04/08/2022, 12.10
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Russian missiles cloud reconciliation between Ankara and Washington

by Marta Ottaviani

In the new scenario opened by the war in Ukraine, Erdogan is trying to put aside tensions with the United States. This week he will hold his first meeting at the level of deputy foreign ministers. A resumption of relations fundamental to relaunch the Turkish economy. Analyst Cagaptay: "A good relationship with the United States would also serve as a lever for more serene relations with the European Union.



Milan (AsiaNews) - Turkey and the United States: technical tests for reconciliation, but the road is still long and, to the great dismay of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, all uphill. For the moment, what is done in these processes is done. We talk, a lot and at length. Highlighting prospects of common interest, but also making it clear that, if the normalization of relations there will be, it will happen step by step and under certain conditions.

This week the first meeting of the U.S. Strategic Mechanism was held in the Turkish capital. Ankara's Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal and his U.S. counterpart Victoria Nuland, with their respective delegations, met in Ankara to "review topics of common interest, including economic and financial cooperation, the fight against terrorism, and areas where regional and global interests coincide."

If one counts how much, since 2009, Turkey has done through an autonomous and often privateer foreign policy, the tones of the communiqué would almost indicate a 180-degree turn. "The war in Ukraine," Soner Cagaptay, senior fellow at the Washington Institute and author of the book Sultan in Autumn, explains to AsiaNews, "has repotted a sense of realism in relations with Russia. It would seem that Turkey is once again taking relations with the US and NATO seriously". 

Ankara has its own good reasons for doing so. The Turkish economy is going through a very delicate phase. The currency has been out of control for months now, inflation is at its highest level in 20 years and foreign direct investment, i.e. solid money, not influenced by market volatility, invested in infrastructure or other key projects for the development of the country. Russia's war against Ukraine has blocked what is a vital trade corridor for Ankara: the Black Sea. Ships from the Bosphorus transit as few as in the most dramatic moments of the pandemic. Turkey needs the war to end, and quickly. From an economic point of view, it is one of the countries most at risk of being damaged. And it's not over.

"There is also an element of internal politics - continues Cagaptay - Erdogan wants to win the 2023 elections. Until now he had focused on economic growth. Inflation is the highest it has been in years and macroeconomic indicators are very negative. Although in the last 10 years he has been very busy changing the official face of Turkey and making it less secular and more Islamic, the national economy remains fully integrated with that of the European Union. A good relationship with the U.S. would also serve as a lever for more serene relations with Brussels". 

However, there is a but. In fact, there is more than one. In recent years, the positions of the two countries have been opposed on several chapters of foreign policy, starting with the U.S. protection of the Syrian Kurds of the YPG, until you get to the eastern Mediterranean and the gas issue. Then there is what for President Joe Biden is a point of no return: the S-400, the Russian missile defense system that Turkey has purchased and must dismantle.

"Biden," Cagaptay concludes, "wants a more distanced and therefore less traumatic relationship with Turkey. He wants one thing categorically, however, and that is to give up the S-400s. So even if the signals are good, we cannot yet speak of normalization. And if the S-400 knot is not solved, it is difficult to have a complete recomposition of relations".

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