisings in 2011, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been the most dependable ally of the Assad regime in Syria. President Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, on the other hand, has incessantly called for the overthrow of the Damascus government. While Erdoğan has made a concerted effort to organize and arm the jihadis fighting Assad, Putin has categorically referred to all such groups, even those backed by Turkey, as "terrorists."
For the past three years, Ankara has been demanding a safe zone in northern Syria where oppositional forces can regroup, as well as a no-fly zone to protect them from Assad. The apparent goal behind this plan was to allow the West's and Turkey's Syrian protégés to conquer Aleppo (Syria's largest city) and eventually take Damascus as well. Putin's latest maneuver, however, has rendered such schemes completely impractical. Its deployment of surface-to-air missiles and air-to-air combat fighters is an obvious warning to Turkey. Unlike the air force-less Islamic State and Syrian opposition, Turkey has, in the past, downed a Syrian fighter jet and Syrian helicopters. Turkey's inaction following incursions by Russian fighter jets into its airspace must be judged in this light.
Yet while Erdoğan is an outspoken politician who rarely hesitates to criticize the EU, the U.S., and Israel, he has been -- comparatively -- mild in his rhetoric towards Russia. At no point over the past four years has Erdoğan issued a harsh reproof of Putin, not even after Russia's recent aerial bombardments, about which Erdoğan merely expressed his "regret and dismay." To grasp Erdoğan's seemingly contradictory stance towards Putin requires some knowledge of the system of crony capitalism that has sprung up and flourished -- particularly in the energy and construction sectors -- in both Turkey and Russia.
Russia is, by a wide margin, the world's largest exporter of natural gas, some $73 billion worth in 2013. Turkey is the second-biggest purchaser of this gas and has one of the highest rates of dependence, relying on Russia for 57 percent of its own natural gas. Earlier this year, to everyone's surprise, Erdoğan awarded a bid for the $20 billion Akkuyu nuclear power plant (intended to reduce his country's energy dependence on natural gas) to Russia. In 2014, the volume of trade between the two nations totaled $31 billion.
While Russia's exports to Turkey amounted to $25 billion, Turkey's exports to Russia came to only $6 billion. With a balance of trade unfavorable to Turkey, and Turkish dependence on Russia for the bulk of its natural gas, Erdoğan's decision to grant the nuclear power plant bid to Russia would be inexplicable were it not for the fact that his business cronies have invested billions of dollars in Russia, particularly in construction.
Reciprocal investment is not the only tie between modern Turkey and Russia: they increasingly have begun to resemble one another...." etc etc
Saturday, October 3, 2015
Mr. Blondet, Saudi Arabia is only the name of the beach where Putin's boots get wet.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
Correction: Putin will NOT visit Turkey on 15 Oct: he is ALREADY leader of the "Turkish Intifada"