Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952, but a serious question has recently emerged: Is Turkey on the side of NATO, or has it perhaps sided with Russia?
Turkey’s latest attempts to maneuver and gain as much benefit from every side as possible have become obvious even to the naked eye. For instance, Turkey purchased S-400 air defense systems from Russia, while simultaneously cooperating with the US in the F-35 program.
As a NATO member, Turkey favored military-technical cooperation with Russia. This adds proof to the fact that Russia was somehow able to influence Turkey’s decision, but it does not mean that Turkey willingly listens to Russia’s ambitions or interests when it comes to its own decision making.
What are Russia’s geopolitical goals? Quite simple – to make EU and NATO weak. Why? Also simple – that way Russia can strengthen its positions and achieve its goals. One of the ways of weakening the EU and NATO is to create internal problems that need to be solved, thus diverting attention from Russia’s further steps.
Someone will yell: “Again with this nonsense. Why is everyone blaming the peaceful and friendly Russia?” I would like to remind you about the dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the name of the latter. Back then, it was reported that Athens were enraged at Moscow’s attempts to hinder reaching an agreement regarding Macedonia’s name change.
There were also reports of attempts to bribe Greek members of the parliament to block the agreement. The Greek minister of defense expressed that his country will no longer turn a blind eye to such activities.
What does Russia have to do with Macedonia’s name? If Greece isn’t against Macedonia changing its name, the next step could see Macedonia joining NATO, and this definitely is not something Russia wants. The naming issue has been resolved and the country is now known as the Republic of North Macedonia and it is only a matter of time when it becomes a NATO member.
From all this, it becomes evident that Russia uses all available means to influence international processes, as well as foreign governments, to serve its own ends.
On 29 February, the president of Turkey announced in his signature style: “What did we do yesterday? We opened a door.” According to eyewitness reports, it felt more like expulsion: people were brought to the border in free-of-charge buses, and those staying at refugee camps suddenly received messages that the road to Greece is open.
Human smugglers did not even try to operate in secret and actively organized transportation to Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, where roughly 40,000 migrants are already staying having arrived some time before. Could the transportation of people or sending SMS en masse happen without the government’s approval? I highly doubt it.
Who would benefit from a future refugee crisis? You don’t have to be a psychic to tell: it is, of course, Russia, as another refugee crisis will inevitably create divisions among EU member states.
The recipe for achieving and furthering this is obvious. Russia is increasing its involvement in the conflict in Syria, which in turn increases the number of refugees. Meanwhile, its ally, Turkey, announces that it won’t detain refugees and will allow them to cross the border. And this resulted in over 13,000 migrants huddling at the Turkish and Greek borders, and their number is only rising.
With the number of migrants increasing, Greece’s ability to hold them near the borders will be significantly burdened. There is no doubt that if so many migrants reach the EU, it will create widespread discontent among the member states and their citizens.
Several EU leaders have already expressed their opinion, including Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz, who called it an attack by Turkey against the EU and Greece. He also gave a warning if the EU will not pass this test “through fire and water”, a Europe without internal borders will be history.
The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan has turned to the Greek government with the announcement: “Greece, I am turning to you – open the gates and relieve your burden.” He said this during a TV address from Istanbul on the International Women’s Day. “Let them go to other European countries. Greece, these people did not come here to stay, they came to head to other nations. Why do you care? Just open the gate!” Such an announcement clearly indicates that Erdogan wishes for the migrants to reach the EU.
In case of any activity or inactivity, one has to think about who benefits the most. Considering the situation in Syria and Turkey, it is clear that in case of another refugee crisis Russia would be the largest benefactor. So it is naïve to believe that Russia does not use every tool in its toolbox to achieve its own ends, especially when it has already shown that it is not afraid to interfere in the matters of other countries to do so.
*Zintis Znotiņš is an Independent investigative journalist.