Putin’s Deal for Erdogan: Turkish Stream, Syria, and something else…

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October 12, 2016 – Fort Russ – 

Ruslan Ostashko, PolitRussia – translated by J. Arnoldski –

On October 10th, Vladimir Putin flew to Istanbul to personally participate in the World Energy Congress. However, the main purpose of the Russian president’s presence on Turkish soil was, of course, meeting with Erdogan, for whom the time has come to confirm his intention of achieving real independence for Turkey by concrete deeds. 

It can also be said that the Turkish President has some rather serious personal debt to Putin. After all, according to many sources, the Russian side really did afford Erdogan decisive support during the recent putsch. According to the Russian proverb, one good deed deserves another. Well, now look at the political solvency of the Turkish leader.

One of the main goals of Putin’s visit was distinguished by Energy Minister Alexander Novak, who stated that the path to restoring Russian-Turkish relations lies through Turkish Stream. There really is the chance that the package of documents for Turkish Stream could be signed in the near future, and it is very high. For Russia, what is important is securing a breakthrough in this area, and not only for Gazprom and, as follows, the Russian budget to profit. 

The main point is that now the transit of gas to Turkey runs through Ukraine, and we need the Ukrainian gas pipelines to lose any strategic value they still have. And if the transit of gas to Northern and Central Europe will be totally handled in the future by Nord Stream 2, then dealing with the southern direction is much more complicated. 

In this sense, Turkish Stream is a blow to the economy and budget of Ukraine. This explains the painful reaction by Western politicians to any Russian gas initiatives which lead to the reduction of transit through Ukraine. The signing of the Russian-Turkish intergovernmental agreement on Turkish Stream by Putin and Erdogan would be a symbol that the Turkish leader is ready to take steps that Washington does’t like. Only after this will further dialogue with the Turkish leader make sense.

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Yet another question which will surely be discussed at the meeting is cooperation on Syria. It would be ideal for us to force Erdogan to completely close the Syrian-Turkish border, thereby cutting off supply lines for a significant part of Syrian extremists. Some say that the Syrian-Turkish border is now much less “transparent” than before, but we want it to be more transparent. For Ankara, such a decision will be very difficult since it would be impossible to explain to the electorate of Erdogan himself who perceive Syrian Turkomans as their brothers and the actions of the Syrian army as genocide. Moreover, such a decision would anger Washington much more than any gas pipeline, and could provoke a new attempt to overthrow Erdogan.

Based on these considerations, we shouldn’t expect a breakthrough over Syria. But it would be nice to achieve some progress on the diplomatic level, such as the recognition that Assad very well might be Syria’s president in the future if he wins the next elections. After all, Kerry said the same thing to Syrian oppositionists in a private meeting in the US, and this means that Erdogan would not be sinning by officially supporting this. This, of course, greatly upsets Hillary Clinton who literally just the other day stated that Assad’s departure is the number one goal in Syria. But there is nothing one can do here. In any case, Hillary will try to remove or kill Erdogan.

I think that most people already have an impression as to what agenda Putin brought with him to Turkey. It would be very beneficial for us if we could convince or force Erdogan to take certain actions which would forever close the door for him going back to the suffocating embrace of the State Department. Anyway, he has nothing good to expect from any attempts at making peace with the Americans….

The packet of proposed agreements features another important initiative with great symbolic gravity. In a recent interview, economy minister Ulyukayev stated that he does not rule out that Russian-Turkish transactions will henceforth be counted not in dollars, but rubles and lira, and also expressed the hope that the Russian and Turkish Central Banks would discuss this issue. Converting Russian-Turkish trade turnover from the dollar into rubles and lira, of course, is nothing triumphant, but it can be considered a kind of point of no return in relations between Ankara and Washington. 

Everyone knows how sensitive the Americans are to the international role of the dollar, and many noticed that the beginning of the US operation against Gaddafi far from coincidentally coincided with his initiative to convert international oil trade accounting into gold measurement. Erdogan needs a lot of courage or desperation to do the same.

Following Putin’s visit to Turkey, we can finally answer the question: Just how much did the putschists frighten Erdogan? But there is also a second question:  Is the Turkish leader scared enough to make a decisive breakthrough towards freedom? It is still too early to give a clear answer to this question. 

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