“Old friends and foes move toward deepening strategic cooperation
By LALE KEMAL
Even during the Cold War, Turkey and Russia, members of two different blocs (NATO and the Warsaw Pact), managed to maintain relatively good relations. Setting up an iron and steel factory in the southern city of İskenderun with Soviet support, Turkey became the second non-communist country after India to cooperate with the former Soviet Union.
Since the demise of the Soviet Union almost 20 years ago, Turkish-Russian relations have been growing considerably and include military procurement cooperation. Ankara struck a deal with Moscow soon after the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, buying armored vehicles as well as a number of Mi-17 helicopters. At the time, this marked Turkey as the first NATO member to buy arms from a former foe.
The two countries also signed a military cooperation agreement while enjoying close ties in the Black Sea through the Blackseafor naval exercises, conducted along with other littoral states of this strategic sea.
Russia, together with Iran, is the major supplier of gas to Turkey. Ankara and Moscow strengthened ties through the Blue Stream natural gas pipeline project, which carries Russian gas via the Black Sea to Turkey. There are also plans to build a twin pipeline. Turkish businessmen are involved in major construction work in Russia. The southern coastal town of Antalya has become one of the major resort towns for about 3 million Russian tourists visiting Turkey. Trade volume between Turkey and Russia, which stood at around $38 billion in 2008, is expected to reach $100 billion in the coming five years.
Turkey and Russia sealed a deal yesterday to build a nuclear power plant in Mersin’s Akkuyu district in southern Turkey, marking a deepening of strategic cooperation. Turkish-Russian relations have gone beyond neighborly ties and moved toward developing strategic cooperation, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said last Tuesday while in Ankara.
The US, which seeks to take part in the second phase of Turkey’s nuclear power plant project, planned to be built in the Black Sea region, is speculated to have been endorsing increased cooperation between Turkey and Russia at a time when US President Barack Obama forged a close relationship with Moscow in his endeavor to build a nuclear-free world.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül yesterday signed around 25 cooperative agreements with visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, including an accord on eliminating visa requirements between the two countries as well as one on security cooperation that envisages, among other things, combating drug trafficking.
Professor Baskın Oran, an expert on international politics, recently accompanied Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to Oxford for a conference and stressed in an article that appeared in the Radikal daily’s Radikal İki supplement on Sunday, that Davutoğlu had been building a relative autonomy in Turkish foreign policy.
This is because, he says, Turkey, under the current government and under Davutoğlu, has for the first time been preparing the basis to become a bridge in real terms between East and West. In domestic policy, Oran says, Davutoğlu and his government have been introducing democracy for all identities, from the Kurds to the Alevis. Davutoğlu’s sole weak point has been on relations with Armenia, Professor Oran asserts.
As a matter of fact, Turkey’s cooperation with Russia has taken on new momentum as a result of the current government’s ‘zero problem with neighbors’ policy. This policy does not contradict Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, though that process has been moving slowly. On the contrary, Turkey’s increased cooperation with its neighbors can be an asset for the EU.”
(Quelle: Todays Zaman.)