عنوان مقاله [English]
Over the past decades, Turkish-Russian relations have been increasingly characterized by a wide range of cooperation and rapprochement. Beyond strong economic bonds, the main reason behind the recent rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow is the general deterioration of Turkey’s relations with its Western allies which is highly interlinked to the outcomes of changing global order. As American hegemony has been declining, two rising Eurasian powers, Russia and Turkey, have started to challenge Western order and supremacy in the shifting international system. This dynamic context has paved the way for the strategic partnership of revisionist powers. Many scholars even began to argue that Turkey-Russia relations could turn into a strategic alliance in the future if Ankara’s relations with Western allies strain further. However, contrary to what many believe, a persistent strategic alliance between Russia and Turkey is rather unlikely due to serious differences in the two countries’ stances on certain major issues in the changing regional and global politics.
This article aims to study the changing nature of Turkey-Russia’s strategic rapprochement systematically. The current literature on Turkish-Russian relations suggests that Turkey is strategically reorienting away from the West towards Eurasia, Russia in Particular. Instead, this article seeks to explain the multi-dimensional nature of Turkey’s strategic rapprochement with Russia in a changing international system. It argues that Turkey’s growing interest in closer cooperation with Russia is taking place amidst a transforming global order, shifting regional geopolitics and domestic political dynamics. In this context, Turkey’s rising partnership with Russia does not necessarily mean an axis shift at the expense of its traditional Western orientation. Rather, this growing strategic rapprochement is the outcome of a dynamic reaction to the ongoing power transition in the international system, a rising rift in transatlantic alliances, the crisis in Turkish domestic politics, and the geopolitical developments surrounding the two emerging Eurasian powers. Although the transforming global structures have paved the way for Turkey-Russia strategic partnership, bilateral relations continue to be characterized by significant elements of conflict and geopolitical rivalry and also are highly affected by their relations with the West. Among other factors, the role of asymmetric economic interdependence, divergent energy strategies, authoritarian leadership agency, as well as geopolitical rivalries in the changing geopolitics of the Black Sea, the South Caucasus, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East are highlighted.
In the charter of IR theories, the Neorealist school in particular and also in the changing global world order, being Multipolar seems to have facilitated the efforts of rising powers to forge a strategic partnership with each other as well as pursuing Multi-directional and Multi-dimensional foreign policies. For rising non-Western powers, being Multipolar seems to have paved the way for the formation of pragmatic and flexible strategic cooperation while viewing each other as potential rivals on some critical issues. In this theoretical context, despite historical roots of animosity and geopolitical rivalry between Turkey and Russia, as two rising Eurasian powers, Ankara and Moscow have succeeded in compartmentalizing their relations in the changing global order. However, this does not necessarily mean that Turkish leaders are keen to make a strong strategic alliance with Russia. Ankara’s gradual shift away from Western allies in recent years does not demonstrate a strong Turkish commitment to end its strategic and institutional partnership with the transatlantic alliance but it is reconsidering its international standing in more Eastern ways. On the contrary, Turkey’s strategic rapprochement with Russia should be seen as a realist adjustment to the realities of the emerging post-Western multilateral world order.
This article concludes by stating that Turkey-Russia emerging strategic partnership in the changing global order faces various structural and normative constraints. The article offers four notable points in this regard: first, Turkey’s strategic relations with Russia is to a very high degree determined by the development of its relations with traditional western allies as Ankara still has a structural security-economic dependency on the West and has important disagreements with Moscow regarding the changing geopolitical issues in the Middle East, Black Sea, East Mediterranean, and South Caucasus. Second, it is worth noting that the intense personal relations between Erdogan and Putin, the two authoritarian leaders, itself is an unstable element in shaping an institutionalized strategic partnership as the two ambitious leaders have an uncompromising distrust of each other. Third, although the high volume of trade has become a key element in improving Turkish-Russian relations, the trade imbalance and asymmetric economic interdependence between the two countries, especially Turkey’s dependence on energy imports from Russia, is an obstacle to drawing the prospect of strategic cooperation between Ankara and Moscow. Over the past decade, various geopolitical developments in their immediate neighborhood with a security dimension interfere with the trade interdependence between the countries. In other words, the fluctuations in Turkish-Russian trade relations also demonstrate the primacy of politics and security for sustained economic interdependence in the longer term. Finally, with all the disagreements in Turkey’s relations with Western allies, the scale and intensity of potential threats to Turkey’s national security and interests emanating from Russia are too high as the two Eurasian powers present competitive perception and intention towards the post-Western order in the making. Although Ankara treats the US and EU differently, Turkey is increasingly instrumentalizing its growing relations with Eastern powers to gain greater diplomatic leverage vis-à-vis Western powers. Therefore, it seems that the contributions over the rising of a strategic partnership between Turkey and Russia are overstated, at least in the foreseeable future, and the recent moves in improving the strategic cooperation of the two countries should be seen as a pragmatic response to sets of common challenges and opportunities in changing regional and global context. All in all, the dynamics of strategic ties between Ankara and Moscow can rarely be stabilized.