The tension between Russia and the Ukraine over the Donbass Region in the north of the Black Sea is growing further. NATO and the United States made provocative statements, Turkey, on the other hand, stated expressed the wish to ease tensions.
Retired Lt. Gen. Ismail Hakkı Pekin, former Head of Intelligence at the Chief of Staff of Turkish Armed Forces, answered United World International’s questions on regional developments.
The tension’s cause is NATO’s plan to contain Russia
Tension is increasing in the Black Sea. Some say that military conflict between Russia and Ukraine is possible. How should Turkey act at this point?
The main reason for the tension in the Black Sea is NATO’s plan to contain Russia. They also want to use Turkey for this purpose. With the arrival of Biden, their aggression intensified. We have very good relations with Ukraine, especially with the cooperation developed in the defense industry. For example, there are projects such as building helicopters and aircraft engines together. By the way, we have very good relations with Russia, too, for instance in fields of trade, tourism, the S400s and the nuclear power plants constructed in Turkey jointly with Russia.
In addition we act together with Russia or share the field in many countries, such as Syria, Southern Caucasia and Libya. What Turkey needs to do within these circumstances is to continue the relationship in a way, avoiding war with Russia and Ukraine. Turkey should never be a party to the conflict. Turkey should never supply weapons to the Ukraine during ongoing conflict. The Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov replied the question, “What do you think the fact that Turkey is giving Ukraine the UAVs?” with the words “We warn the countries related”. On the other hand, the USA has sent a large amount of weapons to Ukraine.
I still don’t think that war will break out, but Ukrainians might end up face to face with Russian-backed militias in the Donbass. NATO countries support the Ukraine. However, a war breaking out will change the situation completely. The Ukrainian President Zelensky must come to reason.
I don’t think Russia will want a war in the region, but if it breaks out, the Ukraine will be left alone. Nobody will help. The Ukraine should let itself be provoked to actions by the US. Turkey should act carefully, having in mind the sensitivity of both sides and avoiding harm to relations to them.
Turkey should not hesitate over the S400’s
The US CAATSA (The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) sanctions in reaction to Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense system have entered into force. How will they affect Turkey-US relations? Which position should Turkey take?
The S400 topic is very important to us. Turkey must not retreat from the S400. Stepping back from purchasing them may lead to retreats in other matters. We don’t have an air defense system, the world is getting mixed up and we don’t know what will happen next. Turkey should buy this defense system, and not compromise on the S400.
The CAATSA sanctions are targeting the defense industry presidency and the technology we will develop later, and if other countries comply with these sanctions, a completely different situation will emerge. They are trying to block Turkey’s defense industry. Turkey is trying to deal with this situation in consultation with various countries such as Ukraine. The US seems determined on sanctions concerning the S400s, and we have to make clear decisions and never make concessions. The S400 is an important weapon for Turkey’s air defense system. If concessions are made here, then the Montreux Convention will be opened to discussion, debate will start on the Islands, we will face pressure in the Cyprus issue and so on. We must be ready to pay that price.
As to Turkey-US relations, these relations have already been distorted due to the US plans to establish YPG statelets. Today, the US does not tell us that it has given up these plans; they continue to provide weapons to the YPG.
The essential policy of the United States is to use Turkey for the containment of Russia. They are trying to corner Turkey by using NATO. Their plan is to detach Turkey from Russia in terms of military, economy and politics, and to use Turkey in the regional policy of containment, as happened in the past.
They do not even think about Turkey’s rights and interests. The United States is trying to force Turkey by economic sanctions, and using other countries such as Egypt and Greece. In contrast, Turkey’s regional partnership needs to continue to develop. Turkish-Russian relations are also important in this context. We must definitely improve the relations with the countries in the region. Relations with China are also important in this context. The US takes the Uighur issues onto the agenda in order to harm the relationship between China and Turkey in the same way. Turkey should continue to cooperate with countries in the region such as China, Russia and Iran. If we focus on this cooperation and avoid concessions to Washington, then we will be able to establish balanced relations with the United States, as well.
China’s Middle East tour is an important step against the USA
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has visited six countries, including Turkey, touring around the Middle East. He announced a 5-point regional peace and stability plan. How do you evaluate this Middle East initiative of Beijing? How will it reflect both on the region and Turkey?
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Qatar on March 8-12. Immediately after Lavrov’s visit, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, came to a one-week-Middle East tour covering Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, UAE, Oman and the Bahrain. Taking advantage of the gap between the countries of the region and the USA, China wants to develop cooperation with the countries in the region and create a strategic partnership.
China is the country that gets the most oil from the region; it has received a 50-year guarantee from Saudi Arabia, for instance. The vaccine, Uighurs and Middle Belt questions were brought forward in Turkey. They made a 400-billion-dollar agreement in Iran. Issues such as Iran giving oil to China without raising prices are being discussed. China’s approach to the region, to take on regional problems, to contribute to their solution, and its offer to mediate on issues such as Palestine and the Gulf is actually a step taken against the United States. As you know, the US was trying to contain China in the Pacific. Now, China can affect the US’s activities in the region by developing cooperation with Middle Eastern countries that have good relations with the US. China is approaching this issue from an economic perspective rather than a military one.
China could be influential in bringing peace and stability to the region
Concerning the 5-point plan; Wang urged the countries of the region to respect each other, promote equality and justice, achieve nuclear non-proliferation, participate in collective security, and accelerate development plans. China wants to establish a close and strategic relationship with the countries of the region. For instance they propose to mediate between Palestine and Israel. The US is also uncomfortable with the development of relations between China and Israel. China is trying to develop new partnerships and relationships. The US was putting pressure on Middle Eastern countries against China. China, on the other hand, takes on a new role in the Middle East and plans to overcome this containment by developing new relations against the USA.
I think Wang Yi’s tour is a very important development. The ground has been laid for China to show itself actively and politically in the region and to provide mediation. Thus, the countries of the region will have established relations with an important actor other than the USA. China can make a significant impact in solving the political problems in the region. They can be very effective in bringing peace and stability to the region.