- Strategic Mediation: Turkey leverages its unique relationships with both Russia and the Western World to serve as a potential mediator in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, exemplified by efforts like the Black Sea grain deal.
- Energy and Economic Interests: Turkey’s reliance on Russian natural gas imports shapes its careful approach to diplomacy, aiming to maintain energy security while supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity through military sales.
- Geopolitical Influence: President Erdogan’s policies reflect Turkey’s desire to assert its role as a significant global player, capable of contributing to international security and influencing the course of conflicts near its sphere of influence.
As the war between Russia and Ukraine continues to evolve, Turkey has emerged as a pivotal actor in influencing and shaping the dynamics of the conflict. Erdogan’s diplomatic efforts which resulted in the Black Sea grain deal, which was the first concrete agreement between Russia and Ukraine since the war broke out, were welcomed by both the Western World and Russia.
After Russia pulled out of the UN-Turkey brokered grain deal, Erdogan recently visited Russia with his senior officials to revive the agreement. President Erdogan’s policy towards the Russia-Ukraine War has been pro-Ukrainian but not anti-Russian which has allowed Turkey to play a critical role in the course of the conflict. Turkey will continue to play a pivotal role in the course of the Russia-Ukraine war through mediation attempts and Turkey’s unique stance towards the war will enable Turkey to influence the future evolution of the conflict.
Such a unique approach is rooted in Turkey’s economic energy interests, and the regime’s eagerness to have a say in global conflicts. The Russia-Ukraine war has led many states to take an anti-Russia stance while displaying solidarity with Ukraine. However, Turkey’s foreign policy was a unique one. Even though Turkey had depicted its commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, even by selling them Turkish-made drones, Turkish foreign policy did not take an anti-Russian stance.
This has enabled President Erdogan to keep its active relations with both the Western World and Russia at the same time, giving Turkey an opportunity to seek mediation efforts between the two countries. It could be examined that such an opportunity has been and will continue to be utilized by Turkey in order to meet a resolution or broke concrete deals between Russia and Ukraine helping Turkey sustain its desired global position. Moreover, it could also be examined that President Erdogan’s recent visit to Russia will have a crucial impact on whether President Vladimir Putin decides to further engage in diplomatic efforts to resolve the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict or maintain the current course of action.
As depicted by President Erdogan’s efforts to revive the grain deal, Turkish foreign policy will continue to seek opportunities for high-level engagement between Russia and Ukraine in order to find possible common areas of interest. Indeed, Turkey’s pro-Ukraine but not anti-Russian stance has its roots in economic energy interests, a close working relationship between President Erdogan and Putin, and the Turkish government’s intention to have a say in global conflicts.
Turkey imports a major amount of its natural gas from Russia, making energy cooperation a vital part of its relationship with Russia. An anti-Russian stance that many countries took after the war would damage both energy cooperation between Russia and Turkey while also disrupting the close working relationship between President Erdogan and President Putin. Moreover, according to government officials Turkey’s mediation efforts also display the country’s willingness to contribute to global security and peace. The conflict between Ukraine and Russia does not serve Turkish national interests while causing instability at Black Sea. Therefore, the willingness to resolve the conflict is another underlying reason why Turkey has chosen to work closely with both the Western World and Russia at the same time.