Ankara shows ambition
According to Russian media, on June 15 in the city of Shusha, which is considered a symbol of the Nagorny-Karabakh region that is currently under Azerbaijan’s control after the war last year, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his Turkish counterpart United States Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed the Shusha Joint Declaration on alliance relations.
President Aliyev said of this historic declaration: “This declaration elevates our relations to the highest level. Today we have created new connections of quality. And all points of this declaration are guarantees for our future cooperation.”
|Azerbaijani President I. Aliyev (right) and his Turkish counterpart T. Erdogan in Shusha on June 15|
President Aliyev called Turkey the country closest to Azerbaijan. According to him, the Shusha Declaration covers all areas of cooperation, including defense. The Azerbaijani leader believes that in the future the two countries will always stand side by side and will ensure each other’s security.
For his part, the Turkish President called for the normalization of relations with Armenia and proposed a form of six-party cooperation in the South Caucasus with the participation of Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Iran. Ergodan said: “I urge Yerevan to take advantage of cooperation opportunities in the region within the framework of the six-party platform. We will do everything in our power to normalize relations with Armenia.”
Russian analysts see this as a move to show Turkey’s growing ambitions for the Caucasus region, which has vital interests on the southern side of Russia.
During the Nagorny-Karabakh war that ended late last year, Azerbaijan, with Turkish support, gained control of many important territories, including the two important cities of Fizuli and Shusha. After the war, Azerbaijan and Turkey even held a military parade.
Recently, President Aliyev announced that Azerbaijan intends to create a “reduced model of the Turkish army” which he hails as one of the strongest forces in the world and second in NATO. Ankara and Baku also regularly conduct joint exercises, practice skills to destroy sabotage groups and conduct counter-terrorism operations.
|Turkey openly supports Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh war and is showing ambitions for the South Caucasus region|
Besides Azerbaijan, Turkey also strengthens ties with another country in the region, Georgia. In early June, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili paid a state visit to Ankara. After the talks, Mr. Edogan stated that Turkey considers Georgia the key to regional cooperation, expressing confidence that the two sides can work together to consolidate peace in the region.
The Turkish leader also announced his determination to hold a meeting of the Turkey-Georgia Strategic Council as soon as possible to discuss a wide range of bilateral and multilateral regional cooperation issues. In return, the Prime Minister of Georgia expressed hope that the two countries will be able to implement many joint projects and deepen cooperation.
Russian heavy blows
According to analysts, historically, Russia and Turkey have always been rivals in terms of geopolitics. However, the two countries have managed to build partnerships in Syria, Libya and Nagorny-Karabakh.
Turkey and the United States are allies in NATO but are at odds on many issues, including a contract to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense missile system, a move that led to the imposition of US sanctions. last year. The United States also backs the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units in Syria, preventing the extradition of cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of inciting the 2016 coup plot.
|Russian aircraft delivers equipment of the S-400 system to Turkey|
Turkish public opinion is also more friendly towards Russia than the US. A recent survey found that nearly 79% of respondents would rather Turkey cooperate with Russia than with the United States. When asked “do you think Turkey should cooperate with the US in the implementation of its foreign policy?”, 73% of survey respondents answered “No”.
In fact, Ankara is also playing a “two-sided” card with Moscow. In addition to intervening in the Caucasus, typically in relations with Azerbaijan and Georgia, Turkey is currently involved in Ukraine.
In April, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Istanbul and defense officials from the two countries discussed strengthening the “strategic partnership”. Ukraine is very interested in buying the Turkish-made Bayraktar drones, which played a key role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia last year. Kiev is said to want to deploy these planes to fight independence forces in Donbass, eastern Ukraine.
Before the moves of Turkey, Russia immediately took action to deter. Right during the visit of the President of Ukraine, Russia suspended flights to Turkish airports with the stated reason due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey.
|Bayraktar drones delivered by Turkey to Ukraine|
Facing the risk of loss of about 500 million USD from this Russian ban, Turkey had to “fight the fire” by inviting a Russian medical delegation to visit Turkey to review the safety measures applied. in the resorts of this country, and continues to petition Moscow to reconsider the ban.
In 2015, after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane in Syria, Russia retaliated by banning all imports of tomatoes from Turkey. Initially, analysts said that Russia’s response was “weak”, but the reality shows that the two-year ban has troubled Turkish tomato producers and Ankara has to de-escalate. sorry Moscow.
Recently, on June 18, the Kremlin said that Moscow is closely monitoring developments around the possibility of Turkey setting up a military base in Azerbaijan, a move that may force Russia to take steps. to ensure the security and interests of this country. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia is in close contact with Turkey, a member of NATO, on stabilizing the situation in the South Caucasus.