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Pragmatic proposals for effectively managing Russian-Turkish media disagreements

Unexpected, fast-moving, and violent developments such as the latest ones in that geostrategic Central Asian nation prompt speculation about their causes and outcomes, including the motivations of key stakeholders in Kazakhstan’s stability like Russia and Turkey. The regrettable consequence is that their media competition heated up after certain voices shared provocative assessments that maligned their counterparts.

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Russian-Turkish relations are presently better than at any time in history though they still remain complicated. Despite the strategic nature of their energy cooperation on TurkStream and nuclear power plants, increasingly diversified trade and investment ties, and military cooperation on the S-400s and in Syria, there’s still veritably a sense of competition between them. This is natural owing to the fact that these two civilization-states are occasionally going to have different interests. To their credit, however, Presidents Putin and Erdogan have personally played a role in responsibly regulating their rivalry.

Nevertheless, their example hasn’t completely filtered down into their media. This includes official ones, independent outlets within their countries, and those abroad that are considered sympathetic to them. The latest example of their media disagreements concerns the Hybrid War of Terror on Kazakhstan. Some Russian voices and those regarded as sympathetic to that country claimed that Turkey clandestinely played a role in that conflict. On the other hand, some Turkish voices and those regarded as sympathetic to them claimed that Russia tried to “occupy” Kazakhstan and condemned the CSTO.

Read more: Russia and Turkey hold successful talks on Syrian conflict

Understanding the context better

Neither of those two narratives is accurate though it’s understandable why they emerged in the latest context. These Great Powers’ historical rivalry continues to influence some of their figures, both official and media ones, as well as those forces abroad that are considered sympathetic to them. Russia and Turkey also have overlapping interests in Kazakhstan. The first-mentioned’s Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and CSTO include Kazakhstan as a member while the second’s ambitious Turkic World Vision 2040 was agreed to by that country’s government last November.

Unexpected, fast-moving, and violent developments such as the latest ones in that geostrategic Central Asian nation prompt speculation about their causes and outcomes, including the motivations of key stakeholders in Kazakhstan’s stability like Russia and Turkey. The regrettable consequence is that their media competition heated up after certain voices shared provocative assessments that maligned their counterparts. This contributed to generating a degree of suspicion in their societies towards the other, which risks reversing recent successes in strategically aligning their countries’ broader policies.

That didn’t come out of anywhere, however, since Russia and Turkey have taken opposite stances towards Ukraine. Moscow regards Kyiv’s military-strategic relations with NATO as constituting an unacceptable threat to its national security while Ankara recently delivered drones to that country that were reportedly used to attack Russian-friendly rebels in a move that was condemned by the Kremlin. These developments set the backdrop for each society beginning to once again suspect the other’s government of unfriendliness, which facilitated their media forces’ latest competition over Kazakhstan.

Read more: Why did Russia and Turkey set sights on a war-torn Syria?

What role does the media play?

As was earlier noted, these civilization-states are naturally going to have different interests from time to time, some of which might be to the detriment (whether real or perceived) of the other’s national security. The media cannot influence their government’s policies, but what they can do is play a positive role in pragmatically managing society’s perceptions in order to avoid reversing the recent successes that their leaders made in responsibly regulating their rivalry. It’s of the utmost importance to continue producing factual, fair, and realistic assessments of the other in order to main this positive momentum.

Some outlets have an interest for whatever reason in fanning the flames of distrust between these countries whenever a controversial incident arises, but it’s those who play the opposite role in trying to manage perceptions for the greater good that’ll end up being the most strategic among these forces. That’s because Russian-Turkish relations form a crucial axis in the emerging Multipolar World Order. Their deterioration would dangerously reverberate throughout Afro-Eurasia with divide-and-rule consequences while their stabilization and especially improvement would be mutually beneficial.

It might be unpopular at certain times to take a principled stand in support of factually, fairly, and realistically assessing the other’s interests, motivations, and policy-making variables, but those who do so are sincerely carrying out a patriotic service to their countries or those who they support if they’re not Russian or Turkish. With this noble vision in mind, it’s time to share some pragmatic proposals for effectively managing Russian-Turkish media disagreements in order to avoid having their increasingly strategic relations offset by the demagogic narratives that are occasionally shared by some.

Russian, Turkish, and foreign experts sympathetic to one, another, or especially both civilization-states must find like-minded media partners in the other’s countries that share their vision of positively managing society’s perceptions during sensitive times. Those outlets will play key roles in this collective effort by sharing such experts’ factual, fair, and realistic assessments of either their own side’s interests, motivations, and policy-making variables or ideally both sides’. Their purpose is to calmly explain these natural differences as they arise to the broader population that’s interested in learning about them.

Another means towards this end is for their think tanks to hold relevant conferences, including those on an impromptu basis in response to unexpected developments like the latest Hybrid War of Terror on Kazakhstan and the consequent emergence of demagogic narratives spread by some Russian, Turkish, and other forces about one another. These wouldn’t just be held for the sake of it, but to help each side’s influential thinkers better understand the other. In turn, these individuals can then share their insight with their own national media to counteract the divide-and-rule influence of demagogic narratives.

Read more: Turkey urges Russia and Ukraine to de-escalate tensions

Not only that but their conferences could also be reported upon by their media

That would signal to their societies that responsible experts in each country are taking the lead to implement their leaders’ joint vision of responsibly regulating their rivalry for the greater good of accelerating the emerging Multipolar World Order and maintaining the crucial Russian-Turkish axis within it. These individuals and their platforms, both media and think tanks would play the role of bridges between these civilization-states and can be relied upon to preserve the progress recently made in strengthening their relations.

From a strategic perspective, the two solutions being proposed can be described as the dual-track and Track II approaches. The first, which concerns qualified experts contributing to the other’s media, advances a second narrative track focusing on factual, fair, and realistic assessments of the other in order to counteract negative narratives in a friendly, gentle, and non-hostile way. The second think tank solution focuses on interactions between influential experts aimed at explaining their countries’ positions to their similarly influential peers who can then positively shape perceptions at home.

In theory, the same individuals can participate in both tracks. That would actually be preferred since it’s in both Great Powers’ long-term strategic interests that reliable and trusted expert bridges form between them for managing perceptions during sensitive times. The more respected that each expert is in both societies, the more effective they’ll be in responsibly managing perceptions when their insight is needed the most. While some such bridges already exist, much more work must urgently be done by both sides, especially after their unexpected and highly demagogic media competition over Kazakhstan.

 

Andrew Korybko is a political analyst, radio host, and regular contributor to several online outlets. He specializes in Russian affairs and geopolitics, specifically the US strategy in Eurasia. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.