The European Union has stepped up its activity following the visit of the head of the Russian state to Ankara. High-ranking officials of the organization arrived in the capital of Turkey this time. British Prime Minister Cameron also arrived in Turkey. Experts claim there are some reasons behind such activity and evaluate these developments in the aspect of global processes. They virtually come up with ideas on the rise of the geopolitical importance of Turkey, which on one hand, makes this country a scene of geopolitical competition. On the other hand, it makes the situation in this country more delicate. In this regard, the steps that the official Ankara takes under these circumstances are of great interest. It is not ruled out that the processes that have an impact on the wider geopolitical area may begin in the short run.
Visits: after Moscow – Brussels
Shortly after the visit of Vladimir Putin to Ankara, Brussels sent a diplomatic mission to Turkey. The delegation included top officials of the EU – F. Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. After them, this country was visited by Head of the government of England David Cameron.
What made European diplomats who arrived in Turkey one after another, so much interested? No doubt, the EU would have not sent its officials to Ankara without serious reasons. In this respect, experts particularly highlight several factors (see for example: Андрей Арешев. Могерини в Турции: евроинтеграция или евромайдан? / Фонд стратегической культуры, 9 December 2014).
First of all, the talks revolve around the issues discussed during the Russian President`s Turkey trip and agreements achieved. The West is more concerned about the atomic energy and gas agreements reached between Moscow and Ankara. The Russian President announced in Ankara the refusal from the South Stream project and choosing Turkey as the main gas export route. Simultaneously, Moscow suggested construction of the gas storages in the Turkish province adjoining Greece (see: Владислав Воробьев. ЕС пытается украсть у Анкары миллиарды долларов / “Российская газета”, 9 December 2014).
Besides, the countries agreed to create a favorable milieu for mutual investments. Russia reiterated its intention to import Turkish agricultural products. Turkey agreed with this proposal.
The mentioned agreements show that the parties are keen on expanding cooperation. Experts say the Crimean Tatars issue receded in the background. Ankara was told that there will be no problem with that. Turkey`s position on Russia`s seizing control of the peninsular and developments in the Eastern Ukraine remained unchanged. A rift between Ankara and Moscow over the Syria issue remains (see: Hilal Köylü. Türkiye ile AB yakınlaşır mı? / “Deutsche Welle”, 9 December 2014).
What can be inferred from the above-mentioned is that the EU representatives` visit to Turkey was largely of geopolitical nature. The discussions held were undoubtedly connected with the global geopolitical processes. Majority of specialists claim that Brussels intends to put pressure on Ankara. But President Erdogan stated that no one had exerted pressure on them (see: Rusya’ya yaptırım bilmecesi / “Milliyet”, 9 December 2014).
The point is that the West demands that Turkey join sanctions against Russia. Ankara stated that it would not take such a step and acted and will continue to act in line with its own interests in its foreign policy. There is no information on where this issue was discussed between the EU representatives and President Erdogan. But logically this issue was on the agenda.
Geopolitical maneuvers: where can they lead Turkey?
The visit of the Russian President to Turkey can virtually be regarded as an important step towards these countries` turning into high-level strategic partners. That is why, analysts ask: “Does the EU step into the new stage in its foreign policy?” (see: Fatma Yılmaz-Elmas. Mogherini’nin Türkiye Ziyareti: AB ve Türkiye Açısından Önemi / USAK, 9 December 2014). The analytical reports express belief in such kind of changes. Brussels has to evaluate geopolitical importance of Turkey more deeply. It is down to two reasons. First, the EU is in crisis and second, the Turkish economy is experiencing dynamic growth.
The Brussels need for Ankara is rising over the developments in the Middle East and the Eurasian area too. The number of the West`s reliable friends in the world is shrinking. The main reason for that are the big western powers` favoring double standards. Can they rectify the situation? The time will show.
Meanwhile, the EU officials hold discussions with Turkey to find a common ground on the ISIL as well as the Syrian and Russian issues. Instead, they promise to accelerate Turkey`s EU membership (see: Ольга Кузнецова. Евросоюз торопится вступить в Турцию / “Коммерсантъ”, 10 December 2014). Turkish diplomat even joke that: “if Putin come to Turkey more often, the EU will be more obedient”.
Indeed, Brussels promised to allocate USD 70 mln for the Syrian refugees. The EU also reaffirmed its intention to speed up talks on the Turkey`s membership and expressed interest in deepening cooperation in all fields. They found the need to concert efforts with Ankara with regard to the ISIL.
It is all undoubtedly interesting. But do the Turkish officials believe in such promises? On the other hand, the official Ankara have suggested more effective models of relations than those mentioned above but Brussels was not interested in them. But now Brussels became even more active in this respect.
Some specialists believe that these processes suggest Turkey`s becoming a scene of geopolitical competition (see: previous source). Amidst these difficulties, the West faced in its relationship with Russia and China, it is not willing to lose Turkey as one of the countries, which play a decisive role in the Middle East. Both Moscow and Beijing realize this. The fact that Russia turns to Turkey in the light of worsening economic situation is understandable. But there is the question mark if the official Ankara manages to use this favorable opportunity.
The developments show that the Turkish leadership still successfully maneuvers. Russia is ready to recognize this country as one of the major partner in energy transit. This issue can give an impetus to convergence of geopolitical interests of the two countries in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. The EU also seeks to elevate relations with Turkey to new highs. Geopolitical and economic interests intersect here. It is noteworthy that seemingly resolute in both directions Ankara does not mix up a conflict between Moscow and Brussels with its relations with both of them. Turkish diplomats are clearly outspoken about that.
Can this lead to further increase in geopolitical influence of Turkey? We can positively answer this question by following the logic of events. But reality can always surprise. We should not forget that great powers can make concessions to weaker states up to some point. But it is difficult to forecast what will happen after. If the standoff between Russia and the West will deepen even more it is not known what their attitude to Ankara will be.
As we can see the visits of the EU officials to Turkey can become a new milestone. Much depends on how Brussels responds in case of Ankara’s refusal from joining sanctions against Russia. What scenarios will be developed for Turkey if Russia with its weakening economy will suddenly make a comprise to the West? There are many such open-ended questions.