TWO VIEWS ON… TURKEY AND RUSSIA
With Halil Akıncı and Alexander Sotnichenko
Amid tensions over Syria, Ankara and Moscow’s relationship has come under the spotlight. Halil Akıncı, a former Turkish ambassador to Russia, founding secretary-general of the Turkic Council, and member of numerous think tanks and academic advisory boards, and Assoc. Prof. Alexander Sotnichenko from the School of International Relations, Saint Petersburg State University, share their views on Russo-Turkish relations with Turkish Review TURKISH REVIEW: What is your general evaluation of TurkishRussian relations? HALİL AKINCI: Turkish-Russian relations are in essence a continuation of Turkish-Soviet relations. After World War I, both countries needed each other against the aggression of Western powers. This culminated in the March 1921 Moscow Agreement. This agreement was followed by non-aggression pact of 1925. However, after World War II, relations deteriorated due to Soviet demands on the Turkish straits and territorial changes. After a lull of 15 years, there was rapprochement between Turkey and the Soviet Union, particularly after 1965, and there were industrial development projects between the two that started in the 1930s and 1960s. The Soviet Union provided Turkey with heavy industry factories to make materials such as steel and aluminum, denied to us by Western firms, on very favorable terms. We paid for these installations with agricultural exports. Similarly, the Ankara and İstanbul metros could have been built by the Soviets on the same terms. The Soviets made an offer to the mayor of Ankara in 1978 to build the Ankara metro, and made the same offer to the mayor of İstanbul in 1989. However, these offers were not accepted for various reasons.
The “Political Document” was a landmark in bilateral relations, being the first document of a political nature, apart from the joint declarations usually issued after state visits, between the two sides since the 1930s. It was signed by prime ministers A.N. Kosygin and Bülent Ecevit during the latter’s visit to the Soviet Union in June 1978 after a negotiation process of nearly six years. Although devoid of commitments, its issuance alone was a sign of a mutual desire to develop political dialogue. Coupled with the gradual liberalization of Turkey’s foreign trade, this document prepared the ground for the further economic interaction that led to the gas agreement of 1984.
The 1984 gas agreement and Turkey’s importation of gas in 1987 started a new phase in relations. However, this time only 70 percent was to be paid by means of commodity exports and services, with the remaining 30 percent in hard currency. The introduction of services as a method of payment provided an opportunity for Turkey to finance its own construction firms to do business in the Soviet Union and Russia, which eventually led to the dominance of Turkish construction