A country’s foreign policy is shaped by its identity, sense of belonging, world outlook, and geographic location. This last one is a constant; the others are subject to evolution, change, and definition/redefinition within the limits of reason. In today’s polarized Turkey, we do not have a consensus on any of the first three and the last one happens to be a double-edged sword. In countries enjoying such consensus, the task of governments is to merge these with national power into policies designed to maximize national interest. This requires realism, calm, poise, prudence, consistency, and determination.
Last week, the US House of Representatives approved 40 billion dollars in additional aid for Ukraine by a vote of 368-57. The package of military, economic and humanitarian support was 7 billion dollars more than the 33 billion President Biden had requested. The package is expected to pass the Senate this week.
9/11 Led to an outburst of international sympathy and support for the US. President George W. Bush vowed vengeance and ordered the invasion of Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda’s leadership was based. Russian President Putin was the first foreign leader to call US President Bush and in a statement of support he said: “In the name of Russia, I want to say to the American people – we are with you.” He coordinated with central Asian countries to allow US forces, for the first time, to use military bases of the former Soviet Union.
Soon after, unfortunately, came the US-led invasion of Iraq under false premises, followed later by the Arab spring interventions.
On April 27, at a meeting with the Council of Lawmakers, President Putin accused the West of always pursuing a policy of containing Russia. He said no one could imagine the creation of an “anti-Russia” on historical Russian territory. He claimed that Ukraine was pushed into direct confrontation with Russia and the Ukrainian people were allotted the destiny of “expendable material.” He said,
Last week, in an article titled, “The U.S. Races to Arm Ukraine with Heavier, More Advanced Weaponry” the New York Times provided the reader with extensive information about the Western arms supplies to Ukraine.[i] It mentioned the Russian warning that Western deliveries of the “most sensitive” weapons systems to Ukraine could bring “unpredictable consequences”. It drew attention to concerns among NATO allies regarding the kinds of military equipment sent to Ukraine. Earlier in the week, German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck had warned NATO allies that deliveries of modern tanks from Western producers could prompt Russia to extend its war to Western countries.
A country’s foreign policy is shaped by its identity, sense of belonging, world outlook, and geographic location. This last one is a constant, others are subject to evolution, change, and definition/redefinition within the limits of reason. The task of governments is to merge these with national power into policies designed to maximize national interest. Domestic politics and foreign policy are intimately linked. Sometimes governments and political leaders seize on opportunities offered by international developments. They launch initiatives to “promote national interests”, “reinforce the rules-based international order”, and “ensure respect for international law”. However, such initiatives almost always have a domestic politics dimension. Sometimes they pay off, sometimes they fail.
On April 5, 2022, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that assertions of “war crimes” are a pretext to torpedo the ongoing negotiations at a time when some light, however dim, has appeared at the end of the tunnel. Then, elaborating on the talks held in Istanbul on March 29, 2022, he said:
“For the first time ever, the Ukrainian side has put on paper that it is prepared to declare Ukraine a neutral, non-aligned, and non-nuclear state, and to refuse to deploy weapons from foreign states on its territory or to conduct exercises on its territory with the participation of foreign military personnel, unless they are approved by all guarantors of the future treaty, including the Russian Federation. The security guarantees envisaged by the treaty are a step toward everyone realizing that the negotiations need to completely rule out NATO’s eastward expansion, primarily to Ukraine, and to ensure indivisible security in Europe.”
On March 25, Russian General Staff deputy head Colonel General Sergey Rudskoy announced that the significant reduction of the Ukrainian military potential will now make it possible for Russia to concentrate on the main goal: the liberation of Donbas, while the operation itself will last until “total completion of goals, set by the commander-in-chief.” After the talks in Istanbul, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin also said that Russia will drastically decrease the military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv.
In its early years, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched an open-ended accession process with the EU. From day one, the process ran into difficulties because the EU countries behaved as if they regretted their decision. Ankara gradually came to believe that the process would lead nowhere. This was the firstepisode in the brief story of the past two decades.
The following was my summing-up of the Ukraine conflict seven years ago:
“News from Ukraine and Ukraine-related developments are not encouraging. The Minsk cease-fire remains fragile. Political and economic difficulties facing Ukraine show no sign of abating. The Government does not appear strong and determined enough. There has been no progress on the level of autonomy to be recognized to the separatist regions. The conflict between “federalization” and “decentralization” continues. Ukraine troops are now being trained by American officers. Russia’s naval deployments and air activity are becoming increasingly reminiscent of the Cold War. NATO is holding joint exercises in Poland, Lithuania, the US in Georgia. The Treaty on Alliance and Integration between Russia and South Ossetia has been submitted to the State Duma for ratification. The flow of immigrants and asylum seekers from Ukraine into EU countries is on the rise… The West continues to see Mr. Putin as an unpredictable leader determined not to allow Ukraine to chart its future. He says that he wants as close interaction as possible with the US, based on equal rights and mutual respect of interests and positions of each other. Both the West and Russia seemingly desire to put the Ukraine conflict behind and move forward but words and deeds do not match.” [i]