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HomeGeopolitical CompassWest & Centeral AsiaTurkey’s Balancing Act on Ukraine is Becoming More Precarious

Turkey’s Balancing Act on Ukraine is Becoming More Precarious

Author: Jeffrey Mankoff

Affiliation: Research fellow at the U.S. National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies (Nonresident Associate)

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Policy

Date/Place: March 10, 2022/ Washington DC, USA

Type of Literature: Analysis

Word Count: 1700



Keywords: Turkiye, Ukraine, Russia, Diplomacy, US, NATO, Geopolitics, Middle East


As Russia’s invasion of the neighboring Ukraine goes on, this analysis dives into the position that Türkiye has been taking between the NATO allies and Russia. Historic tensions between Soviet Russia and the wider Anatolian lands persist between the modern-day Russia and Türkiye, so the policies under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have been to strike a balance between the US-led West and Russia, and emerge as a force to reckon with that shapes the regional politics. Ukraine, with which Türkiye shares maritime borders on the Black Sea, has proven to be a buffer zone between Ankara and Moscow, which keeps in view the Cold War era when Türkiye and the West were on one side. However, of late, the relations between Ankara and Washington have nose-dived with American lawmakers standing against Türkiye’s interests. When US President Barack Obama blocked the sale of air defense systems to Türkiye, the situation forced Ankara to look for its security needs elsewhere. Although many cast doubt on Ankara for its commitment to NATO, Türkiye—with the second largest army in the trans-Atlantic security alliance—continues to pursue a policy of balance. It has, however, come with a cost. The author believes the Ukraine crisis is an opportunity for Türkiye to reiterate its commitment to NATO as Ankara stands against the capture of Ukraine by Russia. Ankara has stressed it will never accept the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia and has called out the West for its silence on Moscow’s past moves which have allowed Russia to launch its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. The article also shows that while pessimists in Washington have criticized Türkiye, it was Ankara’s indigenous defense power that pushed back the designs of Russia in Syria and Libya, and helped Azerbaijan win its 44-day Nagorno-Karabagh war last year. With many geopolitical gains in the recent past, and strong trade relations with both Russia and Ukraine, Türkiye has a rare advantage of mediating between Moscow and Kiev.

By: Riyaz ul Khaliq, CIGA Non-resident Research Associate



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