The relations between unpredictable allies, Russia and Turkey, appear to have deteriorated in the past few years. The relationship between Moscow and Ankara have deteriorated since the Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet shot a Russian SU-24 bomber out of the Syrian skies, citing an airspace violation that did not take place. This is one offence Moscow sees as an act of diplomatic betrayal. In response, Russia imposed a range of restrictive measures on Turkey following the incident that has dealt a major blow to the Turkish economy. The implication of the sanctions is what some analysts have described as “unnecessary and extremely burdensome difficulties for both countries.” As though these are not enough, the Russian ambassador to the country, Mr. Andrei Karlov, was shot some days ago in an attack at an art gallery in Ankara where he was delivering a speech. He was reported dead after having received several gunshot wounds.
Like every potentially embarrassing situations like this one, the Turkish government had quickly looked for the best of excuses to explain the unfortunate situation. Whether this will make any sense to Moscow is another matter altogether. The issues involved in the relationship between both countries are more complicated that most people think!
The Turkish government is a fierce opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who Russia supports. The Syrian crisis and its effect- the Islamic State (ISIS)- became complicated with Russia’s support for the al-Assad government meaning the US needed to handle the matter with care. Syria has no oil, therefore, there is nothing in there for US to die for. The US has none of its interests immediately threatened in Syria, but this is not the case with Russia and Turkey who both have much to lose if any get a foot wrong in handling the crisis.
Both countries, Russia and Turkey, appear to have different interpretations on how best to handle the Syrian crisis based on their respective national interests. Russian authorities, probably wary of the spread of terrorism and radicalization among its domestic Muslim minorities, saw the need to support al-Assad’s regime thereby classifying the opponents of the regime as “terrorists”. On the other hand, the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regime may just want to strengthen its hold onto power in Ankara and the same time prevent the further rise of Kurdisan groups like YPG and PKK which the administration as classified as a “terrorist” groups. It is difficult to reconcile both objectives!
Turkey was also a scene during the Cold War. The US, in an attempt to alter the balance of power with its arch-rival, Soviet Union (now Russia) installed some nuclear facilities in Turkey as a deterring measure against the Soviets. Needless to say that the Soviets responded by installing its nuclear facilities in Cuba as a balancing measure.
To further complicate matters, Turkey is a member of US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). There is a growing perception in Turkey that NATO has been apathetic in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt and hasn’t shown the appropriate concern a member of the alliance deserves. Statutorily, under Article V of the Alliance Constitution, which deals with collective defence is a principle at the very heart of NATO’s founding treaty. This remains a unique and enduring principle that binds its members together, committing them to protect each other and setting a spirit of solidarity within the Alliance. This is part of the reason Turkey may get away with broad day attack on Russia without immediate reaction from Moscow.
The assassination of the Russian ambassador in Ankara is one of the demonstrations of the worsening relations between two egotistic leaders. This is simply an opinion. I might be wrong!
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