What “Centers of Power” are Trying to Set Turkey and Russia at Odds?

P 22.12.2021 U Vladimir Danilov


“Moscow and Ankara did not fall into the trap set by the organizers of the assassination of the Russian ambassador to the Turkish capital, Andrei Karlov. They failed to destroy the friendship of the two countries,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with RIA Novosti in connection with the fifth anniversary of the Russian diplomat’s death. In recent years, relations between Russia and Turkey have developed dynamically, both bilaterally and regionally, the minister said. At the same time, he pointed out that in 2021 the trade turnover will approach 30 billion dollars. It is expected that about 5 million Russian tourists, by far the largest group of all nationalities, will visit Turkey annually. The Turkish Stream and the Akkuyu NPP have been actively developing as joint energy projects.

In his statement, the Turkish Foreign Minister emphasized the existence of “centers of power” that want to undermine relations between Moscow and Ankara. He added that the attack on Andrei Karlov was an act of terrorism. “Terrorism does not take into account race, religion, language or position, and Turkey, which has lost many diplomats and ambassadors to the menace, understands Russia’s pain very well,” Mevlut Cavusoglu stated. In the spring, a court in Ankara sentenced five defendants in the Karlov murder case to life imprisonment, three of whom were found guilty of first degree murder. Nine defendants were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 5 to 15 years. Five of the defendants were acquitted by the court. The cases of the remaining wanted defendants, including opposition preacher Fethullah Gulen, were transferred to separate proceedings at the request of the prosecutor’s office.

But it is not only the insidious assassination of Russian Ambassador Karlov that has tainted Turkish-Russian bilateral ties in recent years. On November 24, 2015, the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 in the skies of Syria, killing Russian pilot Oleg Peshkov. Militants fighters shot him in the air as the pilot descended by parachute. The next day, the media circulated a video in which Turkish citizen Alparslan Celik proudly confessed to killing the Russian officer. Celik was allegedly one of the commanders of the Turkish radical Grey Wolves movement, a unit of which fought on the side of Syrian rebels in the Latakia Governorate. On March 30, 2016, Celik was arrested in Izmir. He was released earlier this year after serving a minor prison sentence in Turkey. It is worth noting that during the investigation of Celik, the Turkish authorities feared new complications in relations with Russia and were then actively discussing Celik’s guilt in the death of Peshkov. However, the Turkish investigation took a different path once the risk of Turkish-Russian crisis was reduced and the incident was over. Celik was charged only with illegal possession of weapons. He received his five years in prison, served even less, and is now out of jail. But, if the investigation into Celik’s case had been carried out objectively, Turkish justice would have eventually had to detain and interrogate Celik’s subordinates and the leaders of the Grey Wolves, launch repression against the Grey Wolves, and even banish this group, Turkey’s oldest military-political structure. As Ankara didn’t feel like going down that path it has confined itself to condemning Celik alone. As for whether Celik was personally responsible for the murder of Peshkov or not and what influenced him to take this criminal step, Ankara was no longer interested in this.

However, it is not only in the incident with the Russian pilot Oleg Peshkov’s death that it makes sense to look for some “centers of power” trying to set Turkey and Russia apart. The same remark is quite relevant to the repeated attempt of the official Ankara to lay its claims to a significant part of the Russian territory. In February this year, one of the major Turkish TV channels, TRT1, showed a map named “Turkish Sphere of Influence in 2050″ including the following territories within “Turkish orbit:” Armenia, Greece, UAE, Bahrain, Cyprus, Georgia, Abkhazia, Ossetia, Syria, Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, etc. As well as the southern regions of Russia, Stavropol territory, Krasnodar territory, Crimea, Rostov region, Volgograd region, Astrakhan region, Saratov region, Samara region, Chuvashia, Chechnya, Dagestan, and Adygea. Donetsk and Luhansk regions were also on the list.

In this connection, it is remarkable that in November of this year, Turkey’s territorial claims to Russia were once again officially voiced by Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli. He demonstrated a map on which a significant part of Russia’s territories were ceded to Turkey: almost 20 constituent entities of Russia from Dagestan and the Orenburg region to Altai and Yakutia. As experts note, many organizations in Turkey now adhere to such a policy, and the Turkish government supports them. The idea of a world where only Turks live is inculcated in children from their school years, and discussed at length in Turkish textbooks.

The attitude of the “internal centers of power” towards Russia may also be evidenced by the report of the ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) adopted at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which, in particular, states: Turkey provides the NATO alliance with a significant deterrent capability in the Black Sea against a re-enforcing Russia.

Another point worth noting is that the Turkish government launched TRT Russian news platform last year based on the Turkish state television channel Turkiye Radyo Televizyon Kurumu (TRT). From the first days, the news platform promoted a deliberate emphasis on Russia having “annexed Crimea,” inciting a conflict between Russia and the Turkic peoples. Various manipulative techniques are used for this purpose: for example, a deliberate emphasis is placed on the alleged violation of the rights of ethnic minorities, a wedge is purposefully driven between Russians and other peoples, and the thesis “Russia constantly violates the rights of ethnic Turks and Muslims” is implicitly promoted.

A clear understanding of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s words about “centers of power” trying to set Turkey and Russia apart comes after the official Turkish authorities from a municipality in Kocaeli Province officially opened a park on December 10 in honor of Chechen terrorist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev. The latter was liquidated by Russian special forces in 1996 as he is responsible for the death of many Russian citizens. According to Sener Sogut, the Mayor of Korfez located only 120 km from Istanbul, “Dzhokhar Dudayev symbolizes the struggle for freedom.” Therefore, it was “a great honor” for Sogut to “open a park in his memory.”

Undoubtedly, this event particularly illustrates what Cavusoglu described on December 19 about Turkey understanding the pain caused by terrorists’ actions better than anyone else does.

Perhaps, to objectively make Turkey understand “pain from terrorists’ actions” and help it realize where the “centers of power” that are trying to set Turkey and Russia apart are, we should respond to the actions of the Turkish authorities and officially open a park in one of the cities near Moscow in honor of Fethullah Gulen, a figure that is well-known in Ankara?

Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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