TWO VIEWS ON… TURKEY AND RUS­SIA

With Halil Akıncı and Alexan­der Sot­nichenko

Turkish Review - - TWO VIEWS - YONCA POYRAZ DOĞAN

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

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