Cold War in the Mediterranean: Are the West and Turkey Really Closing?

An analysis by Seyed Alireza Mousavi

With the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO thanks to the ultimate consent of Turkey, the West is trying to demonstrate the unity of all NATO members against Russia during the Ukraine crisis through its media reporting: If the Scandinavians joined, the current land border between Russia and the Allianz doubled from 1,300 to 2,600 kilometers, according to Western media.

Meanwhile, speculation about renewed rapprochement between the West and Turkey over the course of the Ukraine war has intensified after Turkey recently stopped a Russian-flagged coaster named Zhibek Zholy at the Black Sea port of Karasu. The ship is said to have loaded grain. The Ukrainian government claims the Russians “stole” that. Turkey’s arrest of a Russian freighter “at the request of Ukraine” would shift the balance of power.

On the geopolitical level, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has constantly oscillated between Russia and the United States in recent years. The question now is whether Turkey is in the process of ending its seesaw policy in favor of the West because of the Ukraine war.

Turkey has condemned Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, but the country still does not support Western sanctions against Russia. Turkey is mediating between Ukraine and Russia to restart grain exports from Ukraine, with Ankara supporting Moscow’s call for an easing of sanctions imposed in the wake of the Ukraine war to ease grain exports from Ukraine. Regarding the detention of the cargo ship (Zhibek Zholy), while Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed on Monday that the ship has Russian owners, he added, “I think it belongs to Kazakhstan and the cargo was shipped under a treaty between Estonia and Turkey transported”. In doing so, the top Russian diplomat avoided taking a critical stance on the Turkish action.

Regarding the green light from the Turkish government to admit Finland and Sweden into NATO, it should be noted that Turkey interprets the relevant NATO declaration of intent differently from its Western partners. While the West is celebrating NATO’s northern expansion as a “historic moment,” the Turks simply describe the new addition to NATO as a “Turkish victory.” The Turkish broadcaster TRT criticizes the fact that the Western media wanted to steer the discourse about Sweden and Finland joining NATO in a completely different direction. Erdoğan emerges as the “clear winner” “because the country gets what it wanted” – including the extradition of several Kurdish PKK activists to Turkey and the lifting of the arms embargo against Ankara.

The NATO member states are now beginning to ratify the protocols for Sweden and Finland to join NATO. Several Member States want to do this at record speed. However, the Turkish government has now announced that it will only forward the protocol to parliament once the two new member states have fulfilled their “promises”. Erdoğan still seems to be in the right place to extract more concessions from the West. Incidentally, that is basically Turkey’s idea of ​​a partnership with the West within NATO.

As the Ukraine war rages on, the conflict between Turkey and Greece grew into a cold war over Mediterranean territories. Nothing remains of the commitment made by these two NATO countries in March to work towards improving their bilateral relations in view of the Ukraine war. In May, the situation between Greece and Turkey escalated drastically after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke out against American arms deals with Ankara during his visit to Washington, DC – without naming Turkey. Athens is particularly interested in the same US fighter jets as Turkey. In Ankara, there is particular fear that Washington will arm Greece with F16 jets, ending a period of certain Turkish air force superiority over the strategic Aegean islands.

Athens has recently tried to challenge Ankara as the most important US security partner in the eastern Mediterranean – also with the argument that Turkey had opposed the “isolation of Russia”. Military aid to Ukraine mainly goes through Greek ports. Erdoğan sees a danger for Turkey in Greece’s new strategy within NATO, since NATO would also have targeted Ankara’s security concerns in the region. There is also the question of how far Turkey would go along with NATO’s recent strategic concept, which portrays Russia as a “threat” to the alliance. The leadership in Ankara is aware that in a possible war between NATO and Russia, Turkey would be at the forefront of such a conflict.

more on the subject – Russia’s foreign office: Greece no longer safe for Russian citizens

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