Sunday, March 27, 2016

Russia Signals Interest in Warming Ties With Turkey- Russians & the Turkish Riviera

Came across this news item yesterday, but waited until today to post it.  Despite it being a breach of my two day break! So, I enforced a one day break anyway ;)
  Readers here may recall my mentioning these sanctions were not as far reaching or damage imposing as something the US could and has imposed on nation after nation. For the simple reason that Russia would/could not cut off it's nose to spite it's own face. The US has that luxury. Russia not so much. Flashback: Russia sanctions Turkey? Smoke & Mirrors. Turkey to get very wintery blast
 Turkey remains an important trading partner for Russia, and Moscow aims to minimise problems for Turkish and Russian businesses caused by sanctions, Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said on Tuesday.
 His comments, playing down the impact of recent economic sanctions.

"Turkey remains our large trading partner. Our embargo is selective, very selective, concerning food and only certain (items)," Ulyukayev said in an interview with Russian state television.

"They are designed in a way so that existing contracts won't be violated. Here we are for the time being very cautious. We don't want to create problems for Turkish business, and even less for our own business and citizens."
So the news contained below wasn't shocking to me. However, it may be shocking to others?
  Russia signals interest to defrost ties with Turkey-

In an abrupt turnaround, Moscow has put out feelers to Turkey signalling interest in calming tensions in the bilateral relations and opening a new page. The Russian civil aviation authorities have lifted the ban on flights to Antalya on the Mediterranean, which is known as the Turkish Riviera and a popular destination for Russian tourists.
No explanation has been given for the decision, in terms of which Ural Airlines will fly seven times a week from the Russian cities of Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan to Antalya.
It's likely going to be business as usual
Moscow had previously banned the sale of tour packages and charter flights to Turkey – as well as import of certain Turkish goods – after a Russian military jet was downed by a Turkish F-16 on Nov. 24. In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order to extend Russian economic sanctions against Turkey.
Moscow’s latest decision suggests that Russian tourists may return to Turkey as before. The number of Russian tourists had dropped by a million last year to 3.6 million.
That's sure good timing for Turkey's economy.
Again, on Thursday, a senior Kremlin politician Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of the upper house of Russian parliament, was quoted as saying,
    Our relations with Turkey need to be taken out of the deep freeze. We are actually ready to solve this but we are not the reason for this coldness between us.
    For the ice to melt, Turkey needs to take a step and take responsibility for downing our plane. Unfortunately, we have not perceived even an indication from Ankara that such a step will be taken.
Matviyenko put the onus on Turkey by insisting that Ankara must “take responsibility for downing our plane”. But she left the pre-condition sufficiently vague. Some amicable formula seems to be under consideration whereby the two sides can move on.
Clearly, the Russian stance has mellowed, considering that at the peak of tensions, Putin had voiced skepticism whether Russian-Turkish relations could be normalized at all so long as the leadership in Ankara remained in power.
Putin had spoken to the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani twice in recent days. Turkey and Qatar are aligned closely on Syria and the emir is also personally close to Turkish President Recep Erdogan. Possibly, the emir has acted as a go-between. At any rate, it is apparent that the demonizing of Erdogan in the Russian media propaganda has noticeably tapered off.
To be sure, Moscow is preparing the ground for reopening dialogue with Ankara. What explains the sense of urgency? Simply put, it is the Syrian peace talks under way in Geneva. Engaging with Ankara has become an unavoidable practical necessity for Russian diplomacy while steering the Syrian peace process, since Turkey is a key player with real capacity to influence the situation in Syria, whether anyone likes it or not.
In principle, Russia has imposed a ‘no-fly zone’ in Syria but reports continue to appear that Turkey (???) nevertheless keeps supplying the extremist groups in Syria with weapons and fighters. Some Iranian reports even claimed that in Salahuddin in Iraq, Islamic State used brand new weapons manufactured in 2016, which the jihadists could have only sourced from Turkey.
Why doesn't Russia stop this arms flow?
However, Ankara too should be in a chastened mood now. The horrific terrorist strikes in Ankara and Istanbul apart, Ankara would know that the ground situation is turning more and more in favour of the Syrian government forces and the ouster of President Bashar Al-Assad has become highly improbable. 
The capture of the ancient city of Palmyra from the hands of the Islamic State, which is imminent, will be a big morale booster for the Syrian regime. The government forces have encircled Aleppo and cut off most of the supply routes from Turkey. They are expected to have a crack at liberating Raqqa, the ‘capital’ of the Islamic State, in a near future. At this point, clearly, the priorities are changing for both Moscow and Ankara.

While Moscow’s interest will be to see that the Syrian ceasefire holds, Ankara will appreciate that Russia holds many cards on the Syrian chessboard. Put differently, Moscow’s help becomes useful and necessary to secure Turkey’s legitimate interests in any Syrian settlement.

Moscow received two important visitors on Wednesday – German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the US Secretary of State John Kerry. Both these western statesmen would have strong reasons to urge the Kremlin to patch up with Erdogan.

For Germany, Turkey is a hugely important interlocutor today on the issue of Syrian refugees. For the US, Turkey is a key NATO ally whose cold war with Russia becomes an obstacle (and a potentially dangerous flashpoint) in the Syrian peace process.

However, from the Turkish viewpoint, the most critical issue today will be Russia’s equations with the Syrian Kurds. Reports suggest that Russia has been helping the Syrian Kurds in their military operations to gain ground in northern Syria in areas bordering Turkey. Russia has also been vociferously advocating the inclusion of Kurds at the Syrian peace table (which is something that Turkey has opposed tooth and nail). Meanwhile, Kurds have proclaimed their agenda of a federated Syria.

Conceivably, Moscow held out a meaningful signal to Ankara on Friday by discarding traces of any ambivalence on Syrian Kurds. The deputy foreign minister and presidential envoy on the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov stated in Moscow,
    Our task is to help Kurds, to find common ground, common approaches. National Syrian interests should prevail over all others. They should proceed from the fact that Syria should not be broken apart as it will be bad for Syrians themselves.

Bogdanov added that Moscow has good relations and contacts with the Kurds. He just stopped short of holding out an assurance to Ankara that Moscow would be willing to go the extra mile to prevent a break-up of Syria. With direct talks between the Syrian government and the opposition expected in the next round of negotiations in April, there is scope for some sort of give and take between Moscow and Ankara regarding the inclusion of Kurds in the peace talks.
Bogdanov stopped short of holding out an assurance to Ankara that Moscow would be willing to ge the extra mile to prevent the break-up of Syria
Moscow has failed to ‘isolate’ Erdogan. On the other hand, it has done well to re-engage Turkey within a week of the visit by the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif to Istanbul.
I don't believe Moscow ever intended to 'isolate' Erdogan
Moscow cannot afford the emergent format of Russian-American co-piloting of the Syrian peace process, which has been shored up with great effort, being upstaged by regional powers who may feel excluded. Of course, the sensible thing will be to engage the irascible parties and give them a sense of involvement. Russian diplomacy cast its net wide in the Middle East, but Turkey was a solitary exception, and the gap was becoming untenable. Moscow is now moving to close it.

Turkish media reported on the lifting of the travel ban 

 Russia has resumed flights to Turkey's southern resort town of Antalya after a ban that was imposed due to the military jet downing incident last November was lifted, Russian media outlets reported yesterday.


  1. they have audio commercials on your blog :)

    no foul, I just turn my speakers off

    Found at obscure site
    Turkey, Russia okay observation flights

    1. Hey Karin;

      I don't hear any advertising myself and have not granted google access to place advertising here
      can you let me know what it is your hearing?
      I would appreciate any assistance you can offer
      thanks :)

  2. If one understands how the Russians conduct foreign policy the news should not be a surprise. Practicality always reigns. They are accutely aware of US/Nato designs for Turkey. Designs you discussed so many times here.
    It does seem, however, the article is written from a Turkish biased point of view.

    1. Hey Charles:

      " Practicality always reigns"
      It has to for Russia!
      Russia does not have the global military like the US to enforce and inflict harm.
      Russia does not run NATO.
      Russia does not have the petro dollar advantage.
      So, it was always come down to what can be done without harming oneself.

      Yah, I detected a bit of a bias, but, I liked the
      comment made by M.K. Bhadrakumar

      "Turkey is a key player with real capacity to influence the situation in Syria, whether anyone likes it or not"

      Considering Turkey and Iran have good relations- they have influence and are influenced and their influence is not from Saudi Arabia- it's from their neighbour Iran

  3. The comment "practicality always reigns" subsumed all of what you state. No they don't possess close to 1000 military bases, which certainly limits their ability to project their military. Russia does not have as vassals the wealthiest countries on earth and their militaries. Russia does not control world finance. The petro dollar allows the US to spend the 100's of billions they do on war. Russian leadership does not have the death wish behind the goal of world domination. If you believe the comment was a criticism of Russian policy you can rest assurred it was not. Am I interpreting incorrectly?

    1. Hi Charles: Nope I did not take your comment as a criticism at all- :)

      I was glad you understood the point being made
      There seems to be this concept around various sites that Russia is some power equal to yet the US, to much save the world talk, not you though

      Sure if we are talking nukes, what's the difference really?
      But in other ways there are very big differences

  4. Thanks for the response. To me it's similar to talk of the immenent collapse of the dollar and the US. It is slowly occurring, but it's not going to be tomorrow morning. Though many, including me, are in the cheering section hoping for it. Until the EU vassals wake up to the fact that their sun rises in the east it's advantage Empire. I don"t see that occurring teal soon either?