Turkey, Relations with

   Russo-Turkish relations were forged on mutual hostility and civilizational confrontation. From the 16th century onward, the Ottoman and Romanov empires engaged in no less than a dozen wars, including World War I (1914–1918), which ultimately brought an end to both dynasties. Both Mustafa Kemal’s Turkish Republic and Vladimir Lenin’s Soviet Russia developed radically different systems of governments in the interwar period, but conflicting geopolitical orientations prevented genuine rapprochement though the two powers remained cordial.
   Turkey’s admission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952 (and subsequent United States deployment of nuclear weapons on Turkish soil) and its draconian repression of Communists placed the two countries at loggerheads throughout the Cold War. Despite the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 (and the end of a common border between the states), Russia remained wary of Turkey’s role in the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Eastern Mediterranean, and Central Asia—all zones of historical conflict between the two states. Ankara’s promotion of pan-Turkism in Russia’s near abroad and ethnic republics, as well as perceived support for Muslim insurgencies in Chechnya and the former Yugoslavia, weighed heavily on bilateral relations. Conversely, Turkey views Russian support of Armenia, Greek-held Cyprus, and Kurdish rebels with intense suspicion.
   As a result, relations during the Yeltsin administration remained tense. However, Turkey’s economic crisis and its diminished nationalism under the Islamist AK party, combined with Russia’s economic resurgence and geopolitical pragmatism under Vladimir Putin, has had a calming effect on tensions between the two countries. Washington’s mediation between the parties has also helped. In 2004, Putin signed the Joint Declaration on Improvement of Friendship and Multidimensional Partnership between the Turkish Republic and the Russian Federation, after a visit to Turkey earlier that year. Under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russo-Turkish economic relations have improved dramatically; in 2009, Russia became Turkey’s largest foreign trade partner, with annual exchange of approximately $40 billion. Russian tourism in Turkey, shuttle commerce, and Turkish construction projects in the Russian Federation are two important drivers of trade. However, Moscow continues to resent the development of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which is viewed as an explicit attempt to bypass Russia’s economic, physical, and political hegemony over oil and natural gas exports from the Caspian Sea, though Russia and Turkey agreed on developing their own Blue Stream route. In the wake of the United States’ war in Iraq (and the rise of an autonomous Kurdistan in northern Iraq), Turkey has grown more amenable to the emergence of a multipolar world with Russia and the other BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries playing a greater role in global affairs; both countries have also played up their common Eurasianism as a potential linkage.
   Putin has also voiced support for Turkey’s admission to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and both countries have developed common strategies for combating Islamist terrorism, including reigning in Chechen and Kurdish groups on their respective territories. Recent movements on the final settlement of the NagornoKarabakh issue have also demonstrated improved working relations between Ankara and Moscow. Most dramatically, given Ankara’s past support for Tbilisi, Turkey’s muted response to the South Ossetian War demonstrates the predominance of economic questions over political issues.
   See also Azerbaijan; Black Sea; Iran; Middle East.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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