Do these latest moves by Erdogan mean that Turkey is giving up its well-balanced policy, that it has fine-tuned quite meticulously over the last few years and in particular since the onset of the war between Russia and Ukraine? A cursory look at what Erdogan has said and what his interlocutors, especially in the West, have responded to his demands do suggest that it is highly unlikely that Ankara has skidded off the road. Indeed, following his contacts within NATO and his meeting with Biden, he set off for a tour of the Gulf region, where he got together with the leaders of the major Gulf-Arab countries. More importantly, he flew over to Cyprus, which has remained divided between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots since 1974, where he enraged the Greeks of both the mainland and Cyprus by reiterating his demand for a settlement on the basis of two independent states. Meanwhile, the EU leaders, and surprisingly even US officials, dismissed his fast-track membership suggestion by sticking to their guns: that there is no correlation between NATO expansion and EU enlargement, a ubiquitous and frustrating statement for the Turks because the enlargement of the two has been nothing but parallel for all the countries, except Turkey, that joined both NATO and the EU since the end of the Cold War. In broader terms, the hectic foreign policy exercises of late have indicated once again that Turkey would not like to get into that nightmare of accession negotiations with the EU, at the start of which Ankara would have to make considerable concessions to t=he Greeks and others over Cyprus and the Aegean and would drop its opposition to the US carving out a Kurdistan in the Middle East, threatening the territorial integrity of Turkey. What is interesting is that, although the EU under American advisement, played a dubious game for years in the past, asking Ankara to make concessions over matters of importance as if it would ever allow Turkey in one day, this time around the EU politicians were rather ‘honest’, saying that there was hardly any future for Turkey in their little Garden.
All these, when translated into a practical line of foreign policy, seem to suggest that Turkey will likely stick to its previous policy, that is, remaining in NATO but cultivating the best possible ties to Moscow and certainly not adopting anti-Russia sanctions. Given that it could cultivate good ties to Moscow rather successfully for several decades in the heat of the Cold War as Ankara sought the best possible terms with the Soviet Union after the arrival of the notorious Johnson letter in Turkey in the summer of 1964, there is no question why it could not engage with its northern neighbour to improve bilateral relations on a much larger scale amid a multipolar world order.
Whereas the two decades of economic and trade relations between Turkey and the Soviet Union during the Cold War brought in enormous benefits for Ankara, particularly contributing to the development of Turkish heavy industry, the flourishing relations over the last few decades since the end of the Cold War have witnessed an increasing boom in bilateral economic relations as well as considerable cooperation on a range of areas such as nuclear energy, tourism, construction and so on. Furthermore, the two sides have developed a mechanism for political consultation both bilaterally and multilaterally over political issues of importance to Ankara and Moscow. The Second Karabakh war of 2020 was a success of bilateral crisis management between Turkey and Russia, while the Astana Platform, which brought together Turkey, Russia and Iran at its inception, is a case in point in terms of cooperation and consultation between Turkey and Russia multilaterally. The Astana Platform, which was set up initially by Ankara, Moscow and Teheran to bring peace to Syria, now includes Damascus, and it is likely to bring about a comprehensive settlement to the Syrian crisis on the basis of that country’s sovereignty over all its territories. It is also within the bounds of possibilities that Turkey and Russia would cooperate on defence industry in the form of the joint production of cutting-edge, sophisticated weaponry in the not-too-distant future.