In an article titled "Erdogan Bets on Independence", Timofei Bordachev, program director of the Valdai Discussion Club think tank, and a professor at the Higher School of Economics, praised Turkey's President Recep Erdogan for his independent foreign policy that is guided by his country's national interests. Bordachev acknowledges that Erdogan is a tough customer, who is massively supplying Ukraine with arms, but he is predictable and a modus vivendi can be worked out with him. In return, Turkey has not signed on to the anti-Russian sanctions regime, and Russian tourists and businessmen remain welcome in Turkey. Bordachev seeks to stiffen Turkey's resolve to block quick acceptance of Sweden and Finland into NATO in the hope that Turkey's demands on the two Scandinavian countries will prove an insurmountable obstacle to their joining the alliance.
Bordachev's article follows below:
Turkey opposes fast-tracking Swedish and Finnish NATO membership (Source: Novoeizdanie.com)
"In order to understand the nature of contemporary Russo-Turkish relations, it’s necessary to understand how rare a commodity in the contemporary world is a small or medium-sized country's ability to make independent foreign policy decisions.
"Turkey under President Erdogan is by no means a convenient or easy partner. Furthermore, over the recent years there have been situations between Moscow and Ankara when military or diplomatic blood has been spilled. Each time we were able to stop on the verge of a clash, which was followed by an exchange of views between the leaders, and bilateral relations returned to a relatively stable path. This will also be the case in the case of an emergence of a new private conflict. We should have no doubts that Ankara can create a pretext for it.
"But today’s Turkey is now one of those rare cases, in which we are sure that when are negotiating with that state, we are conducting a dialogue with a partner and not with a puppet, whose strings are pulled by a more powerful rival from across the ocean. Against the overall background, this is such an indisputable advantage that it makes it possible to figure the costs of [negotiating with such a partner] from a position of cold-blooded diplomacy. Or, as the head of the Russian state put it a couple of years ago, “it makes working not simply pleasant, but also reliable.” And this is not just about bilateral trade, although that matters as well.
"In fact, the essence of Turkey’s position in international politics is precisely in its independence. There are actually a few countries in the world that make decisions based on their own interests. As a rule, these are the major powers, and not all of them. China, India, a couple of Asian countries. Even Saudi Arabia, though it is behaving more and more confidently towards the US, acts with a careful eye toward Washington. In the former Soviet Union space, only Uzbekistan can pursue such a policy to the full extent, thanks to the partial autarky established during the first decades of independence.
"There are no such states in Latin America, and although Brazil is a member of BRICS, it still cannot seriously cross the US or even Europe. Under the pressure of military-strategic circumstances, as well as their own ambitions, even such developed states as Japan impeccably fulfills all Washington's wishes.
"What is interesting, is that Turkey’s participation in NATO, is not, as we see, an obstacle to independent behavior. In fact, many in the US would like to get rid of such an ally. However, it’s not an easy thing to do. To formally banish the country from the bloc is a very difficult task, as it would deliver a blow to the bloc’s reputation, to the US' ability to remain the leader of the most developed states, and would deprive NATO of Turkish bayonets in case of a really tragic turn of events in relations with China and Russia.
"Therefore, the US tolerates Turkey and its decisive leader relying on the hope that his departure [from the presidential office] will sooner or later return this country to the stable of Washington's reliable allies. But whether such a comfortable situation for the US will be realized is entirely unknown. Turkey, as other countries, experiences a change of political generations, and the new leaders may be even more nationalist than Erdogan himself.
"As a result, against a backdrop of almost absolute control, which the US demonstrates vis a vis all of its formal and informal allies, Turkey's conduct is truly outstanding. This country, although a NATO member-state, didn’t join the sanctions against Russia, didn’t close its airspace for Russian planes. Turkish banks started to actively accept the credit cards of our national payment system, while their business is actively cooperating with partners in Russia.
"Moreover, shortly after the conflict around Ukraine entered a hot phase, Ankara in the most categorical form used the right to manage the Black Sea straits during hostilities, granted it by the Montreux Convention. As of now, the Turkish side has closed the passage through the straits to all military vessels. In this regard, as the head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry put it yesterday, the country postponed several military exercises of NATO member-states in the Black Sea. As a result, the country, which massively supplies arms to Ukraine, appears practically the epitome of restraint.
"Another manifestation of Turkish independence is the recently demonstrated ability to take a principled stand on an issue that really matters to it. It’s precisely Ankara’s demands that in recent weeks posed an obstacle to Sweden’s and Finland’s rush into NATO after receiving a speedy invitation to join the alliance. On May 29, President Erdogan even claimed that as long as he remains the head of the Turkish state, Ankara “couldn’t say “yes” to the accession of countries supporting terror to the bloc. The issue of Kurdish organizations operating in those countries, Stockholm’s and Helsinki’s refusal to extradite their members wanted for terrorism to Turkey, as well as restrictions on the supply of arms to Turkey from those countries became a stumbling block.
"So far, Ankara’s stance remains firm, and it would be imprudent to regard Erdogan’s conduct purely as a trading [maneuver] in pursuit of some specific material benefits from the US and Europeans. Most likely, he wants both, i.e., to obtain economic or military and technological gains and, at the same time, to force Sweden and Finland to make political concessions. And such concessions should turn out to be very significant; they will affect these countries’ sovereignty and their right to live by their own rules, as it’s about alterations of the domestic.
"For Turkey, the existence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Scandinavian countries is in fact a matter of principle, because for decades this organization has been engaged in an armed conflict against the Turkish state. Erdogan cannot back down in this regard, as it would mean too much to his political reputation. The Turkish people’s self-esteem will be damaged, should the president make concessions for economic gain. This will devaluate much of the president’s foreign policy achievements and rhetoric.
"Erdogan’s recent accusation of the Scandinavians of insincerity is also very much a statement of fact. It seems to me that the proud representatives of Northern Europe couldn’t have imagined that their entry into the Western military bloc would encounter an obstacle in the form of Turkey, for whose people they feel nothing but racial superiority. Ankara’s stance came as an unpleasant surprise to them also for the reason that the political elites of both countries were convinced that their accession to NATO was part of Washington’s global plan, according to which, Stockholm and Helsinki in such a way would swear allegiance [to the West] in the fight against Russia. Now the realization of all these optimistic plans may, if not fall by the wayside, get held up, due to Turkey’s independence.
"The stable state of Russo-Turkish relations amid our acute conflict with the West and the unpleasant 'bummer' that Sweden and Finland encountered, are a product of Turkey’s special status in the modern world. In fact, dealing with Ankara under President Erdogan is not that difficult. One simply has to objectively assess the country's own interests and understand that it acts according to them. In other words, Turkey is now a rather unique country precisely because it’s a normal country, in terms of traditional notions on the meaning and content of a state’s foreign policy.
"We may or may not like Erdogan’s conduct in each particular case, but it’s rational. And by this characteristic it undoubtedly stands out against the multitude of countries that can be sacrificed to the unrealistic illusions, ambitions, or adventurism of random leaders."
Timofei Bordachev (Source: Eadaily.com)
 Vz.ru, June 1, 2022.