Turkey applies flexible foreign policy to ensure national interests

Saturday, 2018-11-24 17:32:32
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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (right) and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin shake hands as they attend a ceremony to mark the completion of the sea part of the TurkStream gas pipeline, in Istanbul, Turkey November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
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NDO – Experiencing a lot of turbulence in its relations with powers, Turkey has recently been adjusting its foreign policy towards becoming more flexible. The transcontinental country in Eurasia has taken moves to strongly facilitate its ties with Russia, while easing tensions with the United States and its European allies. These foreign policy adjustments are aimed at helping Ankara strengthen its position and ensure its strategic interests in the region.

As the alliance between Turkey and the US is facing numerous obstacles, promoting relations with Russia has opened a new cooperation door for the Eurasian country. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin recently witnessed the inauguration of an undersea gas pipeline, which is part of the TurkStream natural gas pipeline project, in Istanbul. The leaders hailed the TurkStream project as a new step in the relations between the two countries. Together with the Akkuyu nuclear power plant project, TurkStream has become a “symbol” for the growing Turkey-Russia partnership.

With TurkStream, Turkey is expected to become an important gas hub in Europe, which will help the country to enhance its geo-political position in the region. The Turkish and Russian Presidents reaffirmed the goal of increasing bilateral trade revenues to US$ 100 billion, equivalent to the figure between Russia and China. The Russia-Turkey relations have stepped into a new page, dispelling the skepticism after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane in Syria in late 2015. Ankara has also bought Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems regardless of dissatisfaction from its US and European allies in NATO.

Relations between Turkey and the US have worsened following the acquisition of the S-400 by Turkey. The US and NATO member countries have been upset after being “ignored” by their ally, while the S-400 is not compatible with NATO’s defence system.

The US had repeatedly tried to persuade Ankara to reconsider its decision to buy the S-400 from Russia. The US Department of State even said that the purchase of the missile defence system would significantly alter the relationship between the US and the Eurasian country. The US Assistant Secretary of State also warned that Ankara would face “consequences” if it did not give up the S-400 deal with Moscow.

However, Turkey has recently taken flexible moves in dealing with the US. After a long period of tensions and mutual retaliation through economic sanctions related to Turkey’s detention of US pastor Andrew Brunson, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu paid a visit to the US. During the meeting with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo in Washington, Çavuşoğlu “justified” that the S-400 purchase deal with Russia had already been completed and could not be abolished. Meanwhile, Ankara appeased its ally by stating that Turkey wants to buy some other military equipment and could possibly buy it from the US.

Turkey has also taken step to improve its relations with countries in the European Union (EU). The two sides recently held a high-level diplomatic meeting in Ankara, a move signaling the restart of bilateral talks on Turkey’s accession to the EU. While the path for Turkey to become a full member of the EU remains thorny, this is a new step forward enabling the two sides to resume cooperation in many issues, such as combating terrorism, preventing the influx of migrants, and energy.

With its important geopolitical location and as a crossroad between Asia and Europe, Turkey is seeking to expand its role and influence in the region. In its strategy, the country wants to seize opportunities from its relationship with the powers. Despite the challenges remaining in relations that have a conflict of interest, Turkey is showing flexibility in its foreign policy aiming to ensure national interests.