Why Turkey Will Never Be Allied With Russia

I’M AN IDIOT EDIT: No Istanbul is not the Capital of Modern Turkey. Sorry. It’s Ankara.

I’m a little sick of hearing about how powerful Russia is. It’s become an obsession in the US. Russia has become the new boogieman, despite having very little in the way of real 21st century global power or accomplishments. Many of my friends are holding desperately to the idea that Putin gave us Donald Trump, when it was clearly the Democrat’s choice of Hillary Clinton as a nominee that did that. Russia’s “victory” in Syria is heralded everywhere, despite the fact that they’ve barely managed to keep one of their only allies together, in the face of a not particularly committed effort on the part of the United States to destroy the country. I’ve made videos about Russian weakness before, but I think there’s a need for more. That’s part of what I accomplish with today’s video.

Today I deal with the fantastical idea that Turkey and Erdogan might find enough common ground to threaten the west. This theory only requires avoiding about 500 years of history between the two countries. It’s just as dumb as imagining that Russia and China might be able to find real common ground. These countries are too threatened by each other to band together. I find analysis that claims otherwise infuriating.

There may be a fundamental mismatch between world-views here. Folks at major US news outlets seem to think that any diversion at all from the Washington, DC party line is a Cold War level threat. This strikes me as ridiculous. Turkey has committed to buying a couple billion dollars worth of air defense systems from Russia. This is pretty clearly intended to piss off Turkey’s NATO allies. But it’s not the end of the Alliance, and it’s not the end of the world. Turkey and Russia signed an agreement for a Nuclear plant in 2010 and they still haven’t broken ground yet, seven years later. These new systems are easier to deploy, but there is no guaranteeing that they will be deployed. And if they are, it’s hard to see how it could conceivably threaten US or European security. A real alliance would require Turkey to want a stronger Russia. They will never want that.

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Video Transcript after the jump…

Hey There.

Over the past few weeks, one of my least favorite genres of reporting has come back up again. Turkey is once again supposedly turning to the east, thanks to the planned purchase of some Russian military technology. The Turkish government is certainly having a rough time with their Western Allies at the moment, and flirting with Russia is part of that tension. But many are claiming that we are seeing a permanent shift towards Russia, or that even that Turkey’s NATO alliance is in serious danger. That doesn’t make much sense to me.

I think people are mistaking short-term jockeying for position for a major long-term change. Turkey and Russia will never be allies in any serious sense. It’s impossible. I mean, countries don’t really have goals, but to the extent Russian history has one it’s to stick it to the Turks.

Russia’s Medieval beginnings can be found in the liberation from, and then the destruction of Muslim Turkic “TURKIC ISN’T EXACTLY TURKISH BUT THAT’S A COMPLICATED ISSUE” Khanates. Russia’s search for a warm water port has always driven it South, into traditionally Turkish territory.

Russia’s Tsars saw themselves as the successors to the Byzantine Emperors that once ruled in Istanbul, the capital of Modern Turkey. This was about the religion that the Russians shared with the Greeks and Slav subjects of the Ottoman Empire, but it was also about ideas of national greatness that appealed to Communists just as much as they did to the Russian Orthodox.

For Hundreds of years, Ottoman Turkey desperately looked for allies to save them. The Russians took some land for themselves, but also fought to establish independent countries they could more easily control. By the time the modern Turkish republic was founded, a significant slice of the population was made up of refugees from Russian aggression. After World War II, Turkey finally got its wish, with the NATO alliance, which came about after some fairly direct threats from Stalin. With the end of the cold war, Turkey got another gift, a historically weak and humbled Russia. Things have improved a bit for Russia since the 1990s, but the country is still less threatening to Turkey than it has been at any point since the 1700s.

And that’s what these rumors of an alliance come out of, historically unprecedented Russian weakness. Turkey can now use threats of friendship with Russia as a prop in its much more important negotiations with countries like Germany and the United States. But it has no interest in helping Russia recover any real power. Because when Russia has real power, it uses it against Turkey.

Even at this low point, Russia has still real influence in Turkey’s direct neighborhood. Syria and Armenia, two neighboring countries with very serious resentments against Turkey, are largely propped up by Russia. In Syria in particular, Russian and Turkish proxies are actively trying to kill each other right now. Turkey may very well buy a Russian weapons system or two to freak out the West, but the two countries will never be allies. Turkey’s long-term goal in the region, a weakened Russia, is perfectly aligned with the west, and it will be for decades to come.

What we’re seeing recently is theater. Turkish flirting with Russia is emphasized by Washington, DC war mongers who see anything short of complete subservience as a threat. Let’s not encourage this sort of thing.

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  • Nathan Ruffing

    Informative! Well worth what I’m paying! Cohesively connecting history to current events is rare and refreshing to see.

    • Robert Morris

      That’s what I aims to do!