Strategic ambiguity: Turkey, Russia and the War in Ukraine
As a NATO member, Turkey is formally an adversary of Russia. Moreover, Turkey’s interests in the Middle East and the southern Caucasus frequently conflict with Russia’s. Yet Turkey has forged a productive working relationship with Russia over the years of Erdogan’s rule, with ties between the two ranging across defence, foreign policy and energy. In particular Turkey has finessed its reaction to the war in Ukraine: it has opposed Russia’s invasion at the United Nations, provided lethal aid to Ukraine and limited Russian naval access to the Black Sea; at the same time Turkey has refused to implement Western sanctions, continued to buy Russian gas, and allowed Russian tourism and trade to continue. Neither Russia nor the West can force Turkey to become more accommodating to their interests: Turkey’s key geostrategic location means it effectively has both sides over a barrel.
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