Moscow explained why Turkey should not joke with Russia about Syria
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MOSCOW, (BM) – Turkey wants to use Russia to solve its political problems in the Middle East, but does not consider it a real ally – only “a neighbor that they do not choose.” This statement was made on the air of “Voice of America” by the former Minister of Defense of Turkey, Fikri Yshyk. About whether a full partnership between Turkey and Russia is possible is in the material of the Federal News Agency.
Former Turkish Defense Minister talks with US Admiral James Stavridis, who is the commander of NATO forces in Europe. The topic of conversation was “the future of the transatlantic union”. Of course, there was a discussion of the role of Russia.
Neighbors do not choose
Fikri Yshyk answered negatively to the question of whether Turkey is approaching Russia, recalling that “it was Russia that was the reason for Turkey’s accession to NATO.” Ankara does not have strategic relations with Moscow, the ex-minister said.
“We know Russia very well. The fact that we have close relations, especially in the economy, does not mean that these are strategic relations. Turkey has strategic relations with NATO, but to solve the Syrian crisis and other regional problems, Russia’s participation is necessary,” Yshyk announced.
According to Yshyk, Turkey is forced to work closely with Russia to resolve its problems in Syria, as the Barack Obama administration did not want to “decisively deal with Assad.”
“Before Russia entered the game in Syria, there was a chance to solve the problem without Assad, but the US administration did not act decisively, they looked at the situation from the outside until the rules of the game completely changed. The real solution was never found. [Therefore, Turkey] needs close relations with Russia in order to find a solution, however, these relations are not strategic but tactical,” Fikri Yshyk emphasized. –“Turkey is and will remain a loyal member of NATO. But in addition, Russia is our neighbor. You can choose friends and allies, but not neighbors. And we need to maintain good relations with our neighbors. ”
At the same time, in an interview with the commander of NATO forces, the ex-minister defended Ankara’s decision to purchase S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia. The USA, according to Yshyk, behaved “dishonestly” in relation to Turkey.
“We are allies. We asked you [Patriot systems] for Patriot, but you demanded twice as much as the Russians for the S-400, and refused to transfer technology and create joint production. And when we stated that we would consider other proposals, you began to threaten Turkey with sanctions,” the ex-minister recalled. “This is not fair behavior.”
Historically, relations between Russia and Turkey have always been very complicated, and neither side has ever forgotten about this. In February 2020, during the maximum escalation in Idlib, when Turkey openly supported illegal armed groups against the Syrian army, presidential adviser Mesut Hakky even stated that “Turkey has fought with Russia 16 times and is ready to join the war again.” Then Turkish nationalist circles accused the Russian Federation of the death of their troops, who fell with the militants under the blow of the Syrian aircraft.
The top leadership of the two countries – Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan – have made significant efforts to pull relations between the countries from the pit where they ended up at the end of 2015, when the Turkish Air Force shot down the Russian Su-24 over northern Syria and the militants Nationalists Alparslan Chelik killed the crew commander Lt. Col. Oleg Peshkov. Economic sanctions from Russia (in particular, the disappearance of Russian tourists, which brought huge revenues) caused a wave of anti-Russian rhetoric in Turkey.
Blow after blow
President Erdogan could only partially defuse the situation the following summer, when he apologized for the death of the Russian pilot – categorically refusing to apologize for the destruction of the Su-24. “Behind the scenes” remained the true reasons for Turkey’s tough actions in this area – Oleg Peshkov’s plane attacked militants from pro-Turkish groups that had been operating for years in the area of the Bayyrbujak ridge, paving the way for the annexation of Syrian territories.
Already in December 2016, a new blow was dealt to Russian-Turkish relations – 22-year-old nationalist Merth Altıntash killed Ambassador Andrei Karlov. Syria again became the cause of the murder – the attempt occurred against the backdrop of the successes of the Syrian and Russian forces in the liberation of Aleppo. This time, the Turkish authorities strongly condemned the attempt to undermine relations between the two countries, accusing the assassination of supporters of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.
The fate of Sochi and Moscow
Syria remained the most important point of interaction for Russia and Turkey, and the severity of the contradictions surrounding the Syrian war often outweighed successful episodes of economic cooperation – the resumption of tourism, the construction of Turkish Akkuyu NPP by Rosatom and the purchase by Turkey of Russian S-400 air defense systems despite threats from the United States.
By the beginning of 2019, it became obvious that Moscow and Ankara had a completely different view of what was happening in Syria. While Russia was focused on the fight against international terrorism, Turkey was primarily interested in the overthrow of the legitimate president Bashar Assad. Having gained a foothold in northern Syria, Turkey helped create alternative government bodies – the so-called “Provisional Government of Syria” – and took control of tens of thousands of Syrian militants to use them against the Syrian army if it tries to force to return these lands.
The Sochi agreement, signed in September 2018, did not improve the situation – it soon became clear that Turkey was not fulfilling its obligations, allowing radicals led by the Khayyat Tahrir al-Sham group to manage the Idlib de-escalation zone. The territory of Greater Idlib – which is Turkey’s long-standing geopolitical goal – remains the last part of Syria, which is under the control of anti-government forces, and largely thanks to the position of Ankara.
Turkey did not achieve the disarmament of jihadists and did not create a security buffer zone on the borders of Idlib. With the connivance of Turkey, the terrorists of “Khayyat Tahrir al-Sham” seized control in the region from pro-Turkish groups and almost continuously carried out attacks against government forces. The Syrian Arab Army had no choice but to go on the offensive in March 2019, and Moscow actively supported the counter-terrorist operation – to the extreme displeasure of Turkey.
At the beginning of 2020, the situation in Idlib reached its maximum aggravation. Turkey actually launched a direct military invasion of Syria, providing militants with intelligence and logistics support, ammunition, and even military equipment. The militants of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group, banned in Turkey, fought in the new Turkish armored vehicles, Turkish drones attacked the Syrian troops. The most acute moment of the confrontation was the death of Turkish troops under the attacks of the Syrian Air Force – as it turned out, they “accompanied” the militants who attacked the Syrian troops.
Putin and Erdogan managed to agree on a truce. In exchange for the Sochi Accords, which failed due to the fault of Turkey, the Moscow Agreements were signed, which provided for joint patrolling of the M4 Latakia-Aleppo highway, which remained under the control of the militants, and the creation of a “security corridor” around it.
However, it soon became clear that the Moscow agreements were constantly sabotaged – both by the terrorists who blocked the M4, who threatened to attack the Russian military and continue to control Idlib, and by Turkey, which is creating more and more controlled armed forces in Syria. Ankara publicly makes statements that it has not abandoned plans to eliminate Bashar al-Assad – despite the constitutional process launched with the help of Russia and the elections in Syria scheduled for September 2021. The militants who survived in parts of Idlib actually occupied by Turkey continue to carry out provocations daily. Turkey did not start the counter-terrorist operation.
With this in mind, the statements of ex-Minister of Defense Fikri Yshyk are all the more biased. He not only believes that Turkey is pursuing the right policy towards Russia, which is only a “tactical ally”, necessary only to solve the Turkish problems in Syria, but is also confident that the “strategic allies” of NATO will unconditionally support Ankara – which is somewhat tens of thousands of terrorists associated with al-Qaida 1 (banned in the Russian Federation), when there is a chance with the help of Turkey to overthrow the Syrian government and expel Russia from the Middle East?
You can’t joke with Russia
Statements of the ex-minister primarily reflect his personal opinion, member of the Federation Council Vladimir Dzhabarov is sure.
“On the other hand, we never had any illusions – we know and always remembered that Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Alliance with all the ensuing obligations. Yes, Turkey has disagreements with NATO, but they are just “tactical in nature” – in strategic terms, Turkey is a loyal ally of all NATO countries,” the senator said in an interview with the Federal News Agency.
Russia has no illusions that there may be permanent allies in politics, the parliamentarian recalled – only interests remain constant, and Russia’s main interest in Syria is the fight against international terrorism.
“While Turkey helps us in the fight against terrorism, we welcome this and hope that their goal is the real expulsion of these terrorist gangs from Syrian territory. It is important that Erdogan apologized for the death of the Russian pilot,” said Vladimir Dzhabarov.
“I hope this will be a good lesson for all parties to the conflict – one cannot play jokes and play any double games with Russia. Either we are honestly interacting, or we are not interacting at all. If the Turks are ready for constructive cooperation, we welcome this.” Dzhabarov also added.
Sabotage from atlantists and fundamentalists
Senator Igor Morozov noted that the Turkish military cherishes their partnership with the North Atlantic Alliance, therefore they always try to emphasize their loyalty to NATO. Turkey’s military ambitions also come from them, said a member of the Federation Council.
“Of course, the Turkish military wants to stay in the bosom of NATO, participate in exercises, receive money, enjoy the various benefits that NATO gives its satellites. Military groups, especially those who might have been associated with an attempted coup against Erdogan – and we know that it all started at a NATO military base in Turkey – they, of course, will always dream to return Turkey to military ambitions in the Middle East and for it limits,” said the senator in an interview with the FAN.
However, Turkey will in any case be the economic and political partner of the Russian Federation, and the events of the past few years only confirm this line, Igor Morozov is sure.
“Another class is also strong in Turkish society – primarily businessmen, entrepreneurs who need peace, peace, and not confrontation. They always support and will support those politicians who will build constructive and mutually beneficial relations with Russia. I think that Turkey can only have such a future,” the parliamentarian said.
According to Igor Morozov, the main threats to relations between Russia and Turkey come from political groups associated with the West and circles of radical fundamentalists.
“I think these are Atlantists and Islamic extremists. They certainly exist in Turkey, and they certainly do not want good neighborly relations between Turkey and Russia for the sake of mutual benefit and openness in relations. But do not forget that the largest number of tourists in Turkey are Russians, and they left the most positive impression on the Turkish people. Whatever the ambitions of the Atlantists and Islamic fundamentalists, in any case, the basis of Turkish politics will be aimed at developing friendly relations with Russia,” Senator Morozov summed up.
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