Russian Mistrust of Turkey Grows

There is to be a summit between the presidents of Russia and Turkey. The foreign ministers of the two sides have been trying to lay the groundwork. But the negotiations between Ankara and Moscow to resolve the recent conflict over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh have reached an unpleasant sticking point.

When basic relations between states are good, talks on an isolated topic, however sensitive, can proceed in isolation from everything else and are more likely to succeed. But when other conflicts of interest as yet unresolved lurk in the shadows, it is impossible to isolate the issues at stake on one thorny subject from the rest.

The issue here is that the Turks have been using military proxies from Syria – Arabs – to pursue their goals within Syria and in Libya. And the Russians have reason to believe they may be tempted to do so in Nagorno-Karabkah as well. They definitely do not want them anywhere near the enclave. And neither the Russians nor the Armenians want to see Turkish troops in Nagorno-Karabakh either, even for so-called peace-keeping “monitoring.”

Both Turkey and Russia are at odds with the West. They therefore have a strong incentive to solve disputes between one another amicably. Yet their fundamental interests collide in that the Russians have no interest at all in seeing a burgeoning rival emerge in the Near East and the Caucasus; the latter effectively a protectorate since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

What Moscow appears not to understand is that they cannot have it both ways. If Russia does not wish to compromise on any outstanding questions with the West, it is going to have to compromise elsewhere. Yet the entire “near abroad” – including the Caucasus – is not something the Russians want to sacrifice, not least for reasons of domestic sentiment, whatever the prospective gain diplomatically. The Turks know very well the anguish at letting go of former imperial possessions; so they can probably appreciate that the Russians are not going to back away easily.

Nezavisimaya gazeta comments:

29.12.2020 19:01:00

Лавров и Чавушоглу не ждут иностранных наемников на Кавказе

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Министры иностранных дел России и Турции обсудили Карабах и предстоящую встречу Путина с Эрдоганом

 Геннадий Петров