Russia Is Using Economic Leverage to Turn Turkey into an Ally

Aug. 10 2018

While the Turkish-Russian rivalry goes back at least to the 18th century, and has flared up recently over tensions in Syria, there have been signs in recent years of a possible alliance between the two countries. As Recep Tayyip Erdogan leads his country in an increasingly anti-Western, anti-American, and anti-Israel direction, a realignment with Vladimir Putin seems more and more likely. Aykan Erdemir and John Lechner explain how a recent scandal involving the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, a joint Russian-Turkish venture, sheds light on Moscow’s plan to use private enterprise to bring Ankara to its side:

[O]n July 8, the U.S. ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison stated that Russia is trying to “flip” Turkey through the sale of the S-400 air-defense system and energy deals. While these state-to-state deals are certainly significant, they tend to overshadow a quieter, but equally important, Russian campaign to “flip” Turkey’s influential business community, . . . in what appears to be a gradual building of hybrid-warfare capacity against a key NATO member.

The term hybrid warfare has become a catch-all for Russia’s exploitation of economic, political, financial, covert, and military resources to achieve desired foreign-policy outcomes in the former Soviet Union and the West. Moscow utilizes economic resources and Russian companies to exert influence on key power-brokers in the target country, often lobbying to maintain or increase the country’s dependence on Russian energy at the state level. In the Kremlin’s playbook, Russian firms co-opt local businesspeople and decision makers via lucrative business deals and high-profile board positions—all via non-transparent, frequently corrupt processes. . . .

Akkuyu is one of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pet megaprojects and . . . a key confidence builder in Turco-Russian relations. The $20-billion project will be Turkey’s first nuclear reactor, expected to supply the country with 10 percent of its energy needs. [The] Russian nuclear-energy company Rosatom provided the financing for Akkuyu in exchange for 51-percent ownership. . . . Russia is already the largest supplier of natural gas and the third-largest supplier of oil to Turkey. . . .

[The Russian government has recently arranged to place on Akkuyu’s board] Erdogan’s confidant, former senior adviser, and all-around fixer Hasan Cuneyd Zapsu. [He offers] Moscow effective channels of access to Turkey’s autocratic ruler. More importantly, it is likely that, given the sums and contracts at stake, the involvement of Erdogan’s inner circle in energy projects with Russia might [aid] Russia’s hybrid-warfare strategy. . . . And against a backdrop of growing calls in Washington for potential sanctions on Turkey for the procurement of the Russian-built S-400 air-defense system, such leverage might be worth more than ever.

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Read more at National Interest

More about: Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Turkey, U.S. Foreign policy

 

By Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan, the U.S. Has Freed Israel from “Land for Peace”

March 25 2019

In the 52 years since Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria, there have been multiple efforts to negotiate their return in exchange for Damascus ending its continuous war against the Jewish state. Shmuel Rosner argues that, with his announcement on Thursday acknowledging the legitimacy of Jerusalem’s claim to the Golan, Donald Trump has finally decoupled territorial concessions from peacemaking:

[With] the takeover of much of Syria by Iran and its proxies, . . . Israel had no choice but to give up on the idea of withdrawing from the Golan Heights. But this reality involves a complete overhaul of the way the international community thinks not just about the Golan Heights but also about all of the lands Israel occupied in 1967. . . .

Withdrawal worked for Israel once, in 1979, when it signed a peace agreement with Egypt and left the Sinai Peninsula, which had also been occupied in 1967. But that also set a problematic precedent. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt insisted that Israel hand back the entire peninsula to the last inch. Israel decided that the reward was worth the price, as a major Arab country agreed to break with other Arab states and accept Israel’s legitimacy.

But there was a hidden, unanticipated cost: Israel’s adversaries, in future negotiations, would demand the same kind of compensation. The 1967 line—what Israel controlled before the war—became the starting point for all Arab countries, including Syria. It became a sacred formula, worshiped by the international community.

What President Trump is doing extends far beyond the ability of Israel to control the Golan Heights, to settle it, and to invest in it. The American president is setting the clock back to before the peace deal with Egypt, to a time when Israel could argue that the reward for peace is peace—not land. Syria, of course, is unlikely to accept this. At least not in the short term. But maybe someday, a Syrian leader will come along who doesn’t entertain the thought that Israel might agree to return to the pre-1967 line and who will accept a different formula for achieving peace.

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More about: Donald Trump, Golan Heights, Israel & Zionis, Peace Process, Sinai Peninsula, Syria