Erdogan’s Challenge: How Turkey Balances between Ukraine and Russia in War Times

Friday, 29 April 2022

Turkey is Ukraine’s strategic partner. Turkey-made Bayraktar UAVs increased the capabilities of Ukrainian army, and Turkey’s decision to close the Bosporus strait prevented Russia from sending reinforcements to its Black Sea fleet to assault Ukraine from the sea.

However, Turkey is the only NATO member who hasn’t introduced any sanctions against Russia. Moreover, it hopes to attract additional Russian tourists since Europe has been closed to them.

How far can Ukraine rely on Turkey’s support? And how Turkey’s stance affects its image in the West? European Pravda editor Yuriy Panchenko talked to Yevgeniya Gaber, senior analyst of the Centre in Modern Turkish Studies at Carleton University.

According to Gaber, Ukraine is now more present on Turkish news and coverages have become more objective, notably due to the visits of Turkish reporters to Ukraine.

'More than 80% of Turks support Ukraine in this war. However, 48% blame NATO and the US, and only 30% believe that Moscow is responsible’, she says. 

Ankara has always bewared the militarization of the Black Sea region, including by NATO member states, Gaber explains.

'Closing its straits to Russian military ships and thus supporting Ukraine, Turkey is also pursuing its own interests to prevent further escalation in Syria. The same reasons stand behind its recent decision to close the airspace for Russian aircraft heading to Syria. This step complicates Russia’s ability to deliver forces and additional weapons from Syria’.

At the same time, Turkey is becoming a safe haven for Russian companies willing to relocate from Russia, but with limited choice of suitable countries. According to various estimates, a thousand or more firms with Russian capital or owners have relocated there since Russia’s large-scale invasion on February 24. 

‘The same refers to the open airspace and Russian tourists. It seems Turkey will try to benefit from the ‘closure’ of Europe for Russian tourists’, says Gaber. 

Concerning Ukrainian nationals who left their country because of war, Turkey hasn’t offered opportunities to stay for more than the usual 90 days, she argues. 

"Russia’s war against Ukraine may become Turkey’s ‘golden ticket’ and opportunity to come back to NATO family… However, Turkey can lose it at any time’, says Gaber.

Read more in the article (in Ukrainian): Bayraktars and tourists from Russia: real position of Turkey during the Russia-Ukraine war.

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