Should the West Fear a Turkey-Russia Convergence?

In each installment of “CGI Asks,” a selection of experts respond to a question on the latest developments in Russia and Eurasia.

In the run-up to the widely anticipated meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in St. Petersburg on August 9, we asked experts to consider the extent to which a possible Russian-Turkish convergence could affect Western interests in the region and beyond.

Mehmet Fatih Öztarsu, Analyst and Reporter on the Caucasus/Central Asia:

The Turkey-Russia convergence can be viewed as a new chance for regional security, after current relations worsened over the Syrian issue. The region currently has significant potential to produce new conflicts among states. Since the downing of the Russian aircraft by Turkey, we have witnessed a secret type of chaos in the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Turkey and Russia are important players for this area, and the West should expect much more than a convergence in the coming future.

Firstly, trade and energy relations in the region should be normalized. The lack of investments in the Russian “near abroad” have spelled a disaster for the region, as both sides’ economies went downhill in a short period of time. This situation has triggered local conflicts in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Today, Armenia and Kazakhstan face chaos on the domestic side as their publics lose trust in the future, and a slippery ground is not an acceptable thing for either country. During the first month of the conflict, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan offered Turkey to use the Caspian route for the export of its goods. It was not a good solution, but it is an important example that highlights the concerns of regional states. On the energy side, Turkish Stream and other collaborations have to continue. Russia knows that the location of Turkey is an advantage for Russian energy supplies to the West. Turkish “izvinite” diplomacy (“apology diplomacy”) worked, and Moscow  has declared that the two sides are ready to normalize relations.

In my opinion, the West should support this process. The outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis, the annexation of Crimea and the Syrian war have put the brakes on Western initiatives in the region. In short, we can say that there has been little to no Western influence on the Caucasus and Central Asia since the beginning of the Obama administration, and today it seems that the U.S. and Europe have little concern for the current situation. In this environment, there remain several conflicts and frozen normalization attempts in the region – including the Turkish-Armenian normalization process – which  Russia and Turkey cannot solve without Western support. In this regard, Turkish-Russian convergence should be welcomed as an opportunity to breathe new life into efforts to stabilize the region.


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