June 1, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9367

Russia Wary Of Polish Overtures To Turkey, But Expects Erdogan To Prioritize Turkish Interests

June 1, 2021
Russia, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 9367

Turkey has increasingly become a player in areas sensitive to Russia and countries with chequered relation with Moscow have been quick to take notice and seek to draw closer to Ankara to strengthen their position against Russia. This includes the purchase of Turkish arms most notably the Bayraktar combat droned that performed successfully in the recent Nagorno Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Ukraine's President Volodomyr Zelensky visited Turkey in April 2021[1], and in May, 2021, President Recep Tayip Erdogan of Turkey hosted his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda. The visit was highlighted by an arms sale agreement with Warsaw as Poland became the first NATO country to purchase Turkish drones. Erdogan in a joint press conference with Duda hailed the sale as evidence that in arms production " we've not only negated years of negligence but also carried our country to the league of giants in this field."[2]

This is not the only evidence of growing military ties between the two countries. During the press conference with Duda, Erdogan also announced that Turkish F-16 jets will "soon" be deployed to Poland as NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission designed to assure Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania against a Russian attack.[3] Poland, also under the NATO aegis has sent maritime patrol aircraft to Turkey's Incirlik airbase.

Regnum published an article by its Middle Eastern and Central Asian affairs expert Stanislav Tarasov and its Eastern European expert Stanislav Stremidlovsky assessing Poland's diplomatic offensive towards Turkey. They conclude that Duda, like Zelensky, wants to harness Turkey to serve Polish interests but although Poland is somewhat better endowed than Ukraine, it is still a minor league country, while Turkey is in the big leagues. Therefore Ankara will not allow itself to be used especially given the close relations between Erdogan and Vladimir Putin.

A translation of the article follows below:[4]

Polish President Andrzej Duda with his host, Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan (Source:

"On Monday, May 24, the President of Poland Andrzej Duda along with his wife will depart for a two-day visit to Turkey. By all accounts, this is not an ordinary event for Warsaw. On the previous day, the Polish Minister of National Defense Mariusz Blaszczak announced the purchase of 24 Turkish Bayraktar TB2 combat drones, which will be supplied 'without a tender', as part of the so-called 'urgent production needs.'

"Some Polish experts were puzzled and even criticized the ministry's decision. However, [this decision] derived not from military, but political necessity. Arms purchase is a trademark Polish technique, to which Poland resorts when it wants to emphasize the special importance of the exporting country.

"For example, in 2015, the Polish Civic Platform government was in power during the implementation of a contract with France for the supply of 50 EC725 Caracal helicopters; and subsequently the Law and Justice Government (PiS) was in power for the F-35 aircraft [contract] with the Americans.

"Therefore, for leading Polish orientalists, the reports concerning the supply of Bayraktar TB2 combat drones were an important (though not the first) signal about changes in Warsaw's strategic course towards Ankara. After all, a year ago, relations between the two countries were strained after Turkey stated that it intends to veto the adoption of a new NATO plan to protect Poland and the Baltic States, until support would be provided to Turkey in its operation against the Kurds.

"However, in September of 2020, Duda ordered the dispatch of a Polish military contingent to Turkey, which Warsaw had not done previously.  Meanwhile, Pavel Soloch, who heads the Polish President's National Security Bureau stated that, 'we responded positively to the recent appeal to NATO member-states from Turkey, regarding the deterioration of security at the Syrian-Turkish border.' With this statement, Soloch hinted at the 'Kurdish issue'.  After that, Warsaw started to provide political support to Turkey. [What's more] in a number of cases the support was provided not just to Ankara, but to the Ankara-Baku duo. In June of 2020, PiS deputy Ryszard Czarnecki founded and headed the EU-Turkey Friendship Group.

"During the second Karabakh war, experts from the Law and Justice party urged support for the Azerbaijani-Turkish alliance, formed against Armenia. Finally, this week, the PiS' European [Parliament] deputies at first abstained during the voting on a resolution to suspend negotiations on Turkey's accession to the EU, and then voted against the resolution calling on Azerbaijan to release the Armenian prisoners.

"The foreign-policy ideologues of the ruling Polish party are motivated by a Polish pivot towards Turkey with the intention of 'confronting Russia' and recall the 2009 forecasts made by the well-known geo-politician George Friedman, who predicted that Warsaw will replace Moscow in Eastern Europe, while Turkey replace it in Transcaucasia, the Volga region and Central Asia. But should one believe such forecasts?

"The noted Polish orientalist Witold Repetowicz believes that 'the Turkophile lobby, which has a strong influence on the government, came up with the Polish-Turkish alliance as a counterweight to the American-German rapprochement,' the 'Russian factor' here is used only as a cover. This is the first impetus. The second impetus might be the Warsaw's desire to force its way into the Black Sea region via Turkey, which can serve as a possible base for the Chinese One Belt One Road initiative. The latter will serve as an alternative project to the Russian route. Previously, bets were placed on Ukraine, but it is an unreliable partner and (as the former Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Viktor Muzhenko put it) might lose access to the Black and Azov Seas. "

Witold Repetowicz (Source:

"The question is, 'what does Ankara think about this?' Some Turkish experts immediately began to interpret Duda's visit to Turkey as an elaborate scheme. At the same time, they ruled out a scenario where the visit could be explained by regular trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, and focused on other factors.

"The Turkish Cumhuriyet newspaper pointed out that at the beginning of the year the Polish president created his own 'pocket foreign ministry', the Bureau of International Politics. [The article reads], "Duda has set the target of breaking free from the second or third division of world politics into the first, which includes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.' The publication draws attention to how anxiously the President of Poland acted after losing Washington's former support under the Trump presidency. Let's recall how in early February Duda openly ignored the warning from across the pond and participated in the '17 + 1' Initiative [China-CEE] summit via videoconference, at which the PRC chairman, Xi Jinping appeared for the first time. (The China-CEE initiative was introduced by Beijing in order to develop ties with Central and Eastern Europe). According to Turkish analysts, the Polish president is visiting Erdogan in the hope of boosting his political weight.

"Such a desire is quite understandable. But how is the president going to implement it? Krzysztof Szczerski, head of the Bureau of International Policy listed the topics of Duda's visit to Turkey. He said that 'issues of security and cooperation in the North Atlantic Alliance' will be discussed during the meeting, because 'the Polish and Turkish positions in their [respective] regions are very important for the entire alliance's security.'

"Is this statement regarding Turkey is true? We mentioned above, that Ankara previously opposed NATO's plan to defend Poland and the Baltic States. These days, the plans of the Defender Europe 2021 [military exercises] have demonstrated that NATO has shifted the focus of Russia's military deterrence from the western borders of our country to its southwestern flank, the Balkan region. Meanwhile, the scale of Turkey's involvement in NATO exercises is noticeably decreasing, regarding the Defender Europe 2021 [exercises] it can be said that the Turks are participating in these exercises on a purely formal basis. Szczerski also noted that the perspective (from Warsaw's point of view) is directed towards cooperation in the security field along the lines of Poland - Romania – Turkey and Poland - Ukraine – Turkey. Szczerski stated that, 'from our perspective, the issues of security in the southern part of the eastern NATO flank (i.e. the Black Sea region and the eastern Mediterranean Sea) are especially important.'

"However, Ankara is the strongest party in these areas, whereas Poland, Romania and Ukraine are 'second division' countries. Under certain conditions Turkey can use them in its own interests (Especially on the eve of the NATO summit in Brussels, in which US President Joe Biden will participate). Erdogan understands that Duda will want to speak at the summit on behalf of the proposed alliances. But the Turkish president can do that also.

After all, Poland, Romania and Ukraine's potential in the Black Sea is miniscule. They have no strong navy; they have virtually no transport aircraft, their intelligence and attack capabilities are very limited, despite all the investments in recent years. They want to secure US attention by using the Turks. But without the latter, or more precisely if Biden doesn't reach agreement on this then all the coalition plans will founder. Moreover, there are no indications that the Biden administration will actively support projects like the Three Seas Initiative[5]  promoted by Warsaw within NATO. And especially those that would allow the EU to assume further responsibility for its own defense. Whereas, Turkish foreign policy has recently attracted the attention of the entire world. Ankara plays in the 'top division' [of foreign policy] and is a major player from North Africa to the Caucasus. However, it has complicated relations with the EU, in particular, in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Meanwhile, Turkey's own stance towards Poland has an instrumental character and depends on the political situation, because Warsaw plays on the flanks and asserts itself against Berlin and Paris.  Who knows whether Washington too may have to be added [to the countries that have friction with Warsaw].

"Thus, Duda in Ankara may not only be sending out feelers regarding a tactical alliance between Turkey and Poland, but may also be expecting something more. Warsaw wants, as it happened before in its history, to jump over some checker squares in one go and become a king (while bypassing Moscow in the Turkish track). However, it will be very difficult for the Poles to use Erdogan. The Ukrainians e.g. the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, who met with his Turkish counterpart in April this year in Istanbul, have already tried to do this. By the way, [the supply of] Turkish Bayraktar combat drones were also discussed at this meeting. However, later Erdogan called Putin, and the two presidents 'again understood each other well.' So, Moscow may expect a similar gesture from Ankara following Duda's visit to Turkey."

Stanislav Stremidlovsky (Source:


[2], May 24, 2021.

[3], May 24, 2021.

[4], May 23.

[5] The Three Seas Initiative (Latin: trimarium) is designed to secure cooperation between 12 countries located between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas.

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