Since the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Turkey has adeptly maintained a delicate diplomatic balance between the two conflicting parties. Ankara’s strategic maneuvering has been evident, as it continues to provide military support to Ukraine, while simultaneously relying on Russian energy supplies and fostering increased trade with Russia, according to the Atlantic Council. However, recent developments have placed strains on Turkey’s foreign relations, particularly with its NATO allies.
Turkey’s provision of Bayraktar drones and other military equipment to Ukraine, coupled with its ongoing drone production facility construction in the country, showcases its support for Ukraine’s defense capabilities. Despite this, Turkey has not severed its economic ties with Russia, maintaining a significant increase in trade, which has now exceeded $60 billion annually.
Trade between Russia and Greece, another US ally, has experienced an even more substantial surge, growing by 104 percent. Furthermore, India currently leads global trade growth with Russia, boasting an increase of nearly 250 percent. This raises the question of why Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys a state dinner invitation, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan receives a colder reception.
he answer likely lies in India’s value as a counterbalance to a rising China, with recent major tech and defense deals consolidating the ties between the two nations.
While defense has long defined Turkey’s relationship with the United States since its NATO accession in 1952, tensions have arisen in recent years. These include Turkey’s acquisition of Russian-made missile defense systems in 2018, which strained relations with NATO and Washington.
Furthermore, Western concerns have been raised regarding Turkish port calls made by Russian ships, some of which are linked to past arms shipments and potentially transporting military goods. Instances where ships have stopped at an Iranian port, known for previous Russian drone pickups, have provoked controversy.
However, the most pressing matter for NATO is Sweden’s potential accession to the alliance, set to be determined at an upcoming summit in Vilnius. Turkey has made its approval contingent on Sweden adopting a harsher stance on terrorism and potentially seeking US F-16 fighter jets alongside favorable terms in geographical nomenclature. Turkey’s transactional foreign policy approach aligns with its long-standing strategies, aiming to secure its interests and enhance relations with the West.
With recent reports of port calls by sanctioned Russian ships in Turkey and the export of millions of dollars’ worth of military supplies from Turkey to Russia, Western powers face dilemmas. An investigation into potential circumvention schemes and violations of sanctions raises the prospect of a strong response from NATO and its allies.
Turkey’s history of facilitating sanctions violation, exemplified by the oil-for-gold scheme with Iran, further complicates its standing. Turkey’s troubled economy, burdened with foreign debt, adds to the significance of potential repercussions, such as the ongoing case against Turkey’s state-run bank Halkbank, reaching the Supreme Court in the United States. The potential imposition of a substantial fine poses a severe challenge for Ankara.
As discussions unfold between Sweden and NATO in the coming days, key meetings will take place involving top officials from the United States, Turkey, Sweden, and Finland. The hope is that a combination of possible US sanctions and the allure of American-made F-16s will pave the way for a peaceful resolution to the Sweden-Turkey standoff. Failing that, the aftermath of the July Fourth celebrations might see heightened tensions and further complications emerge.
This article was originally published in the Times of Israel.
The views and opinions expressed above are the author’s and do not represent those of the Free Turkish Press.