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Ankara First: How Turkey Is Balancing Between Russia and Ukraine

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Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, Europe’s security landscape has been rapidly changing. Defense spending is up in many European Union countries, NATO’s essence has been reinvigorated and Russia is now not only one of the most sanctioned states in the world but widely perceived as a pariah.

For many European countries, save Hungary and Serbia, picking a side has been rather easy with no strings attached. However, Turkey is in a much more precarious position. Compounding the complexity is its geographical location and its commercial, energy, and military ties with both Russia and Ukraine.

Thus far, Turkey has been mostly convergent with its NATO allies in supporting Ukraine. Apart from supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons, it also closed the Bosporus to Russian military vessels and its airspace to Russian jets flying to Syria. However, it refrained from imposing sanctions on Russia, primarily because these sanctions were not levied by the UN. Yet it is respected enough by both sides: Turkey remains the only country that has secured a face-to-face meeting between Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers since the start of the war and has even hosted a round of negotiations between Ukrainian and Russian delegations.

Inadvertently, Turkey's closure of the Bosporus is slowly placing Russia’s wider geopolitical designs in the Mediterranean under greater pressure, as it was its Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol that has been responsible for reinforcing its troops and allies in Syria and Libya.

Ankara has obvious economic, security, and geopolitical stakes in the current conflict, but it is careful not to burn bridges with Russia and end up entangled in economic conundrums. To start with, Russia is a vital trading partner,........

© The National Interest

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