By Mustafa İlker Yücel
The tension in and around the Ukraine is rising. Ukrainian President Zelensky has declared that NATO is the “only path” to end the war in the Donbass region. The Ukrainian Presidency declared that the country has demanded from NATO Secretary General to “increase the NATO presence in the Black Sea”. President Biden had also declared in the last week that the US “won’t leave Ukraine alone”. These developments raised the possibility of a conflict between Turkey, a NATO member, and Russia.
United World International spoke with Murat Baybatur, Member of Turkish Parliament for the governing AK Party and Chairman of the Turkish-Russian Parliamentary Friendship Group on possible effects of tension in the Ukraine on Turkish-Russian relations. Baybatur emphasized that Turkish-Russian relations “strengthened in crises” and made the following statements.
We have lived a crisis similar to Ukraine in Syria and Nagorny-Karabakh, but our relations with Russia were never broken. There are of course matters of disagreement, but Turkey follows the policy to compromise on matters of agreement and then executes the policies. As you know, Turkey has supported Azerbaijan in Karabakh with arms and also morally and stood behind Baku until the end. We were at the same time also speaking to Russia. There are many points of disagreement in Syria too. But we have found a way to overcome conflicts even in difficult moments where we were face to face with the Russian Armed Forces. The relations between our President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin have enabled joint action in various mine fields. And the two countries did so by protecting their national interests at the same time.
“Crises don’t damage but strengthen Turkish-Russian relations”
Will Turkey’s position in the Ukraine crisis and its stance not to recognize Crimea’s inclusion into Russia cause tensions between Ankara and Moscow?
The events in Azerbaijan and Syria have shown that it is possible to act together even under difficult circumstances. Turkey rejects the annexation of Crimea, but the relations to Russia have not deteriorated over this stance. We have declared to the Russian authorities several times that we support the Ukraine’s territorial integrity. In spite of that, a great crisis that might evolve in the Ukraine will not damage Turkish-Russian relations. In my elaboration, such a crisis will strengthen our relations even more, because Russia knows very well that Turkey wants peace, dialogue, welfare and development in this region.
We are consistent in our relations with Russia; there is no difference between what we say in negotiations and what we do in the field. Our position both in negotiations and in the field is open and clear. In consequence, Putin says about our President, Erdoğan that “he is a man of his word, he speaks always frankly and openly what’s in his mind”. As long as these channels of dialogue are open and both sides approach each other in goodwill, a crisis in the Ukraine will not damage the Turkish-Russian relations but strengthen them even more.
The Ukrainian President Zelensky demanded from the NATO to increase presence in the Black Sea. Turkey is a member of NATO. Will it cause problems to encounter Russia as a NATO member?
“We will help Russia and Russia will help us”
It’s true that Turkey is a member of NATO. It is also true that we want to be member of the European Union. But Turkey is a country that has an own geopolitics and geostrategic position. When sit down at a table with Russia, we will help Russia and Russia will help us.
What happens if provocations occur?
Provocations may happen. Some countries might want to cause a conflict between Turkey and Russia by using the Ukraine. But our countries have passed these tests several times in Syria and Azerbaijan. In such situations, our relations were not damaged but on the contrary, strengthened. I expect the same development to occur in the Ukraine crisis, where Russian-Turkish cooperation in the Ukraine may prevent greater catastrophes from happening.
The US State Department has put sanctions against Turkey in motion. They will apply CAATSA sanctions against the Presidency of the Turkish Defense Industry and 4 of its executives. How will Turkey respond?
Turkey is an independent country. We are not an advanced defense post! The government of the Republic of Turkey will take its own decisions concerning its national defense and security. In former times, our country was unfortunately not able to take independent decisions; our state was not in condition to do so. But today’s Republic of Turkey will take its own decisions protecting its independence, not matter what threats it faces from around the world. We had a lack in our air defense, especially during the events that occurred in Syria, the attacks from the air and the terror activities. No one can prevent us from protecting our security. The US expresses its discomfort with this policy. They can do so. But Turkey will execute its own foreign policy.
“Turkey’s takes its own decisions”
We are also under an embargo, because we are resisting a PKK-state that other want to establish in Syria. We are nationalizing very fast our defense industry. Turkey has and will in future respond to these threats with its own actions. We are here fully supporting our state; we are doing the right thing. And we will continue that support.
We don’t reject the Patriots air defense system, if the US sells them by sharing the intelligence technology included. That means, the Republic of Turkey is acting according to its national interests. We can purchase and use the Patriot system as well, just as we did with the S-400. Turkey needs to take own decisions for its own future, and it is doing so.