Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declares new ideas for his active diplomacy. Referring to the protracted Russian-Ukrainian military and political crisis, the Turkish leader expressed confidence that hostilities would cease and a political settlement would be reached under the slogan “War has no winners. Peace has no losers.”
Of course, every war ends in peace someday (even though sometimes without signing a peace treaty and without an obvious surrender). However, a war never starts without a reason, and its outcome must still somehow approach the terms of peace from the position of the strongest. War is simply a forceful way of resolving a problem (dispute, conflict, contradictions), and the strongest becomes synonymous with the “winner.” Otherwise it is difficult to understand the very essence of war.
Erdoğan, of course, understands better than anyone else that there is no such thing as a war without winners, and a new world is created on the terms of the winners, and in no way on the terms of the losers. Otherwise, it is difficult to understand the leader of a state with an imperial past. And even more so when it comes to an imperial present. Did Mr Erdogan, for example in Nagorno-Karabakh, declare a war without winners and peace without losers? Of course he did not. His ally Aliyev is pushing for the signing of a peace treaty with Armenia on the terms of the latter’s surrender and the forcing of new territorial concessions (for example, in the Zangezur corridor).
There are no naive people in Russia and Ukraine. This conflict became a reality due to the deliberate policy of the US and the UK to push NATO eastwards to the detriment of Russia’s interests. Ukraine turned into a provocative policy testing ground, first of all, with regard to the Ukrainian people, because the Anglo-Saxons’ aim was to break the Russian-Ukrainian relations and prevent the revival of the Russian power in the 21st century.
It is obvious that there is a simple calculation behind Erdoğan’s diplomatic verbosity and a bet on becoming a mediator between Russia and Ukraine (or rather the West) in the hope of increasing his capital in the system of international relations and the world economy. It is unclear, however, how that peace and cessation of hostilities in Ukraine can be achieved if Erdoğan’s NATO allies (and even Turkey itself) continue to supply lethal weapons and military equipment to the Kiev regime, thus prolonging the war and increasing the number of physical losses and material destruction.
Erdoğan is interested in launching the second round of the “grain deal” with the expectation of political, material and financial dividends from the transit of the same Ukrainian agricultural products to foreign markets.
No less than the “grain deal” Erdoğan is interested in realizing the “gas deal (hub)” through Turkey, which also promises Ankara new political and economic opportunities. These include: increasing Turkey’s role in global affairs, acquiring new means of influencing the energy dependence of EU countries, gaining additional competitive opportunities for the Turkish economy, guaranteeing high discounts from Russian gas exports, influencing gas pricing policy, etc.
In fact, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the anti-Russian sanctions of the Collective West have created more than favorable economic conditions for Turkey on the issue of gas exports. The fact that Russia has been deprived of the possibility of direct gas supplies to the financially prosperous EU market has allowed Turkey to increase its export and transit opportunities, as well as to obtain a promising mega-project of a gas hub in Eastern Thrace. Turkey expects not just to create an electronic platform for selling Russian gas to, say, Europeans and other consumers, but to manage the pricing process (of course, with high commissions in its favor).
Moreover, Turkey proposes to expand the horizons of gas exports to its territory from other major global owners of the natural gas, with particular emphasis on Turkmenistan and Qatar. The latter requires not only agreement with Russia and Iran on the construction of new energy and communication systems (gas pipelines), not only discussion of economic conditions for the implementation of infrastructure projects, not only finding billions for their construction, but also reaching political compromises with the same Moscow and Tehran.
Some media in the West and Turkey after the latest meeting in Sochi of Presidents Putin and Erdoğan began to point out that Moscow and Ankara allegedly do not find consensus on the issue of managing the gas hub, more precisely on the issue of pricing. Turkey does not wish to act simply as a supplier of its territory for the sale and transit of gas to European and other markets.
However, a short time later, Turkish anonymous sources began to deny the existence of such contradictions in relations between Ankara and Moscow within the framework of negotiations on the gas hub. Turkey remains interested in the implementation of this project and aims for an effective partnership with Russia. In all negotiations, the parties do not immediately agree on the full scope of the agenda under discussion. But that’s what negotiations are for, to find understanding and reach agreement on the main issues. Especially since Turkey, as President Erdoğan himself notes, has had to take a pause in “gas diplomacy” twice for objective reasons related to the devastating earthquake and difficult presidential elections.
Perhaps Turkey is probing the possibility of pushing for even better conditions for the formation of the gas hub and gas transit. But there is a limit to everything, beyond which the opposite processes begin. For example, any discussion of the prospects of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan under the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and further through Armenia and Turkey to Europe may not only receive a negative decision from Russia and Iran, but also require the strengthening of regional peace on the likely route of the proposed transit in the same Transcaucasia.
By the way, Eldar Namazov (former head of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan and assistant to Heydar Aliyev) does not rule out the start of the Third World War from Transcaucasia, with the beginning of a regional war involving five countries (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Iran, Turkey and Russia). In such a case, what new pipeline can be talked about if there are no security guarantees?
However, in such a framing of the likely summit, Turkey has apparently deliberately chosen not to bring up neighboring Iran. Still, if Erdoğan speaks about the need to settle the Karabakh issue with the participation of only regional forces, why was Iran not invited to take part in the regional dialogue? Moreover, for some reason Erdoğan decided to go against his own diplomatic initiative after the successful outcome of the second Karabakh war in favor of his ally Azerbaijan – we are talking about the “3+3” platform (i.e. Iran, Russia, Turkey + Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia).
Obviously, such inconsistency of Turkish initiatives is determined by Iran’s tough stance. The latter opposes any geopolitical changes to the established geographical boundaries in the Transcaucasia (particularly Armenia) in favor of the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem. It is about the Zangezur corridor again. Tehran in this regard does not declare slogans that “war has no winners and peace has no losers”, but warns the chasers of a new escalation of the prospects of stumbling into a war with Iran with disappointing consequences for them. But in that case, why would Armenia accept Turkey’s offer without Iran’s participation?
As you can see, life is much more complicated than any slogan, however catchy it may sound.
Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.