Paradox of Russian political investments in Erdogan

Elections create a miniature crisis for every political regime. Local elections in Turkey elections and the run-off election in Istanbul exposed a serious deficiency in nature of Erdogan’s rule and its legitimacy in large urban centers. 

This has serious implications for Russian-Turkish relations, with the legitimacy of foreign policy decisions falling hostage to fluctuations of domestic politics. Arrangements with long-term strategic implications become hard to sustain. Few foreign players would wish to engage a ruler with uncertain future. This, however, doesn’t stop Russia from dealing with Erdogan.

For the past three years, Erdogan proved himself as an acceptable counterpart for Russian officials in many regional issues. 

The increasingly unstable position at home forces the Turkish leader to seek validation through its active foreign policy. Under increasing international isolation, Erdogan, who wants to deliver ostensibly successful deals, can rely on few foreign partners – and Russia has appeared the most willing to cooperate.

This kind of cooperation heavily tilts bilateral relations in favor of Russia. The Turkish leader’s ambitions and anxieties can be successfully channeled in the right direction and ultimately converted into long-term commitments conducive to Russian strategic interests both in the adjacent regions and inside Turkey.

It is in this context that the nature of the S-400 deal is most revealed. While it can be argued that the arms contract is a purely commercial deal, as Russian officials have been asserting, the sale of Russian air defense systems to Turkey would not have been important for Russia if it didn’t serve Russian long-term interests.

There are two important things to bear in mind . First, Russian defense systems, designed to counter NATO’s fifth-generation F-35s, are supposed to stay in service within the Russian A2/D2 perimeter for the next 25 to 30 years. 

The radar components of the system are expected to contribute to the Russian counter-measures against attempts of the NATO alliance to build advanced offensive potential in Europe.

Second, disagreements between Ankara and Washington over the purchase of the Russian weapons exacerbated the deep-rooted conflict of worldviews between political elites in both nations. This is not only about how to treat Russia, what to do with Assad or how deal with the Kurds in the Middle East. 

Desire for a more independent foreign policy and more assertive posture in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean is shared by Turkish elites, ruling and opposition. The drive behind this exceeds the lifespan of Erdogan’s rule.

One could argue that decision to sell the S-400s to Turkey is short-sighted. Why would Russia invest this much in a regime that is gradually losing its legitimacy, capacity and resources to keep the agreement? Moreover, there is broad opposition to the Russian arms acquisition and rapprochement with Moscow among major opposition parties in Turkey. With a change of government in Turkey, if it happens democratically, the strategic effect of the S-400 deal on the Western security alliance can be mitigated considerably and technical secrets of the Russian arms could be compromised.

The Crimean example shows that Russia may have long-term plans to reinforce its influence in its surrounding alleged “zone of influence.” Russian leadership, however, is neither ready nor capable of directly challenging Western interests and the existing status quo in the nations under normal conditions of political processes. Moscow feels more confident in mobilizing its resources to take quick advantage of the emerging critical situation to dramatically tilt the balance of power in the area in its favor.

With the Turkish political processes getting increasingly derailed, any structural change in Turkey becomes possible only through extraordinary procedures (like calling for early elections, application to the Constitutional Court or boycotts, to name the least extreme). 

Political stakeholders feel more compelled to think about resorting to such measures not only to keep Turkey within realm of democratic rule, but to survive as well. 

Post-coup purges in Turkey failed to establish much-needed transparent public control over bureaucracy and security agencies. A lack thereof paved a way to increasing politicization of state critical personnel and, as a result, broadened venues for external interference.

The S-400 deal is designed to outlive Erdogan. The success of this project is warranted by the processes unfolding in Turkey, a bulk of which take place beyond conventional, and publicly accessible, political processes. 

Moscow’s confidence despite Erdogan’s government being under increasing pressure to cancel the deal may suggest that Russia has found a reliable partner in Turkey, which doesn’t feel threatened by prospects of the US sanctions, domestic political turbulence, or increasing public demands for more democratic governance.

Originally published in the Jerusalem Post

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Translation: Turkey in the structure of a multipolar world

by Alexander Dugin

Today, it is important for all nations, in particular Turks, to understand the essence of a multipolar world that a modern Russia is building today. Multipolarity and geopolitics - stemming from it - are what will be the main theme of the strategic thinking of the 21st century. Multipolarity is in a state of emergence. This is not an established model, but only a movement in a certain direction. Like any phenomenon in history, multipolarity can either happen or not happen. This is not fatality, it is an opportunity, and whether it is realized depends on all countries and peoples.

It is the construction of a multipolar world that is the main key to understanding the policies pursued by modern Russia in the era of Vladimir Putin. And although we could say that this strategy is an expression of Eurasianism, nevertheless the Eurasianism itself in the 21st century has changed significantly and needs new thinking. Moreover, it is only in the context of multipolarity that Eurasianism gains its meaning. Therefore, it is worthwhile in this preface to dwell on multipolarity.

Multipolarity is fundamentally different from:

  • The Westphalian system, based on the recognition of the absolute sovereignty of each individual nation-state;
  • The bipolar system prevailing in the era of the Cold War;
  • The unipolar world spontaneously emerged after the fall of the USSR and the countries of the socialist camp.

The Westphalian world was formed after 1648 and was built on the principle of nation states. By the twentieth century, and especially at the end of the First World War, it became obvious that individual national states of Europe, and especially other parts of the world, are not able to defend their sovereignty alone. This led initially to the formation of three blocks - capitalist, socialist and fascist, the culmination of which was World War II. After the defeat of the Axis countries, a bipolar world emerged, where only two superpowers possessed genuine geopolitical sovereignty - the United States and the USSR, while the rest of the countries were forced to join either one or the other camp. According to this logic, Turkey turned out to be in NATO, on the side of the capitalist West.

The beginning of globalism

After the fall of the USSR and the countries of the Warsaw Pact, a unipolar world took shape, where the West came close to sole world domination. This was the beginning of globalism as a planetary ideology. Fukuyama proclaimed the thesis about the “end of history”, that is, the total victory of the West over all others. Genuine sovereignty was the only monopoly of the United States and its allies.

However, almost immediately after such a model actually took shape, opposing tendencies began to be felt. They were expressed in the rise of the Islamic world, which rejects the sole hegemony of the West, in the growth of independent China and India, as independent civilizations. Finally, the prerequisites for multipolarity were formed after the terrorist acts of 9/11, which led to the actual war of the United States and its allies against Islamic states, as well as due to the sharp rise of China and the restoration of Putin’s independent policy and sovereignty in Russia. So the Islamic countries, China and Putin’s Russia challenged unipolarity. Huntington, in anticipation of such a turn of events, in the early 1990s began talking about a “clash of civilizations”, which became a fact in the 2000s. However, the return of civilizations to history did not mean the inevitable clash between them.

The concept of civilization

The concept of civilization is the most important thing for deciphering multipolarity. This is not a national state (as in the Westphalian system), and not a political ideology (as in a bipolar world), and not all of humanity (as in theories of globalists). Civilization is a large space that needs to be integrated. In the case of Russia, this is Eurasia, in the case of China, this country itself, as well as the region, its neighboring peoples and states. The Islamic world is a civilization, although inside it there can be separate large spaces - Shiite, Turkic, Arabic, Malay, etc.

Now it is clear what Eurasianism is: the unification of a large space around Russia. But this is Eurasianism in the narrow sense. The Turkish version of Eurasianism can be described as the restoration of the unity of the Turkic world or some kind of analogue of the Ottoman Empire. Greater Eurasia is built on the strategic alliance of Russia and China. The Eurasian Triangle - the axis of Moscow-Ankara-Tehran. The Chinese project of the OBOR Initiative is even more extensive and involves the economic and transport integration of the entire Eurasian continent, including Europe. But all projects of multipolarity and different versions of Eurasianism necessarily reject the West’s monopoly on hegemony and the universalism of their values. Therefore, all multi-polar projects are oriented against unipolarity and liberal globalism. With all the differences of Islamic, Chinese, Russian or Indian cultures are all completely distinctive and sharply differ even more from Western individualism, hyper-capitalism (turbo-capitalism), the advancement of the LGBT community and a radically secular-atheistic value system. This is the context of a multipolar world.

West divided in two

The West and globalists, however, are not going to give in without a fight, despite the fact that protests against globalism are growing in the West itself. We see this in the Trump phenomenon itself and in the wave of populism (right and left) in Europe. Therefore, it is no longer possible to reduce everything to the dualism of the West against the Rest, as Huntington formulated this problem. The West itself is divided in two: some continue to leave unipolarity and globalism, others see the West as one of the civilizations along with others, designed to preserve their identity and culture, preserving it from artificial mixing. Such an analysis shows that the movement towards multipolarity is growing, and the unipolar world is gradually collapsing, although it is still quite strong.

A bright symbol of unipolarity and globalism is multibillionaire George Soros, the sponsor of color revolutions, or Hillary Clinton, who shamefully lost her previous choice to Trump just because of the persistent upholding of classical liberal-globalist ideology rejected by the majority of Americans.

It now remains to find out: what is the place of Turkey in a multipolar world? This is an open question. On the one hand, Turkey remains a member of NATO and part of the western strategic structure. This is the inertia of the Cold War and the bipolar world. It is less and less justified, since there is practically no threat from modern Russia to Turkey, and the United States, on the contrary, is dissatisfied with Turkey’s desire to increase its sovereignty, which is clearly seen in Erdogan’s policy. In addition, the Turkish society is becoming more and more aware of the contradiction between globalist liberal ideology and Islamic values. Hence the logical conclusion: the place of Turkey in the camp of supporters of a multipolar world.

The role of Turkey in a multipolar world

But being an Islamic country, Turkey is different from both the Arab and Iranian culture. Turkey is a distinctive large space that combines several traditions - the Turkic states of Turan, starting with the First Turkic Kaganate and the Blue Horde, the Islamic Caliphate, the Byzantine Empire. The intersection of these traditions and created historical Turkey.

Therefore, in the context of multipolarity, Turkey can play a crucial role, since it partly belongs to the Islamic civilization, partly Eurasian, and partly European. This opens up wide opportunities for Ankara and allows it to become one of the main poles of the Islamic world - first of all, in its Sunni component. At the same time, the Turkish-Russian alliance would allow Turkey to significantly strengthen its position in the face of the West and in the face of other Islamic countries. So the coordination of positions with Russia during the Syrian conflict showed what can be achieved by both countries, if they act in concert and together. Therefore, a multipolar world for Turkey is a chance.

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Turkey may use Russian S-400s to improve its posture in the Mediterranean Sea

NATO turned 70 in April - a solid age for any international organization. It seems, however, that for such a long time the United States has never learned to see in Turkey a full-fledged ally who may have its own interests. Pending the delivery of Russian S-400 air defense systems to Turkey in July of this year, the parties are trying to find a common language, but Ankara’s American partners out of habit speak the language of ultimatums.

Turkey must decide whether it wants to remain in the most successful military alliance in the whole history of the world or put the security of this cooperation at risk," US Vice President Mike Pence said recently. The White House is concerned about of strategic weapons in Turkey's hand, which could potentially threaten the alliance and US interest in the region.

In talks with his obstinate ally, the Americans point out that Ankara should not simultaneously operate fifth-generation F-35 and S-400 air defense systems due to the fact that the radars of the Russian system may disclose technologies that make the American aircraft especially valuable in the upcoming conflicts: rapid exchange of data on the combat situation with the central command post on the battlefield and the ability to maintain low visibility in the fight against the air defense of a potential enemy, Russia or China.

Turkey, while acknowledging concerns of the Americans, proposed the creation of a technical commission, whose task would be to eliminate any fears of Washington. In response, the Americans continue to escalate the situation, threatening Turkey not only with complete exclusion from the F-35 program, but also with the imposition of sanctions and the cessation of military-technical cooperation on other defense projects.

The US response may indicate the existence of growing mistrust and even fear of the US political elites regarding Turkey’s long-term plans to expand its interests in the region.

The change in the global balance of power is not in favor of the United States forcing Americans to reconsider extend of their involvement in the affairs of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The focus is not only on finding more effective methods of projecting force in exceptional cases, as shown by the recent shipment of an aircraft carrier to the shores of Iran. Of special importance for the global domination of the United States is the defense potential of the regional allies networked with the American political system, not through market interests, but via cultural affinity and ideological heritage.

First of all, we are talking about security guarantees for Israel. The US administration is not limited to promoting the rapprochement of the monarchies of the Persian Gulf and Tel Aviv on the basis of common anti-Iranian sentiments. The United States is making a significant contribution to the development of Israeli defense capabilities and energy security. Such support in practical terms is expressed in the transfer to Israel of an exclusive export version of the F-35 (with heavy contribution of the Israelis with their avionics), as well as in promoting cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean waters with Greece and the Republic of Cyprus in the field of natural gas production.

In parallel with this, Turkey is trying, on a number of critical issues for US interests, to adhere to an independent position, which is not always approved per se in Washington. For example, Ankara’s desire for an independent foreign policy in the Middle East effectively leads to a weakening of the US sanctions blockade against Tehran. The United States cannot but be disturbed by Turkey’s stubborn desire to support the Muslim Brotherhood movement in the region, which Washington is about to classify as a terrorist organization upon request of the Gulf monarchies.

Not surprisingly, Israel today is talking about the undesirability of transferring fifth-generation F-35 aircraft to Turkey. Future strategic deterrence weapons may not be effective in the event of a regional conflict with the likely involvement of Turkey or the pro-Turkish forces. The ability to study the behavior of these aircraft in critical situations, along with the effective use of the S-400 can limit the freedom of action of the Israeli Air Force .

Israeli air forces operate openly in the Turkish zone of influence near Cyprus and Aleppo, which indicates the likelihood of a repetition of the unauthorized invasion of Israelis into Turkish airspace (as was the case in 2007 when the Syrian nuclear reactor was successfully bombed by the IDF). Such an incident will obviously lead to a diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Tel Aviv. Turkey is unlikely to be sincerely ready to engage in a dialogue with Israel on military-political issues, given the Israelis ' active support of Kurdish nationalism.

Apparently, the United States understands the importance of taking preventive steps, not waiting for Turkey to receive Russian air defense assets and integrate them into the actively developing navy and amphibious power projection capabilities. According to Washington, the transformation of the mechanism of economic cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Israel into a system of mutual security guarantees will serve as a deterrent for Turkey.

The start of the exploration of natural gas reserves by the Turkish vessels in the disputed waters of the Mediterranean provoked criticism not only from Greece, Cyprus and the EU, but also from the United States as well. It seems that Turkey does not intend to wait for the resolution of the Cyprus issue, on which the demarcation of international maritime borders depends.

Russian S-400 air defense systems can give Turkey the necessary confidence in defending its national interests. The reason for the disagreements between Washington and Ankara over Russian air defense systems lies not in the technical details as such, but in the growing mistrust between the two NATO allies who are not ready today to share influence in the region. Against the background of the weakening of the combat potential of the Turkish Air Force, subjected to large-scale purges after the attempted coup in July 2016, Russian air defense systems capable of closing most of Turkey’s exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean Sea can significantly strengthen Ankara’s position.

Obviously, Russia, as one of the world's leading exporters of weapons, should carefully monitor that economic transactions do not undermine the existing foundations of military-strategic parity in the region. In such an important matter, it is necessary to know the buyer by sight: to understand his long-term political plans well and to have guarantees that the weapon will not be used against the core interests of Russia itself anywhere.

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