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Fehim Taştekin: « Turkey’s Ukraine policy swept away by cold Black Sea wind »

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For now, the course is shifting from hot war scenarios to cold war. While the U.S. administration is reluctant to take steps to provoke Russia in the military sphere. This outcome presents an ice-cold picture of those who calculated that NATO would act as a shield for Ukraine. Turkey now finds itself left out in the cold, frosty winds of the Black Sea.

Turkish President Erdoğan was living in a dream world in 2017 when Ukraine’s former leader Petro Poroshenko spoke about bilateral relations with new dimensions during a joint press conference in Ankara.

Poroshenko began ‘tapping’ on the table to wake up the host. These have been archived as pleasant images of diplomacy. In fact, the two leaders, had for some time been altering the dimensions of relations via military cooperation. Any anticipation of the nightmare that awaited them three years later would have made sleep impossible.

In past years, there have been several showdowns, rejections, and polarizations far outside the guidelines of good neighborliness. Several paths have been chosen that were not suitable for the texture of a strong alliance. Ultimately, the backbone, which provides harmony in foreign relations, was broken.

The more Erdoğan began distancing himself from reality, the bigger the margin of error in his intuitions became. He coupled a political vision based on the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca signed in 1774, when the Ottoman Empire gave many concessions to the Russian Empire, with Kiev’s Crimean politics. Also, shifting some of the risks to Turkey could be wise. Via their stupidity, they lost Crimea to the Russians and Donbas to the Russian supporters, but they were able to use Turkey as a shield when NATO fell short.

The son-in-law of President Erdoğan, Selçuk Bayraktar, and his family are developing and selling armed drones. However, they need some form of motivation; they need a way to showcase their ‘product;’ Perhaps a war to show to the world while sounding good to nationalist ears domestically. In which case, a military partnership with Ukraine would work. With such a partnership, the U.S. would also be reminded of how important a partner Turkey is. Also, in the eyes of anti-Russian factions of Europe, this act of heroism would be greatly appreciated. At the expense of wasting one of the safest parts of the Black Sea with the Russians, the Montreux Convention will be debated regarding U.S.-UK aims. We see here an ocean of logic.

Well, what about the outcome? Russia did not hesitate to show its teeth. The U.S. was not tempted with the bribes offered either.

Russia dispatched troops to the borders with Ukraine, carried out military exercises in the Black Sea, declared a partial no-fly zone, and clarified the risk situation to friend and foe. Thus, they offered the conquerors of Donbas-Crimea the opportunity to make new assessments. And they did. The U.S. suspended a plan to send two warships to the Black Sea. They also poked fun, saying, “Turkey misunderstood the notification for passage through the Straits.”

Why was this the outcome? The Biden administration knew they would not find the solid posture they sought in NATO’s European wing. Biden’s strategy is to ‘contain’ Russia, and there is also mater of halting the North Stream 2 pipeline. Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pinched Putin’s nerves with the Navalny file, it seems she does not intend to kill the strategic partnership with Russia for American interests. She is putting up a ‘cool’ resistance to threat of U.S. sanctions. She is saying that “The North Stream 2 is no worse than North Stream 1, the gas passing through Ukraine and the gas passing through Turkey.” She reminds us that even during the Cold War, Russia supplied uninterrupted energy to Europe. She said dialogue is the best way to resolve disputes. (Unlike France, which uses nuclear energy, Germany needs natural gas because it has abandoned nuclear and coal power.)

A more critical factor forcing Biden to hit the brakes is China in the context of relations with Russia. According to Foreign Policy, while there is no evidence that there is coordinated action between Moscow and Beijing, the fact that Russia moved military units to Ukraine border and China increased military activity against Taiwan simultaneously poses a challenge to the Biden administration’s plans.

China is paying very close attention to developments in Ukraine. A senior defense official said, “They are looking closely to determine how they might leverage lessons learned into their own national interests.” According to experts who spoke to Foreign Policy, since the Pentagon has broken with the 1990s-era concept of planning for two major wars at the same time, strategic planners are becoming uncomfortable. “You face a two-front war where we don’t have a two-front military,” said Elbridge Colby, former deputy assistant secretary of defense during the Trump administration, adding, “We can’t do them both. We don’t have the assets. That can create huge problems for us.”

Ultimately, the U.S. administration’s strategy of containing Russia and China could pave the way for the Moscow-Beijing partnership which Washington is trying to prevent. Despite their problems, China-Russia relations are growing. The pipeline, which carries Russian gas to China via a 30-year, 400-billion-dollar deal, includes a commitment regarding stability and trust in relations. The share of Russian arms in Chinese arms imports is 80 percent. The S-400 and Su-35 jets are in the Chinese defense inventory. China is also developing its own weapons over Russian models. Russia also supplies technologies and financial resources from China that the West cannot.

This partnership is also emerging via coordination on the UN Security Council in order to block the U.S., UK, and France. The U.S., which has enjoyed decades of Chinese-Soviet standoff since 1961 and used it as an advantage in its own path toward global hegemony, wants to keep the platform of conflict between these two countries alive with current dynamics.

Biden also indicated his unwillingness to give Turkey the leading role in Black Sea operations. Even during this tense period, Biden did not call Erdoğan until very recently for notifying him that he would recognize the Armenian Genocide the next day. But Biden called Putin. This sent the message that the U.S. does not want to be dragged into uncontrolled tension. Then, it was time to cool the iron. Putin’s attendance at the Climate Summit earlier this week upon Biden’s invitation is a sign that the two sides have moved on.

In the process, the Russians sent the first bill to Turkey. First, Russian tourists’ tours to Turkey were thrown out the window. The next threat came from Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, saying that in the case that Turkey supplies drones to Ukraine, they would review military and technical cooperation with Ankara. As relations with Russia reached this stage, was Erdoğan able to take what he wanted from the Western front with his Black Sea-Ukraine gestures? Not at all.

The Biden administration imposed sanctions on Turkey linked to the S-400, which former-president Donald Trump had postponed. As if that was not enough, he left no hope of reversing the decision to remove Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program.

Last week the Pentagon notified Ankara that Turkey has been formally removed from the F-35 program. The F-35 program will continue according to the updated agreement with the remaining eight partners. Turkey was producing 1,005 parts of the F-35 program. In theory, Turkey would have received 100 F-35As in the first phase. In 2018, six planes that Turkey owned were not delivered. The planes were given to the U.S. Air Force in 2020. As of December 2020, the U.S. has found new suppliers for all the parts previously produced in Turkey. The S-400s, bought for 2.5 billion dollars, are now garbage and the F-35 project partnership has become a fiasco. Both the Russian card against the U.S. and the American card against Russia have proven useless.

According to academic Can Kasapoğlu, the F-35 program was not only a fighter plane for Turkey, “But a project in which the Turkish defense eco-system had a portfolio of hundreds of millions of dollars, creating thousands of jobs… Our exclusion from the F-35 program is a serious loss for Turkey.”

In the strategic assessment of the U.S. administration, Turkey’s place and other relevant estimates are based on outdated data, which could thus lead to exaggerated conclusions.

The statements coming out are still very threatening, but according to many observers, the danger of being dragged into a war is now over. Seeing that NATO would not start a fire for Ukraine, Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky suggested Putin come to Donbas to talk. Putin said Zelensky should travel to Donbas to talk to the separatist leadership to solve Ukraine’s internal problems, but if it comes to Russia-Ukraine relations, he is waiting for him in Moscow. Meanwhile, it was announced that Russian troops near the border of Ukraine will return to their barracks by May 1.

Nevertheless, problems remain unresolved, and the NATO camp is determined to pin down Russia in its new cold war mode. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a 300 million dollars-a-year military aid bill to Ukraine. NATO ships will continue to enter and exit the Black Sea. The U.S. has given up, but the British are sending a navy ship. The British are eager to bite Russia with the American tooth. The DefenderEurope-2021 military exercise will also be performed as a show of strength. In parallel with Ukraine tension, the diplomatic war against Russia, which has enrolled the United States, Czechia and Slovakia, is branching out. Calls continue to come from Ukraine for the acceptance of the country into NATO, the deployment of Patriots, and the expansion of sanctions so that Russia is expelled from SWIFT. Putin was also threatening in his speech at the Federal Parliament on Tuesday. He warned those who perceive his intention to establish good relations with the international community as indifference and weakness: “Those who organize any provocative action against Russia will regret, for a long time, more than they have ever regretted anything before.”

For now, the course is shifting from hot war scenarios to cold war. As Politico noted, the U.S. administration is reluctant to take steps to provoke Russia in the military sphere. This outcome presents an ice-cold picture of those who calculated that NATO would act as a shield for Ukraine, so that they could be a Don Quixote for Kiev. They are now left out in the cold, frosty winds of the Black Sea.

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