Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Turkey's Pro Russian Polarity

In granting Gazprom the right to lay South Stream through Turkey's economic zone in the Black Sea, Ankara has taken its latest step in reversing a centuries' old policy of opposing Russian expansion.  The Ottoman Empire fought the Russian Empire twelve times in the 19th Century, and the Republic of Turkey was a major NATO member throughout the 20th Century.  Now, however, despite its continuing NATO membership, Turkey is realigning itself with its Northern neighbor.

In January 2012, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.  The two held the second Joint Strategic Planning group meeting, in which members of the Russian and Turkish foreign ministries met to align their policies.  Lavrov expressed his view that bilateral relations between the countries were developing in a constructive and confident environment.  He also opined that the two countries could devise solutions to every problem.

Davutoglu was even more enthusiastic.  Noting that relations had moved from routine to one that included joint strategic planning, the Turkish Foreign Minister described the relationship as a "paradigmatic change" for the country.

Part of the willingness to support Russia is ideological:  Turkey has strained relations with America's ally Israel; it opposed the US invasion of Iraq; it does not support a military solution to the Iranian nuclear question.  More importantly, however, is Turkey's reliance on Russia as a source of energy.  Turkey imports almost 80% of the fossil fuels it consumes, and about 50% of that oil and gas comes from Russia.  According to energy analyst Emre Isleri, this means that Turkey has been acting against its own national interests by not diversifying its sources of energy.  The result is that Turkey has restricted its foreign policy options with over-dependency.  "This means you cannot act against Russian interests in your neighborhood.  For instance, you cannot solve the Nagorno-Karabagh issue, and you will have limited say on the future of Syria, Cyprus, Armenian genocide allegations, etc."