The S-400 deal with Turkey and Russian views on emerging new world order

How would you briefly describe uneasy relations between Turkey and its western partners? Of course, to do this you have to abandon dogmatic suppositions imposed on us by turbulent media desperately trying to create sensation from every event in international arena. To make a sense of Turkish relations with the West we should look at what Turkish officials tell their colleagues in the official meetings, but not on public rallies and speeches. Understanding this in turn will allow us to diagnose Russian principal position on the issue of S-400 deal and what real Russian interests behind agreement may be.

Since its War of Independence Turkish political elites react with hypersensitivity at Western powers’ attempts to impose their political dominance in the world. This is especially noticeable when European states before and the United States today try to protect their interests on the costs of national security of Turkey. Growing economic and military capabilities of Turkey allowed its government to better protect its sovereign rights and assert its position internationally. Turkish hard power translates in Turkish soft power. Turkish officials successfully reveal duplicity of Western rhetoric on norms and values of democratic government and respect for international law.

It can not be left unnoticed that Turkey is confident to acknowledge foundation of Western dominance in the world. Technological superiority coupled with high standards of living contribute to legitimacy of Western political regimes in the eyes of population. But this is only one side of the medal. Prosperity and technological superiority of the West were gained through colonial rule of the past centuries and is promoted now through less obvious system of exploitation. Turkey and Russia have managed to achieve or at least successfully trying to reach comparable standards of living and technological development.

Mature Turkish diplomacy openly demonstrates fundamental problems in Western claims to lead the world. Turkish sovereign democracy should not be bent under Western double standards and follow steadily its own way. Destination of this path is to show that there are many ways of how democracy can be implemented in the world. Doing this Turkey doesn’t provoke, doesn’t create political conflicts, but always tries to find better ways of cooperation and improvement of the international organizations without creating chaos in the world. This is especially evident in Turkey’s endless efforts to work with all regional organizations, starting with the European Union to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

In order words, Turkey is trying to show the West that the world has long changed and that it is high time to adapt global cooperation to new circumstances where new rising powers have full rights to live their own standards of democracy defined and protected by their people. Interestingly, this approach to relations with the West is also characteristic to the Russian diplomacy of the recent decade. Similar views on the West drive Russia and Turkey closer to each other today. This phenomenon may further explain how Russia approaches Turkey and its ongoing negotiations with United States on S-400 air defence systems.

Global engagement of Russian diplomacy of the recent years can be described as attempts to promote poly-centric world where rising powers could take a rightful place and contribute more to international cooperation and definition of rules of game. Turkey’s membership in NATO is a very important asset for Russia. Success of good neighborhood policy with a member of NATO alliance may positively contribute in NATO-Russian relations and further foster multi-polarity in the world.

Regional dimension of the Russian diplomacy embraces closer relations with Turkey due to presence of many issues of common concern and interests. Dialogue with Turkey contributes to predictability of situation in many regions vital to Russian interests, beginning from the Black Sea to the Central Asia. It is in Russian interests, therefore, to talk with a Turkey who is free from outside pressure, confident to pursue its real national interests and positive about cooperation with regional neighbors. Self-confidence of Turkey allows for a better understanding with Russia in times of uncertainty and diminishing role of the Western powers in the world.

As a country with longest national border, Russia understands well Turkey’s concerns and special attention to security of its national borders. This understanding constituted a basis of consolations between the two states along with Iran on stabilization of Syrian conflict. But Turkish concerns are not limited with Syrian conflict alone. Proliferation of missile technologies, rising risk of another Western intervention in the Middle East, existence of failed states and securitization of energy policies in the Mediterranean Sea pushes Turkey’s defence capabilities into the centre position of national sovereignty today. 

Indeed, years long cooperation with the West, within the NATO and other form, provided Turkey unprecedented level of security in the past. But such fruitful partnership had its price: Turkey was dependable on Western technological and military assistance and, as a result, could not fully uphold its national interests when Western interests were at stake. New realities of the world today prompt Turkey to develop better capabilities to defend its security from traditional and unconventional threats and being able to do this without relying solely on Western security guarantees.

When Russia signaled its readiness to sell S-400 to Turkey in times when her relations with the Western partners soured, it didn’t want to undermine existing security arrangements per se, but may have wished to contribute to a more fair and honest dialogue between Turkey and NATO on conditions for improved relations in future. S-400 is a good argument for Turkey to demand a place for herself within existing security cooperation mechanisms. A better positioned Turkey, who enjoys respect and due treatment, will have a louder voice. Turkey, who understands Russian concerns and how its sees the world, will be able to stimulate better a dialogue between Russia and NATO.

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