Direction of the Russian invasion and position of Ankara

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On the 13th day of the occupation, Russia is preparing to tighten the blockade of Ukrainian cities, starting with the capital Kiev. The ceasefire talks did not yield the results everyone hoped for, but the parties reached an agreement on “opening humanitarian corridors to Russia or Belarus”. Despite being targeted by severe economic sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to stop without conquering the Ukrainian capital. Indeed, from his point of view, the “operation” is proceeding as planned.

The question posed is no longer about Putin’s rational or irrational calculations. Putin must sell his “victory” to the world and to the Russian people. Whether he bought into US President Joe Biden’s message – that Washington could live with a ‘partial occupation’ – or was simply forced into military action, the Russian president has put his entire political career on the line. Obviously, what matters now is to establish humanitarian corridors. Yet experts believe that Russia will carry out an intensive bombardment and that there will be an upsurge in urban violence following the evacuation of civilians from occupied Ukrainian towns.

Underscoring the significance of the three-week mark, many observers are expressing concern about the possibility of an uglier war. At the same time, we hear of alternative plans, including the formation of a “government in exile”, which would be implemented if Kiev fell. The two worst-case scenarios, in turn, involve the partition of Ukraine and the start of a protracted civil war with Western support. Yet the possibility of Putin, who has already talked about the nuclear option, waging his war in Eastern Europe would be a total nightmare.

The next Syria or Afghanistan

Unfortunately, Ukraine remains on the way to becoming the Syria or Afghanistan of Europe. Nearly 2 million Ukrainians have already fled to neighboring countries. At the same time, there is a constant influx of arms and volunteers from the United States and the European Union.

To prevent this war from causing more destruction, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had an hour-long phone conversation with Putin. He urged the Russian leader to declare a ceasefire and open humanitarian aid corridors without delay. As a continuation of Leader-to-Leader diplomacy, Russian and Ukrainian Foreign Ministers Sergei Lavrov and Dmytro Kuleba will be hosted by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Antalya today. today.

Due to heavier than expected sanctions and strong language from the US and EU, there is no country left to “pave the way for peace” (in Erdoğan’s words) between Russia and the EU. ‘Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken with his Russian counterpart, but France clearly lacks the capacity to mediate. Instead, China, India, Israel and Turkey were the most likely candidates for this role.

Erdoğan, who has repeatedly offered to mediate since the start of the Ukrainian crisis, could trust the Russian and Ukrainian presidents. As a nation affected by war, Turkey does not want to lose any of these countries. Ankara’s position is clear: Russian troops must withdraw from Ukraine and Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity must be respected. It is also continuing its defense cooperation with Kiev and providing the Ukrainians with armed drones. Turkey has also closed its strait to Russian and Ukrainian warships.

Turkey’s intentions

However, Ankara has not joined efforts to completely isolate Moscow through sanctions and the demonization of Putin. Instead, the Turkish government aimed to remain able to simultaneously maintain a certain level of trust with Moscow and Kyiv. It goes without saying that Turkey’s current role serves all parties – Russia, Ukraine, NATO, the US and the EU – by creating a way out of the current crisis.

Opposition pressure to jump on the sanctions bandwagon, on the other hand, is out of touch with reality. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Good Party (IP) criticized Erdoğan by referring to Putin and drawing parallels between Turkey’s business community and the oligarchs – a classic example of cheap populism. It is deeply saddening that the opposition is limited to such superficial interpretations, because the Russian invasion reminds the West of Turkey’s strategic importance. It is certainly a key issue that the opposition cannot appreciate how the world is changing, as great power competition undergoes a new geopolitical rift.

The Turkish government has taken a dynamic approach to the Ukrainian crisis. Its purpose is to shield the country from the repercussions of war and to contribute to a policy likely to promote peace. Interestingly, Ukraine, Russia and the Western alliance seem to like the Turkish position much better than the Turkish opposition parties.

Depending on the future development of the crisis, however, Ankara may naturally have to take additional decisions.

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