Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the US – Turkey Strategic Mechanism was launched on April 4 in Ankara. The ministry stated that the decision was taken during the meetings held between Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal and the US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland and their delegations. The same statement was made simultaneously by the US State Department.
Nuland and her delegation went to Presidential Residence after Foreign Ministry and had a meeting with President Tayyip Erdoğan’s Spokesperson and Security and Foreign Policy Advisor İbrahim Kalın. It was reported that the meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Istanbul on 29 March was discussed and information was shared with the United States. The information provided included not only the Russia-Ukraine war, but also regional issues such as Syria, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Israel, and “energy security, defense cooperation, bilateral political and economic relations”.
An official source told YetkinReport that Turkey’s bringing Russia and Ukraine together, first in Antalya and then in Istanbul, “improved the process” with the United States. Erdogan and US President Joe Biden discussed that a strategic mechanism could be established during their meeting within the framework of the NATO Summit in Rome on October 31, 2021.
Meaning of strategic mechanism
This answer has not yet been given to the questions at what level, between whom and how often the strategic mechanism will convene. However, in the State Department statement, it was announced that Marisa Lago, Undersecretary of the US Department of Commerce, will be in Ankara on April 5-6, in order to establish the commercial leg of the mechanism; It is a highly accelerated process.
However, it is not yet known whether this process will result in lifting of the US sanctions against Turkey. The United States had excluded Turkey from the F-35 aircraft program on the grounds of the S-400 missiles purchased from Russia. Turkey, which wants to update its F-16 inventory, has not yet received a response, but what Ankara Ambassador Jeff Flake said at a recent event was interpreted as a green light for the F-16 request.
Nuland came to Turkey between 2 and 9 April, within the framework of a tour of France, Turkey, Greece, the Greek Republic of Cyprus and Germany. The purpose of the tour was announced as “coordinating efforts against” Russia due to the Ukraine Crisis. At the same time, the balances after the Covid-19 pandemic are discussed.
Therefore, the establishment of this mechanism can already be seen within the framework of the normalization process with the USA that started with the Ukraine Crisis.
Spring does not come with a single flower
The revived US interest to Turkey is not just due to Ankara’s proving its NATO role in the Ukraine Crisis. It also stems from the fact that it has proven that it can act autonomously within NATO. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s praise of Turkey’s sovereign behavior within NATO should not only be seen as an encouragement move for Ankara. This is undoubtedly due to Erdogan’s recent softening of his hawkish stance in foreign policy, partly due to the impact of the economic crisis.
Turkey’s diplomatic agenda is very different from a year ago. First of all, the normalization process of relations with the UAE and Israel, and then the balancing policy in the Ukraine Crisis played a role. Despite Turkey’s support to Ukraine and not participating in the embargoes declared against Russia, its entry into the normalization process with the USA shows this. The axis shift theses, which were popular for a while, were forgotten, and Turkey began to transform into an important bridge between the West and Russia. This includes Russian oligarchs such as Roman Abramovich, who shuttled along the Israel-Turkey-Russia line, anchoring inTurkey.
However, as our proverb says, spring does not come with a single flower. The US interest, which is currently attracting Turkish investors, may fade as quickly as it revives. Moreover, it is known to the diplomatic community that Nuland as a neo-con origin member of democratic Biden Administration, has a personal interest in Ukraine because of her ties from her father’s side. There is no harm in staying on the cautious political and economic line.
Does political influence be translated into economic benefit?
On the day when the strategic mechanism with the USA was launched, President Tayyip Erdoğan discussed the development of bilateral political and economic relations with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, which will be the last stop of Nuland. He asked the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, who is claimed to apply for NATO membership together with Sweden, to lift the military material embargo on Turkey. It is also known that some of these obstacles were put in place to prevent Turkish-made UAVs, smart rocket and UCAVs (SİHA) which are now considered symbols of Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion. Now it’s the Russians who complain about them. It is natural for Turkey remove the obstacles it has been exposed to from the West as a part of crisis management in order to ensure its autonomy.
Ankara is now trying to bring Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky together in Turkey. If this happens, Turkey’s political influence in the region will increase. Will this effect turn into an economic benefit that will help Erdogan overcome the economic crisis and win the 2023 elections? This is the most important question that unites Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy.
However, the “Strategic Mechanism” shows a break in strong winds with the USA; There may be more, but be careful.