Ever since the PML (N) Led Coalition Government of Veteran Senior Leader and Two times Premier Mian Mohammad Shareef came to Power after May 11 Elections in which they got heavy mandate from the Punjab Province where as PPPP was limited to Sindh after losing the grip over Punjab Provincial as well as Federal Seats during much echoed Elections 2013 which brought about many upsets and people started to wonder that How the heavy weights were defeated by youth Leaders of PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where PTI enjoys simple Majority and running the government in coalition with the Moderate Religious Party Jamaat –e-Islami .
Whereas Baluchistan saw a mix response since no party has been able to get any clear majority and the same Coalition government is to decide the conflict ridden Baluchistan and face the challenging situation of law and order .As for as the State of Baluchistan Assembly is concerned ,after assumption of the Office of Chief Minister of Dr Abdul Malik , A Nationalist Leader , the situation is very ambiguous as the cabinet is yet to be inducted. So far , he has been sole Leader to lead the Conflict ridden and now the Quake Ridden Baluchistan government where separatists have crippled the very roots of the peace and people have been living a appalling life. Even the Passengers moving in and from the parts of the country are assailed on the National Highways as well as inter Provincial Routes. As many as 300 innocent passengers have lost their life on ethnic backgrounds during their traveling to Quetta and other Balouch dominated routes. Most of the Killings are claimed balouch separatist Groups. This is a dreadful security and Law and Order situation in Baluchistan But the irony is that still the Malik’s Government going without the cabinet.
Sindh is the same as it was five years ago in PPP led Coalition government since the same old faces except some new faces made their way to the Assemblies . The PPP’s long time Coalition party MQM , has been keeping itself away from the state of Government affairs due to their inclination towards PML (N) They have also made their participation in the Government on conditional basis and their under trial Boss Altaf Hussain went further and held Referendum on the basis that whether they should join the Government or not in coalition with PPP. Despite being offered to Join the Sindh Government on Multiple Occasion by PPP representation ,MQM is deliberately keep itself away from the state of Affairs of PPP but their Governor is holding the key Position and many analysts are of the view that they will retain the position till the end of PML (N) government tenure .
ors ,rushing to Dubai ,meeting Party chief at London , PML (N) Government has not replaced Governor but rather retained the Governor of Sindh Dr Isharatul Ibad . Even he has been tasked to monitor the Targeted Operation led by CM Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah and initiated on the Federal Government directives after they held the Cabinet meeting at Governor House of Sindh at after the strong demand of Traders and Karachi citizens .
It was decided that the targeted Operation will be initiated and turned down the demand of MQM to Deploy Army for Operation in Karachi as law and order Situation was Abysmal and alarming. after considering the Loc tension and massive deployment of Army in Pak-Afghan border to control the infiltration, It was decided unanimously that the Operation will be carried out by Rangers supported by Police on the lines of impartiality as no Office of any Political party will be assailed on the grounds of partiality . So far , MQM has been frequently complaining against victimization of the MQM and arrests of its workers through Press Conferences but on the other hand the rangers and Police spokes persons reject such claims and add that the action is being taken on the strong intelligence reports and criminal records .
Coming to KPK , we have experienced the worst state of law and order situation since the provincial capital Peshawar has become the prime target for militant activities and series of Bomb Blasts herald the clear messages that the terrorists are running amok and the Federal Interior Minister has been doing the job of just a viewer to watch what is happening in KPK and they do not seem to be serious regarding security matters concerning the safety of precious lives of their fellow Pakistanis .
Some analysts also disclose that this may be a conspiracy to fail the PTI Government in KPK since it is very first time that PTI which is very new in comparison to the Professional Political players such as Jamiat Ulama –e Islam , PML N ,PPP , ANP and PKMAP in respect of holding the important Government of KPK may collapse due to challenging law and order situation and prevent them from establishing government in the centre due to long standing problems of Talibanization and Suicide Bombings specially tribal belts.
The massive casualties have already crossed thousands and PTI led government is between the devil and deep see in controlling heightened law and order situation which shows no improvement ever since the honeymoon period is over as in Pakistan it is rare to enjoy the honeymoons .
If you enjoy the honeymoons, you will be assailed by the powerful goons. The Most disturbing is the Drones issue since drone strikes are counterproductive and inflict multiple implications on the country’s sovereignty , Economy , law and Order situation and ignite a wave of hatred among the tribal people specially north Wazirstan . Pakistan has protested in United Nations against the drone strikes since they are considered an attack on the sovereignty of the Nations but the Pakistani pleas have not been given due weightage by Obama Administration so far.
As regards the APC , It was held on 9th September 2013 and all the main stream parties , Chief Ministers and Governors of all fours provinces , Chief Army Staff General Pervez Kayani and ISI Chief also participated in the APC . It was decided after briefing from the Members and Specially Armed forces Chief and Intelligence Agency Chief that Dialogue will be initiated with the Taliban since Pakistan is very peaceful country and It will prefer Dialogue than initiating iron hand with the support of ISI and Pakistan Army . But the APC kept the option of military action open in case the talks with Taliban Leaders fail.
All the Representatives of Main Stream parties appreciated the Efforts and sacrifices of Pakistan Army for the Sake of bringing Peace in the region as well as suppressing militancy for the defense of the country since Militancy , Terrorism , Religious Extremism and ethnic Conflicts have played havoc with the law and order situation and rocked the very roots of the country . The Rising inflation and rapid devaluation of Rupee has heralded serious repercussions for the Pakistan having already fragile Economy . The fading investments in the Country and growing security concern on internal as well as External fronts have demanded to frame Strict laws for the extermination of the anti state elements who are mercenaries and their only role is to destabilize the country by creating deteriorating law and order situation .
The Most Important point which revolves in every Pakistani’s mind that will the dialogue breed positive results and who will guarantee that TTP’s multiple factions will come to terms with the Government and accept the writ of Government since they do not accept the accept even the constitution of Pakistan . Even the Punjabi faction of Talibans enjoys their unique identity contrasting other Taliban entities.
But Before the dialogue , there should be a ceasefire and there should not be any attack on Army convoy , religious Places such as Mosques , Imam Bargahs , Temples and Churches . There should not be forced Disappearances or kidnappings by TTP Factions.
The above questions are very difficult to be answered keeping in view the post APC scenario as many as ten Attacks have made including attack on Church in which innocent Christians were killed . The Peshawar has become the centre of TTP activities and even Legislators have lost their precious lives . The most alarming message was the four bomb blasts in the Provincial headquarters of four provinces at the same day by Suicide bombers raising concerns for the success of talks with Taliban as was decided during APC .
The APC success lies on the above questions and if above questions go unanswered then such APC’s will have the same tragic end as was of earlier one’s on the same issues of terrorism and Militancy. Even some circles in Federal Government specially Interior Ministry are thinking of revisiting their Policy on Security and Dialogue .
They have also drafted the national Security Policy which is yet to get the momentum along with strategy of Developing Rapid Response Force to cope with Situation occurring time to time like the Sikandar Solo drama who made the Capital Police of Islamabad on Hold for Hours and posted the message for the Security Policy makers that he has displayed live show , watched by millions of the people around the world through live coverage of news channels that how a single armed person like Sikandar with help of Sincere wife and injured kids leaked the inefficiency of Islamabad Police that failed to put hold on single superman .
The Demoralized Police have become a laughing stalk for the public and the concerns of public have to a level that they have lost their belief on the Police completely and consider taking their own initiatives for self security . The Same is the situation in Karachi , Peshawar , Quetta , Punjab and other parts of the Country.
Finally , the Government has to rethink ,review ,revisit and redraft the policies and come up with renewed , innovative and lasting solutions specially the security to restore peace in the country since peace is the first step towards the development since peace has multi dimensional effects on the country and it makes the country a friendly place to live and let live and invest the funds and contribute in the development of their beloved country.
The PML (N) will have to take bitter decisions in national interest to bring peace in the region as Pakistan has already paid heavy price for being one of the biggest and important ally of US in war against Terrorism emerging after 9/11 Strikes on WTC . Pakistan has been facing multi faceted threats in the region including internal threats of militancy, Religious Extremism and Ethnic issues.
To cope with the long standing issues, PML (N) Government should take everyone on board, be it dialogue with TTP leaders or initiating operation against the Problem makers. The Security Personnel should be trained on modern lines and equipped with sophisticated weapons and equipments to tackle with emerging law and order situation.
Imran Khan’s graceless exit
Leaders come and go, but the manner in which Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted from power through a parliamentary vote of no confidence has no precedent in Pakistani history.
After the opposition had mustered the necessary support of the members of the National Assembly, Khan could have resigned and exited from power with grace. Instead, he chose to cling to power until the last moment by sabotaging the vote of no confidence proceedings, despite a clear verdict from the Supreme Court to complete the voting process on Saturday. A cricket legend who played politics like a T-20 match; he kept the nation on its toes until midnight. His ego seemed bigger than the country he led.
Khan promised to build a new ‘Naya’ Pakistan, a thriving nation free from corruption beyond the dynastic politics of the past. But his nearly four years of narcissistic rule have been so nightmarish that ultimately public representatives opted to vote for Old Pakistan.
Khan leaves behind a nation with deeply polarised politics, an economy nearing collapse, and a foreign policy that has ruptured relations with major powers and trusted allies. Challenges that will be difficult to surmount by his successor, Shehbaz Sharif, the leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
Pakistan has a chequered political history. In the past half century, long military rules have been followed by unstable civilian eras. This instability is often the result of the military’s intrusion into politics. The current impasse is no different, except that the alternative leader the generals tried to cultivate eventually became a Frankenstein.
To be sure, the post-Musharraf transition to democracy is different from the previous two such transitions of the 70’s and 90’s in the sense that rapid urbanization in the past couple of decades has produced a middle class that is no longer apolitical. Khan’s personal charm galvanised this class, especially its youth segment, leading to the emergence of PTI as a potent challenge to mainstream political parties, including the PMLN and Pakistan People’s Party.
Instead of focusing on the economy, Khan pursued a vengeful accountability drive against the leaders of PMLN and PPP. Their character assassination by trolls on social media, with unfounded accusations of corruption and treason, has introduced a level of toxicity in politics never seen before.
In the PTI’s rise, the military saw an opportunity to discredit both parties. Thus began the unique experiment of a regime built on the premise that civilian and military leaders would remain on the ‘same page.’ The bargain was that Khan would receive unwavering support from the military leadership and his government would, in return, deliver tangible economic outcomes through better governance. Keeping the opposition at bay was a shared interest.
But this bargain took no time to flicker due to the bad economic start of the Khan regime. It wasted almost a year in negotiating a bailout package with the IMF worth $6 billion, which devaluated the rupee. The subsequent period has seen further economic mismanagement amid the global pandemic, curtailing the GDP growth rate from 5.9% in 2018 to 3.4% this year. IMF conditionalities have led to double digit inflation. Foreign borrowing has raised the debt burden significantly. The economic corridor project with China is derailed. Unemployment has also skyrocketed. There is deep public disillusionment as a result.
Instead of focusing on the economy, Khan pursued a vengeful accountability drive against the leaders of PMLN and PPP, who were hounded and jailed on alleged corruption charges that remain unproven in any court of law. Their character assassination by trolls on social media, with unfounded accusations of corruption and treason, has introduced a level of toxicity in politics never seen before.
Islam has been a convenient tool for both military and civilian leaders to divert public attention from real socio-economic issues. But the way Khan has used his religious narrative to cultivate support among the population has no parallel.
Under no circumstances does the military allow civilian leaders to play with its chain of command, but Khan crossed this red line. He also played the American conspiracy card, using a diplomatic cable from the ex-envoy in Washington to claim the no confidence motion was a US ploy to change his regime. All his opponents, he dubbed traitors.
Without the military’s support, Khan could not have made it to the premiership. Its top brassindeed bet on the wrong horse and may have learned a hard lesson. His reckless subversion of the constitution to keep himself in power has also annoyed the judiciary and, perhaps, a significant chunk of his urban middle class supporters who have already borne the brunt of indirect taxes under PTI rule.
Despite his disgraceful exit from power, Khan retains a cult following among the youth. But with key PTI financiers drifting away and his own accountability about to begin, Khan’s political fate now hangs in the balance. The emergence of PTI as an alternative political force to cater to the rightful aspirations of the middle class was a good thing in the patronage-driven politics of Pakistan. Its demise – at the hands of its own leader – will be quite unfortunate.
Russia Turns to Africa for Trade Amid US, EU Sanctions
As United States and European sanctions broaden due to special military operation, largely directed at demilitarization and denazification in Ukraine, Russians are now diversifying both exports and imports in Africa’s direction. After the first summit held 2019 in Sochi where a mountain of pledges incorporated in a joint declaration, but have not been given serious attention as expected.
Russia and Ukraine share common border, both are former Soviet republics struggling to move unto the global stage. Russia was angered because Ukraine’s ambition to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. With the conflict that began February 24, and amid Western and European sanctions, Russia plans to expand its network of trade missions in Africa, according to Vladimir Padalko, Vice President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The meeting held March 4 at the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry building was really to re-examine how import-export trade be intensified and map out possible support for Russian enterprises and organizations in entering the African market, in practical terms, for mutually beneficial support and benefits in the light of Russia-Ukraine crisis. State support and business facilitation have been on the agenda these several years, and was exhaustively discussed during a panel session in Sochi.
“During the meeting, the participants voiced a proposal to expand the network of trade missions in Africa in the countries, which are priority for trade. It was agreed that the Industry and Trade Ministry would work on this issue together with the Foreign Ministry and the Economic Development Ministry,” Padalko said.
According to official reports, the popular Russian perception is that Africa is a promising market for Russia and information data obtained from the Industry and Trade Ministry, Russia has only four trade missions in Africa – in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and South Africa. In addition, several interviews and research indicated that the Russian expert community advocates for strengthening business relations with Africa, and for example sees fruits, tea, coffee from the EU countries can be replaced with products from African countries.
Deputy Director of the Department of Asia, Africa and Latin America of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, Alexander Dianov, spoke about the non-financial support measures for Russian companies operating within the department.
On the other hand, he said: “There are trade missions only in four African countries, and if you take sub-Saharan African countries, the trade mission operates effectively only in South Africa. It is obvious that there is something to work on in terms of developing the infrastructure to support Russian businesses. If there is a serious request from the business community, we are ready to expand the geography of our presence.”
Senator Igor Morozov, Head of the Coordinating Committee on Economic Cooperation with Africa (AfroCom), business lobbying group established back in 2009, expressed his views posted to the website: “It is impossible to grow the national economy without developing new markets. Only more than 20 companies are working on raw materials projects in different parts of the continent, there are traditional deliveries through the military-technical cooperation, export of grain, mineral fertilizers, oil products with a total turnover of US$17 billion (2020)!”
Morozov argued that “it is necessary to involve large-scale involvement of small and medium-sized businesses from the Russian regions in the African direction. It is necessary to reconsider the entire range of the export potential of the regional economy: the transport industry, agricultural machinery and units, mechanical engineering and navigation equipment, the mining sector, water treatment, and information technology.”
According to his interpretation, the geopolitical situation is rapidly changing and especially in such desperate condition of sanctions pressure, the outlook for new markets, new partners and allies are important for Russia. “This predetermines the return of Russia to Africa, makes this direction a priority both from the point of view of geopolitical influence, and in the trade and economic context. It is important for us to expand and improve competitive government support instruments for business. It is obvious that over the thirty years Russia left Africa. There are foreign players such as China, India, the United States and the European Union that have significantly increased their investment opportunities,” Morozov stressed.
Africa is one of the most promising and fastest-growing regions of the world, with leading powers actively competing with one another, the Senator further frankly acknowledged, and added that there is nothing surprising in the fact that the European Union is increasing its trade turnover with African countries, and it amounts to more than US$300 billion a year. For instance, the United States, implementing the Prosper Africa Programme, continues to push American investments and high-tech products to priority African markets.
In this regard, in order to promote Russian goods, it is necessary to create conditions that would be competitive for exporters. It is obvious that the Russian Export Center (REC) does not have a direct investment fund in the system of financing African projects. Successful practice in Africa clearly demonstrates the widespread use of such funds by China, India, France and many other players.
Russian Export Center says despite the emerging challenges the market is potentially the largest, Africa – is the continent of the future, but currently, the demand is generally limited. Speaking about Africa, there is the need to distinguish the countries of the continent into two groups: the northern and southern parts.
“We note an increase in the number of requests to find a Russian supplier from sub-Saharan Africa. Companies from such countries as South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Benin are most interested in increasing imports. We frequently receive requests to search for suppliers in such industries as mineral fertilizers, food products and the rest,” explains an official from Russian Export Center.
In such Russia-Ukraine paradigm, Russian enterprises and importers still need to understand a set of priority problems and barriers, especially now when showing searching for alternatives for European suppliers, and interested in establishing stable long-term with African partners.
Polina Slyusarchuk, Head of Intexpertise (St. Petersburg-based African focused Consultancy Group), has questioned whether Russia has a long-term strategy in there. “Today, Russia wants to deepen its understanding of the business climate and explore trade and partnership opportunities in Africa. Now at this critical time, Russians have to decide what they can offer that foreign players haven’t yet been made available in the African market in exchange for needed importable consumables,” she underscored.
The Maghreb region is an important gateway to Europe and to sub-Saharan Africa. In the past few years, Russian companies have taken active steps to increase both imports and exports of agricultural products. South Africa, Kenya, Morocco and a few others have been delivering fruits, described as marginal quality though, in the Russian market.
In an interview discussion for this article, Dr. Chtatou Mohamed, a senior professor of Middle Eastern politics at the International University of Rabat, emphasized that, on the geo-economic level, the five Arab countries present themselves as an unavoidable interface to enter the African continent, these are rich in raw materials and present as the great consumer market.
“While the context between Russia and Western countries is highly troubled, and characterized in particular by a regime of sanctions and counter-sanctions, it is to better serve the interests of their peoples and find solutions by exploiting the opportunities. Moscow has more room for turn round export-import business with the countries of sub-Saharan Africa,” he pointed out.
Members of African diplomatic missions informed the greatly unrealized potential of cooperation between Russia and African countries, and interest in attracting investments in agro-industry infrastructure, education and many other sectors, and unreservedly called for a wider interaction between African business circles and Russian businesses.
During the early March discussion, the participants mentioned high import duties, complicated certification procedures, high cost of products, expensive logistics, security and guarantee issues, and information vacuum as some of the barriers to Russian-African trade and economic cooperation. As always, the participants agreed on the need to develop a comprehensive strategy for Russia to work with Africa.
Indeed, Russia is already one of the ten largest food suppliers to Africa. Removing barriers could help export-import collaboration reach an entirely new level. Russian and African business communities lack of awareness regarding the current state of markets, along with trade and investment opportunities. There is an insufficient level of trust towards potential partners. These issues swiftly have to be resolved through establishing an effective system of communication to guarantee their reliability and integrity between public business associations in Russia and Africa.
In the meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered to restrict or prohibit import and export of certain products and raw materials from Russia in 2022, according to the decree on special foreign economic measures aimed to ensure Russia’s security.
“Ensure implementation of the following special economic measures until December 31, 2022: export and import ban of products and/or raw materials in accordance with lists to be defined by the government of the Russian Federation,” the document says, adding that a separate list will define goods, whose export and import will be restricted. The decree becomes necessary in order to ensure Russia’s security and uninterrupted operation of agriculture and industry.
On March 9, Putin and his Senegalese counterpart, Chair of the African Union, President Macky Sall held a telephone conversation to discuss the situation covering Russia’s special military operation to protect Donbass and the development of ties between Moscow and Africa.
“At the request of President Sall, Vladimir Putin informed him on the main aspects of the special military operation to protect the breakaway republics with an emphasis on the humanitarian element. In particular, it was stressed that Russian military personnel take every possible measure to safely evacuate foreign citizens,” the Kremlin press service said in a statement circulated after the conversation.
The Kremlin further stressed that the leaders confirmed the importance of the consistent implementation of the agreements reached at the first Russia-Africa summit in Sochi in 2019 and the further development of diverse ties in various economic spheres between Russia and African countries.
According to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the preparations for the Russia-Africa summit are in the active stage. The dates of the summit have not been determined yet. The first Russia-Africa summit took place in October 2019, and it was co-chaired by Russian and Egyptian Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The next summit scheduled for autumn 2022.
Turkey in the Black Sea Region: Risks for Russia?
On February 3, 2022, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an official visit to Ukraine, during which he managed to put his signature to a Turkey–Ukraine free trade agreement following more than ten years of negotiations on the provisions of the document. But this was not the only achievement of the President’s visit: Ankara and Kiev also signed a framework document on the construction of a facility that will produce Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles in Ukraine.
The dynamically developing relations between Ankara and Kiev bring into focus such issues as Turkey’s vigorous penetration into the post-Soviet space, its willingness to act as a military and political patron of a number of former Soviet countries and aid them in strengthening their relations with NATO despite their non-NATO member status. Do these developments make conflict in the Black Sea more likely? What risks would this create for Russia and its interests?
The Caucasus and Ukraine: Two Links in the Same Chain
After the Second Karabakh War, the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict was no longer a predominantly regional ethnopolitical confrontation rooted in the consequences of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The strategic link between Ankara and Baku formed in the early 1990s has gone from strength to strength. Opportunities for Turkey and Azerbaijan to collectively exert pressure on Armenia (military, political and diplomatic) and Georgia (in terms of economic cooperation) have expanded. Russia’s hegemony in the South Caucasus has been challenged. At the same time, the Turkish strategy of strengthening its positions in Eurasia has created additional tensions in Ankara’s relations with its NATO allies and with Iran.
However, the events of 2020 did not lead to changes in just one region of the post-Soviet space. Turkey’s growing presence in the South Caucasus has opened up opportunities for it to build up political and economic influence in the Black Sea. And the expansion of multifaceted cooperation with Ukraine is one of the most obvious consequences of Turkey’s encroachment into the former Soviet Union.
Today, President Erdogan consistently promotes the idea of Turkey being a mediator between Russia and Ukraine. Yet, he is just as consistent in promoting ideas and practices that are unacceptable to Moscow. Erdogan has made no secret of the fact that he does not recognize Russian jurisdiction over Crimea, while the Russian authorities have declared that the issue of the status of the peninsula is “closed.”
Military-technical cooperation between Ankara and Kiev has long ceased to be merely a part of the foreign policy activity of the two states. On September 29, 2021, the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine and the Bayraktar Savunma signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on the construction of a joint training and testing centre for the maintenance, repair and modernization of UAVs and training of personnel. In late October 2021, Ukraine used a Bayraktar strike drone for the first time in the armed conflict in the southeast of the country, in violation of the peace agreement between the parties. Following the strike, a group of reconnaissance officers from the Armed Forces of Ukraine infiltrated and captured the village of Staromaryevka located in the so-called “grey zone” between the DPR (the unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic) and Ukraine. Such operations are very much to the liking of Ukraine’s partner countries in Eastern Europe. In the autumn of 2021, Minister of Defence of the Republic of Latvia Artis Pabriks suggested that EU and NATO countries follow Ankara’s example and learn from its experience in developing relations with Kiev without taking the position of Moscow into consideration.
In this context, it is worth noting a certain incongruence between the approaches of the United States and Turkey’s other NATO allies to its actions in the Caucasus and Ukraine. France could not (and cannot) tolerate Ankara’s unequivocal support for Baku, while the United States has adopted a position of cautious restraint. Washington and Paris are co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, and they are concerned about Turkey’s “revisionism” in the Caucasus. This explains why both the French and the American sides are prepared to put up with Russia being the only major player in Nagorno-Karabakh as an inevitability or a lesser evil.
There is an Armenian lobby in the United States and France. Without exaggerating the role that it plays in the politics of both countries, we can say that the issues of Karabakh independence and the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire are present in the American and French narratives. Yet there is no scenario in which one could possibly imagine a discussion of the self-determination of the Donbass republics taking place in Congress or the National Assembly of France. It is unlikely that influential groups (not individual members of parliaments) calling for the recognition of Crimea as part of Russia will appear in either country any time soon.
Thus, the collective West sees Turkey’s advances in Ukraine as being far less nuanced than the strengthening of the strategic alliance between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Some countries of the “New Europe” even believe that Ankara is acting as any NATO member can (and should) act in its relations with Ukraine—without any kind of political correctness or reservations, something that representatives of Germany, France, Italy, Hungary and other EU countries resort to from time to time. All this cannot but embolden Turkey to take new steps to build allied relations with Kiev. In turn, Ukraine, tired of sitting on its hands waiting for NATO to make up its mind about the country’s membership in the organization, is ready to welcome Turkey with open arms.
But does Turkey’s growing activity in the Black Sea necessarily mean that its relations with Russia will suffer greatly? Well, the answer to this question is not as clear-cut as it may seem at first. To understand why this is the case, it is vital to examine the foundations on which the bilateral partnership between Ukraine and Turkey was built.
Ukraine and Turkey: It is more than just about Crimea
For Ukraine, President Erdogan and the Turkish establishment are a sympathetic audience, especially when it comes to the loss of Kiev’s sovereignty over Crimea. Turkish officials miss no opportunity to stress that they do not recognize Russian authority over the peninsula.
But the Crimean Tatar community is an important domestic factor for Turkey. According to various estimates, approximately 4–5 million descendants of Crimean Tatars live in the country. Russian expert in Turkic languages and civilization Pavel Shlykov has noted that, “there are forces in Turkey that are ready to exploit the romantic moods of a part of the Turkish elite who dream of expanding more actively into the Caucasus, Crimea, the Volga Region and Central Asia, and who view Russia not as a partner, but as a geopolitical rival.” In this regard, it is no coincidence that Erdogan, justifying his initiative to act as a mediator between Moscow and Kiev, has pointed out just how important it is for the Black Sea region as a whole to see a positive resolution to the Crimean Tatar issue. During his visit to Ukraine in February, Erdogan met with a delegation from the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People (an organization banned in the Russian Federation).
But Turkey does not focus on Crimea only. The Turkish elite, realizing the complexity of relations between Moscow and Kiev, uses Ukrainian channels to express its dissatisfaction with Russian stance on other foreign policy issues. This was the case during Erdogan’s visit to Kiev on February 3, 2020, which was timed to coincide with the 28th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Turkey and post-Soviet Ukraine. It also took place against the backdrop of a sharp military escalation in Syria. The Turkish President lambasted the Russian leadership for deliberately turning a blind eye to the actions of the “Syrian regime.”
We should keep in mind that contacts with Bartholomew I of Constantinople are extremely important for the Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky (as they were for his predecessor Petro Poroshenko), as he wants to use the Archbishop’s influence to fuel the “nationalization” of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. And there are no two ways about it—he needs Erdogan to do this. Arguably, Ukraine is willing to showcase its privileged relations with Azerbaijan, while it also seems poised to affirm the policy of non-recognition towards the genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Following the Second Karabakh War, Kiev has noted a change in the behaviour of the Azerbaijani leadership, deeming it more relevant to today than the example of the 1995 “pacification” of the Republic of Serbian Krajina it relied on before.
However, despite the commonality of interests and growing cooperation between the sides, Ankara will most likely try to compensate for its emotions with regard to Ukraine by being pragmatic in its relations with Russia. No matter how intensively cooperation between Ankara and Kiev may develop, Erdogan is not trying to give up its role as an “intermediary” between Ukraine and Russia. He is under no illusion that the West would be satisfied if it were Turkey pulling the chestnuts out of the fire and not the “Euro-Atlantic brotherhood.” But the Turkish leadership is trying to raise its profile in the dialogue with the United States and the European Union by appealing to its “special relations” with Moscow. For all intents and purposes, this looks similar to how Ankara is conducting the dialogue with the European Union around the problem of refugees and migrants from the Middle East. For Turkey, getting caught up in an open confrontation with Russia would mean losing its status as a “special member” of NATO that needs to be coaxed and coddled.
Over recent years, Erdogan has thrown down the gauntlet to a number of countries, such as when putting Moscow, Washington, Beijing, and New Delhi, among others, on notice. However, by embracing his image as a major troublemaker, the President of Turkey has repeatedly shown that he is able to rationalize confrontation. This was the case in 2016 when Turkey and Russia disagreed over Syria, and in 2021 when Joe Biden called the tragedy of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire a genocide.
However, no matter how the Turkish President and his inner circle maneuver, Turkey is becoming more and more militarily and politically involved in post-Soviet affairs with each passing day. And we are no longer talking exclusively about the Caucasus region. It appears as if Erdogan wants to become one of the key actors in the Ukrainian game—a player without whom any reconfiguration in the Black Sea region would be, if not impossible, then extremely unlikely.
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