A Crisis in EU-Turkey Relations is an Opportunity for Russia

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Vladimir Avatkov

PhD in Political Science, Director of the Center of Eastern Studies, International Relations and Public Diplomacy

When Germany recognized the Armenian genocide, it symbolized the end of Turkish domination in migration issues from the EU perspective. The EU via its largest state made it clear that Turkey cannot always resort to the same manipulation to promote its interests.

Ever since the union’s creation, Turkey has sought gradual integration. Yet apparently it has long been disillusioned with the West. It shifted from the secular model of a Muslim state to an Islamist model and assertive foreign policy. In many ways, the “European dream” has lost its appeal for the Turkish authorities, and now Erdoğan‘s regime strives to impose its will on the European partners. The EU-Turkey migration deal could have been treated as Ankara’s victory, should Turkey have reached its ends. These ends involve the following ones: Turkey would accept illegal migrants and would send Syrian refugees back to the EU on condition of guaranteed visa-free travel, funding from Brussels and accelerated Turkish integration.

However, the Turkish authorities did not intend to meet all the EU benchmarks, continued to jail journalists and opposition members and preserved its extremely broad definition of terrorism. Moreover, Turkey has been actively trying to exert its influence on the European authorities through its diasporas, with the largest living in Germany. In fact, the Turkish short-sighted policy resulted in the Middle East instability​​ spilling over into Turkey and then it has increasingly been destabilizing the EU.

The EU dissolution could reap benefit to one external player only, the United States. America’s dissatisfaction with the slow transatlantic integration on the part of the European authorities has driven the White House to exert pressure on Brussels in every possible way, including Ankara’s foreign policy.

The Turkish external policy is becoming ever more destructive, the “zero problems with neighbors” policy has undermined its relations with the regional powers and the world. Turkey has been losing its advantage over the Middle East, has lost touch with Moscow, and recalled its ambassador from Germany. Now it has been defying the United States, dictating to its authorities how to conduct the country’s policy.

Against the backdrop of Ankara’s recent remarks and the current global political environment, Turkey is unlikely to exert a positive impact on the migrant crisis. Actually, following the recognition of the Armenian genocide there is a real likelihood that the country will act inversely as it will prevent the EU from slowing the migrant influx. Besides, the Turkish authorities are not going to abandon their neo-Ottoman ambitions in the region, and they are endeavoring to wield influence in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Egypt, both covertly and overtly. In this context, it is becoming clear that the EU should start considering ties with other players to normalize the situation within its own borders.

One of such options could include improving the relations with Moscow, which has clearly shown that it can wage a vigorous campaign against terrorism by neutralizing extremists, destroying gangs’ supply lines and their financial network.

The IS expansion has evidently demonstrated that terrorism is not millenarian, that it is impossible to engage terrorists in a political dialogue and that it is necessary to seek ways to eliminate them as soon as possible.

In order to effectively combat terrorism and curtail migration flows, one should find ways to pool the efforts of the entire global community. Given the current situation around Turkey and its regime, which has actively colluded with terrorists, Ankara cannot be perceived as the best partner in this field. Many EU countries, primarily Germany and the UK, seem to have realized it. Actually, the British Prime Minister has recently stated that it is not until 2100 that Turkey may become part of the organization.

France’s Senate adopted a resolution calling for lifting the EU sanctions against Russia, suggesting that it is high time Moscow and Brussels acted decisively to join their efforts in fighting rampant terrorism, which has caused the migrant crisis. This decision took shape long ago. It is time to make a decisive move.

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