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Thursday, May 25, 2023

Ukraine crisis: A win win scenario for Erdogan?

As the crisis in Ukraine enters its third month, Turkey's standing abroad has risen because of a deliberate strategy in which Ankara has given Ukraine low-cost drones, supported some (but not all) Western sanctions, and met with Russian leaders whenever possible.

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Turkey’s international status has improved as the conflict in Ukraine approaches its fourth month, thanks to a calculated strategy in which Ankara has provided Ukraine with inexpensive drones, backed some (but not all) Western sanctions and met with Russian leaders whenever possible. According to experts, this strategy has made it possible for Turkey to achieve the unthinkable: keep close ties with both NATO and Russia as the possibility of a new cold war looms.

Turkey has prevented the transit of Russian warships from the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits that connect the Mediterranean and the Black Sea since the start of the conflict in February. Erdogan is capitalizing on the crisis as a bargaining chip to extract some concessions from Moscow and the West.

Read more: EU leaders grant Ukraine candidate status

In protest against those nations’ alleged backing of the Kurdish insurgents that Turkey is fighting, he is obstructing Sweden’s and Finland’s entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. With the potential assistance of Turkish naval strength in the Black Sea, he is working to negotiate safe passage for ships transporting much of the world’s food supply from Ukraine. In spite of American reservations, he is also threatening to launch a new military operation against Syrian Kurdish terrorists.

Turkey shares a border with Europe and has a longstanding relationship with it. Due to its close proximity to Russia and sizable military, Ankara has been a member of NATO since 1952.

Turkey is withstanding an unprecedented financial crisis

After the lira lost half its value last year alone, the country is now struggling with rocketing inflation, officially 73.5 % in May this year, its highest in 23 years. The inflation crisis is the biggest challenge Erdogan and his party are currently facing.

To wean out of this crisis, Turkey can’t neglect the importance of balancing acts between regional and global forces influencing its economy and security. Turkey’s efforts to balance East and West are nothing new. Given that Turkey spent the previous few months arming Kyiv to the teeth, Ankara’s participation in the Ukraine crisis has altered the mood in Western capitals without endangering its connections to Russia.

Read more: US drones sale to Ukraine escalates tension

Erdogan is using these leverages for not only geostrategic and geo-economic incentives, but he is also eying the coming elections next year. As the Turkish economy is eying on entering into top 10 world economies, Erdogan has yet to succeed against the challenge of inflation at home. After the recent visit of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, Erdogan is hopeful to receive financial assistance from the Kingdom that should help relive Turkey’s beleaguered economy ahead of the presidential elections next year.

The success of Erdogan now largely depends on solving the internal economic issues and it is yet to emerge what tangible outcomes he can get by leveraging on its geography and veto power in NATO.