18:39 Aug. 26, 2016
Ukraine's political expert and chief of NGO 'Maidan of Foreign Affairs', Bohdan Yaremenko, shares his opinion on Turkey's rocky relations with the West and Russia
On Wednesday, August 24, Turkey started a military operation in northern Syria after suffering from a long series of missile attacks from IS, the militant forces which still controls a huge part of Syrian territory.
Turkish tanks crossed the border to help Syrian rebels fight off the IS (Islamic State).
The operation, though condemned by Damascus as a violation of the country's sovereignty, was backed by Washington as the US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Ankara to meet with President Erdogan.
Answer to rumors about rift in Turkey-US relations
The visit took place amid the rumors about Turkey's possible shift in foreign policy, which emerged after Erdogan had a friendly meeting with Vladimir Putin in attempt to restore relations after the Russian jet was shot down.
‘It's obvious that the US-Turkey relations survive the most crucial and difficult times. But what we see right now is that the US Vice President is not just coming to discuss the most difficult issues of Turkish-American relations like the extradition of the religious leader Fethullah Gulen, but also, and I have no doubts that it's not just a coincidence, that the same day Biden was visiting Ankara, the joint American-Turkish troops started the military operation on Syrian soil', Ukrainian political expert and chief of NGO 'Maidan of Foreign Affairs' Bohdan Yaremenko says.
The expert calls Biden's visit and the joint military operation ‘the best answer to the question whether Turkey is going to change a lot in its foreign policy'.
Turkey and Russia
However, after Erdogan's resentment towards the West for the lack of support from Turkey and the failed coup, some still say he will try to become allies with Vladimir Putin, whom the Turkish President recently called a ‘dear friend'.
‘Both countries are looking for [economic] improvement of their cooperation, and the normal relations between Russian and Turkey is of high importance to the rest countries of the region. As of Syria and Crimea, some profound differences in positions of both countries will stay on. I believe, at the moment both countries will try to create a picture of normal good relations, and to allow us to believe that everything is fine, they will not be putting too much emphasis on the problems', Yaremenko says.
The EU concerns
Certain concerns also arose regarding Ankara's bonds with the European Union. Many in the EU warned Erdogan not to use the coup as a reason to crack down on the opposition.
Turkey, in turn, suspended the European Convention on Human Rights and even hinted at the return of death penalty, which endangered not only the country's visa-free regime with Europe, but also its possible membership in the Union.
‘Erdogan's visit to St. Petersburg was kind of a part of Byzantine diplomacy. It looks like both Putin and Erdogan were trying to convince not each other, but the EU, that they are capable of achieving some relations that would be threatening the interests of the EU. But in reality, the European Union is the major trade partner for Russia and Turkey, so it means that under no circumstances Turkey or Russia could allow themselves to have major problems with the European union', the political analyst stresses.
Yaremenko adds, both Russia and Turkey could not ‘sustain economically' without the EU. At the same time, many differences between Ankara and Brussels will stay on the table, including the concerns about the human rights situation.
What future awaits Turkey?
‘Turkey is staying on the crossroads, surviving an unbelievably dramatic period in its history, when President Erdogan and his opponent Fethullah Gulen are trying to change the country, using the mechanisms that cannot be tolerated by the civilized society. Gulen is trying to use some ‘under carpet' games to change the Turkish politics, while President Erdogan is really pushing the country towards autocracy', Yaremenko claims.
According to the expert, Erdogan is trying to use his victory over the coup plotters to ‘reshape the Constitution' and give more power to himself. This may create major misunderstanding between Turkey and the EU, and could also affect Turkish-Ukrainian relations.
‘As a member of the Council of Europe, Ukraine will also be in need to react on the possible negative developments in Turkey, while we are of course very much interested in Turkey as a trade and military partner', the expert concludes.
This material is the first in the series of articles, featuring opinions of political experts from NGO 'Maidan Of Foreign Affairs'. Watch the full version of the interview on Ukraine Today.