Mistakes in Turkey’s policy on Ukraine and Crimea

Mistakes in Turkey’s policy on Ukraine and Crimea

The Turkish TV Channel Ulusal Kanal’s program ‘News Room’ discussed the recent developments in the Black Sea. Experts discussed the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, the US support for the latter and evaluated on the consequences on Turkey and the countries of the region. The experts expressed the opinion that Washington uses the Ukrainian issue as an operation of attrition against Turkey and Russia.

Hosted by Emra Şen, the TV program welcomed the participation of Prof. Dr. Semih Koray, Deputy Chairman of Vatan Party, Turkish Air Force ret. Staff Colonel Ihsan Sefa, Prof. Dr. Sencer Imer from the Ufuk University, journalist and UWI expert Deniz Berktay and Hasan Cengiz, Chairman of the Eurasian Union of Municipalities.

The participants discussed the support that the US provides to Ukraine and evaluated the consequences of a possible NATO membership of the country on Turkey and neighboring countries.

“The Black Sea will turn into a NATO lake”

The Deputy Chairman of the Vatan Party, Prof. Dr. Semih Koray emphasized that an inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia into NATO would turn the Black Sea into a NATO lake.

Koray argued that if the Black Sea became a lake of NATO, then not only would Russia be surrounded from the south, but also Turkey from the north. He stated:

“This is actually not a conflict between the US and Russia but between the US and the rest of the whole world. This includes of course our region, and it affects here not only Russia and Turkey but also other regional countries such as Iran and Syria and actually all of Eurasia. It would be appropriate to evaluate the issue in that context.

We can clearly state the following: The inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia into NATO will turn the Black Sea into a lake dominated by NATO. This in turn will mean that Russia is surrounded from the south, and, at the same time, Turkey is surrounded from the north. Such a situation endangers all regional countries’ stability, peace and possibilities of economic development.

The destinies of the countries in our region are today as integrated and interconnected as maybe never in the history before. This is a very rare situation. In both, seeking a solution and determining the path Turkey should follow on this matter, one has to have this factor in mind.”

“We need to turn to a one-sided policy”

Turkish Air Force ret. Staff Colonel Ihsan Sefa made important statements in the program concerning the matter. Sefa elaborated which position Turkey should take facing the recent developments and said that a two-sided policy would lead to nowhere. Sefa argued that Turkey needed to head towards a one-sided, clear policy.

Arguing that the NATO countries would not want to include a problematic Ukraine, Sefa stated the following:

“They will not want to dare entering war with another country by including Ukraine into the NATO. Things being that way, in my opinion, Turkey needs to pursue a more active policy. What kind of a policy? Turkey should not support Ukraine’s membership in NATO, quite the opposite; it should actively contribute to solve problems between Ukraine and Russia.

Turkey has certain agreements with Ukraine, for instance in the defense sector. There is the cooperation concerning the engines of armed UAVs, which we could not receive from Canada, or the joint development of aircraft engines. For instance, concerning our national military aircraft project, we need the Ukrainian technology. Ukraine has an engine technology base inherited from the USSR. Turkey and Ukraine are at the edge of a wide cooperation agreement in these matters.

Moreover, ASELSAN, the company of the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation, is working on software contribution to Ukraine’s missile technology. They have developed a mid-range missile, and they are attempting to develop it further together with Turkey.

So, meanwhile there is such cooperation in the defense industry, it will maybe not welcomed very much if we take a stance against the Ukraine, but we should not spend efforts to include the Ukraine into the NATO.

And other countries anyhow will not want Ukraine’s membership. And we as Turkey should not repeatedly mention the Ukraine’s NATO membership and thus loose Russia’s confidence.

Turkey will get nowhere with a two-sided policy. We have to finally present our position and path clearly and win the confidence of our neighbors.

On the one side, we enter Syria and cooperate with Russia, on the other we turn to the Black Sea and side with Russia’s enemy. These are wrong policies. We have to pursue a one-sided policy, not a two-sided one.”

“The Ukraine issue is an operation aiming to attrition of Turkey and Russia”

Prof. Dr. Sencer Imer from the Ufuk University stated that the US intends to create hostility between Turkey and Russia, adding that Washington’s support for Ukraine aims to attrite Turkey and Russia.

Sencer stated that becoming Russia’s enemy is the absolute opposite to Turkey’s interests, and added the following:

“The US is acting in the long term, taking time and trying to achieve Russia’s implosion from within. And Washington says to Turkey: ‘You will take your place in this operation of mine, you will join me when surrounding Russia, and you will not enter any kind of cooperation with Russia. You will cut off TurkStream, and if you don’t, you will make sure that no gas flows through. You will immediately cancel the Turkish-Russian nuclear plant construction in Akkuyu, you will mothball the S-400, you will decrease your economic relations with Moscow.’ In short, Washington tries to create hostility between Ankara and Moscow, which is the absolute opposite of Turkey’s interests.

The Black Sea has become a sea of peace thanks to Atatürk and the Montreux Convention. Not even Hitler’s navy could pass through the Bosporus in the Second World War. Hence, the US also wants to cancel the Montreux Convention. For that purpose, it is mounting military in Greece and is pressuring Turkey to throw away the Montreux Convention. Even the Kanal Istanbul, the planned new seaway connecting the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea, might be interpreted in this context.

Hence, Turkey is under strong pressure. Turkey is in a difficult economic situation because of structural problems. Its exports are well below its imports. Exports achieve 150 billion US dollars, while imports mount to 250 billion. A rising debt, an accumulated foreign debt of approximately 450 billion dollars, and additionally 150 billion that comes with build-operate-transfer models. All in all, we have a debt that almost equals our national income. We have to escape this situation.

They are trying to use this weakness of Turkey: The inclusions of Turkey into the FATF grey list, the embargoes, all follow one another. In consequence, Turkey is somewhat weakened. Military spending stresses both Russia and Turkey economically in effect. This is very obvious. Hence, this is an operation of attrition targeting both Russia and Turkey. The Ukrainian issue is an operation that should be evaluated in this context.”

“The main threat to Turkey comes from the West”

The journalist Deniz Berktay stated that the conversion of the Black Sea into a NATO-controlled lake would be undesired from Turkey’s point of view and added the following:

“The conversion of the Black Sea into a NATO lake would be an undesired situation from Turkey’s point of view. The conversion of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus into seaways where everyone passes as it pleases him would be an unwanted situation for Turkey. Therefore, these developments concern Turkey directly.

There is a general strategy to surround Russia, which needs to be taken into consideration. Meanwhile, Turkish and Russian interests overlap in a wide range of issues. When we take a look at Turkey’s foreign policy, when we look at the threats the country is facing, then we see clearly that the real threats originates from the West.

Turkey and Russia’s interests may not coincide to 100%. I think there are some differences concerning the Ukraine. I think that Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity needs to be supported. The events in Crimea in 2014 and the loss of balance in Ukraine have led to some negative consequences from Turkey’s point of view. A pro-Western government has been established in the Ukraine, there were uprisings, and Russia has gained the Crimean peninsula on the other side. This has led to a change of balance in the Black Sea too much in favor of Russia.

Besides, almost no country in the world has recognized Russia’s annexation of Crimea. For instance, China has not recognized Crimea’s inclusion to Russia.

On the other side, the fact that NATO’s presence has increased here has also created an unwanted situation concerning Turkish interests. When we take a look at Turkish-Ukrainian relations and compare this with other Black Sea littoral NATO members, then we see clear differences in Ukraine’s policies.

“The US is in the phase of surrounding Turkey”

Chairman of the Eurasian Union of Municipalities pointed in the program to the importance of the Black Sea. Emphasizing that stopping the US fro entering the Black Sea is important for Turkey’s security, Cengiz said that the US is currently in the phase of surrounding Turkey, and added the following:

“The Black Sea is the only sea that the US navy cannot enter. This is very important for our security. The US is right now surrounding Turkey militarily.

But they are losing everywhere, they lost in Afghanistan, they lost in Karabakh, they lost in Syria. But we as Turkey have committed again a big mistake.

We need to leave the Crimea issue aside for a time. In 50 to 100 years, these matters will not be on the agenda, the recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will not be the debate then. The world is moving towards Eurasia. In such a time, we need to be very careful.”

Cengiz also elaborated on the NATO bases that threaten Turkey. He spoke on the Turkish government’s policy not to recognize the Crimean referendum and to support Ukraine’s membership to NATO. Cengiz said these policies and position contradicted the policy, which the Turkish government has started after 2014.

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May 2022