• Three rounds of high-stakes talks between Russian representatives and the U.S., NATO, and OSCE representatives took place this week in Geneva, Brussels, and Vienna. The main focus of these meetings was on the developments taking place in the Russia-Ukraine border. Trans-Atlantic allies rejected Russia’s call to stop NATO’s expansion, and the Russian representatives stated that the diplomacy has not reached a “dead end.” While war seems more likely now, we asked experts their views on these talks. Prepared by Gloria Shkurti Özdemir Experts İlyas Topsakal Mehmet Çağatay Güler Kadir Üstün Vişne Korkmaz Rıfat Öncel İlyas Topsakal Istanbul University, Turkey The Effects of NATO – Russia Talks and Turkey's Perspective On January 12, 2022, the NATO-Russia council met in Brussels for the first time in the last 2.5 years and held discussions on the accumulated issues both NATO and Russia are facing. The most important issues during the negotiations were the red lines of the two sides, which were discussed in the Putin-Biden meeting. The issue that Russia focused on in the talks was NATO's expansion to the east and placement of its strategic offensive weapons at strategic points close to Russia's western border because Russia's biggest threat perception is considered to be that Romania, Poland, and Bulgaria, along with Finland (a traditional Western ally) pulled this line to the north and then Greece, to the south, while traditional support groups of Western Europe pushed this line forward. The history of the issue dates to the Soviet period. In 1992, Russia asked the United States for written guarantees that NATO would not expand to the east, and that, especially, Ukraine and Georgia would not become NATO members. Finally, from the past to the present, both states have considered conveying their demands to each other through diplomatic channels in every opportunity and environment as a strategy – until the last two years. At the same time, the U.S. and NATO perceived the security area as a threat when Russia carried out military exercises close to regions of critical importance; that is, in the area that Ukraine and Poland saw as a threat and dispatched new weapons to the region. Moreover, a series of sanctions were put into effect against this. During this process, mixed delegations served in the negotiations of the two sides, and in general, officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense undertook this task. At the negotiations held this week, Russia was represented by Alexander Grushko and Aleksandr Fomin. NATO, on the other hand, took part in these meetings with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and representatives of 30 member countries. According to the leaked information from the relevant authorities after the talks, there was an agreement on all trivial matters except for the expansion in the Black Sea and Eastern Europe, which are Russia's red lines; however, no progress was made on Russia's red lines. Thereupon, Russian officials reiterated their claim that military exercises and especially strategically important supersonic missiles will continue to be deployed in Eastern Europe. Russia also signaled that this new situation is also in line with the policy of deterrence, and in this context, it will spread its new weaponry to the geography close to the United States, such as Cuba and Venezuela. This new policy was underlined and strengthened by Russian President Vladimir Putin's statement, in which he said, "If NATO countries continue to place strategic weapons on our borders, we will have to get our supersonic missiles ready." The third phase of the de-escalation negotiations in Vienna took place on January 13 under the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). When the two sides could not agree on their mutual strategic issues, Russia's OSCE representative, Alexander Lukashevich, stated that Russia was extremely serious about security guarantees, while his U.S. counterpart described the process as "blackmail." As a result, the two sides made no progress in the negotiations, which started with high hopes, causing Russia to update its security strategy against NATO. In this context, since 2010, the Eastern Europe and NATO threat has been included in the first article of Russia's security doctrine, and it includes new measures against this enlargement. This framework, which surrounds the new position of Russia against the West, especially NATO and the U.S., and the role that Turkey will take in this position can be seen as the most important security issue concerning our region and country in the future. For this reason, our country's military and security experts produce ideas to designate the specifics of this role and produce instant solutions depending on the issues in Russian-Turkish relations according to time and conditions. Instant communication and mutual benevolence between the heads of state of Russia and Turkey are seen as a great success in terms of leadership diplomacy; President Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Putin successfully undertake the processes in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea, which have become a “weapons laboratory” of sorts. This new concept, created and centralized by Turkey within the scope of its national interests, can also be criticized by many thinkers who think according to the strategies of the Cold War. The outputs of the new period, the three major cross-border operations in the south and the end of the Astana process, the cessation of the war in the region, the successful settlement of the Karabakh issue, the use of both hard and soft power elements in the Eastern Mediterranean and ensuring the balance between NATO and Russia in the Black Sea have been made possible and realized by Turkey’s superior operational and diplomatic strength. Its success is evident in the implementation of these new security strategies. As a result, NATO and Russia could enter a fierce rivalry again, negatively affecting NATO's largest military power in the region, Turkey, in its relations with Russia. However, Turkey will not face difficulty in managing these relations with the trust, stability, and administration it has gained in the last 10 years and will succeed in turning possible problematic areas into positive ones for both countries. Back to top Mehmet Çağatay Güler Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Results of Diplomatic Talks All the Russia-U.S., Russia-NATO, and Russia-OSCE talks on the Ukraine-Russia crisis, which took place in Geneva and Brussels, were inconclusive. When we look at the security draft plan and the binding guarantees that Russia has presented to NATO and the U.S., I can say that it is not surprising that the talks were inconclusive. Neither NATO nor the U.S. will allow Russia to dominate them. First, to guarantee that Ukraine will not be admitted to NATO, that NATO will not expand further east, that NATO troops and weapons will not be deployed to Russian borders and nearby areas, and finally that NATO will withdraw to its pre-1997 borders mean that Europe's security architecture will be thoroughly changed and the order established after the Cold War will be fundamentally affected. However, as Russia will consolidate its global status and sphere of influence, the U.S., NATO, and European institutions will suffer a serious loss of credibility and power. The existence of the institutions in question, their positions, and the status of the West, in general, will be discussed. The acceptance of these guarantees, therefore, did not seem possible from the very beginning. At this point, two arguments came to the fore, the first of which was to legitimize the operation against Ukraine by preparing Russia's security draft plans as unacceptable. Second, to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and becoming a NATO outpost, at least by keeping a little room for negotiation. However, we see that no common denominator has been determined in the current situation. This situation creates a dilemma for NATO and Western countries: either a great political cost will be suffered by giving Russia what it wants, or Russia's intervention in Ukraine will be witnessed and a serious security cost will be incurred. However, if Russia is not deterred, NATO's effectiveness and status will also become a matter of debate. When we look at the developments in the field during the talks in Geneva and Brussels, it is clear Russia has increased its fortification and that it continues its logistical support; and according to open intelligence sources, soldiers have been shifted from the Eastern Military District to the Western Military District, which will support the operation. If the talks are inconclusive and there is no will for their continuation, Russia's military action against Ukraine is at the forefront of the scenarios that may arise in the future. First, the current buildup on the ground does not logically make a large-scale invasion attempt possible. In addition, such a possibility will seriously increase the costs for Russia, all the while making things more difficult for the Kremlin from the humanitarian perspective as well. Russia is less likely to engage in city warfare in densely populated areas. Second, there’s a likelihood of a partial invasion of some geopolitically important regions that are relatively easy to capture; where land conditions are more favorable, the logistics are more convenient, and the cost is lower. In this way, ensuring the land connection between Crimea and Donbass, solving the water problem of Crimea, and achieving absolute dominance in the Azov Sea may be the aim. Third, and last, is an operation carried out only by airstrikes, causing very high damage in Ukraine at a low cost. Thus, at the first stage, it may be in the calculations to carry out serious destruction, to completely break the resistance of the Ukrainian people, and to create an atmosphere of fear and despair. However, Russia may also be planning to impose red lines by giving the West the message that "if you do not give us what we want, this is just the beginning of what we will do," that is, by effectively making use of coercive diplomacy. It is essential to be prepared for all of these scenarios and not overlook any possibilities while making plans to deter Russia. Back to top Kadir Üstün Washington Struggles to Respond to Putin's Ukraine Move Washington tacitly accepted this fait accompli by failing to develop an effective response to Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. According to many experts, we see that the Russian occupation against Ukraine, which has been going on since then, has reached a new level in recent weeks. With around 100,000 Russian soldiers positioned in the Donbass region, Putin has strengthened his hand in bargaining with the West and has an advantageous position at the table. Demanding a written commitment against NATO's enlargement, Putin knows that this demand will not come true, but his main goal is to create new fault lines within the Western alliance and to stop NATO's expansion. While there are different opinions on what Putin's ultimate goal is, we do not see most Washington experts advocating a military response to Russia. Though Ukraine is not a NATO member, there is a consensus on deterrence through economic sanctions against Russia, a determined stance in negotiations with the Kremlin, and that Ukraine’s NATO membership decision cannot be mortgaged by Russia. Washington does not want a military engagement with Russia and is unlikely to take any steps to reverse the Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border. It is also noteworthy that Russia won in a geopolitical sense by raising its stake in Ukraine without attempting to invade. The Western alliance will not officially compromise on NATO's enlargement, but it seems to accept, albeit tacitly, that the de facto inclusion of Ukraine in the alliance is subject to Russia's veto. Russia's weaponization of energy supplies against Europe, Germany's defense of defensive-only weaponry aid to Ukraine, and Washington's reluctance to engage in a military conflict make it easier for Putin to raise his stakes. In this case, Putin seems to be able to prevent Ukraine from getting closer to the West without the need for military conflict and occupation. However, it should not be forgotten that Moscow's current gains will not be costless in terms of consequences, such as Washington focusing more seriously on Europe's energy security, increasing material and arms aid to Ukraine, and putting economic sanctions on its agenda. Back to top Vişne Korkmaz Nişantaşı Üniversitesi Europe’s Response in the Russia-Ukraine Crisis The U.S.-Russia strategic dialogue that took place in Geneva was the first stop of the talks and diplomacy traffic between the West and Russia throughout the week. Apart from providing insight about the beginning and the spirit of other talks, it was important for the following reason: As it is known, Russia has made it clear can destabilize Europe through various fault lines (Ukraine, Belarus, Western Balkans, etc.) for a while. It is known that the U.S. and Russia are testing each other through Ukraine, and these tests turn into crises and escalation from time to time. For Europeans, such a crisis and escalation are also destabilizing factors. At a time when Europeans are still discussing strategic autonomy and where there is not always consensus on foreign and security policy within the union, the only assurance against all these instabilities is NATO deterrence. But testing deterrence has its costs, and U.S. policy remains uncertain on its way back to Asia. For this reason, Europeans need to have a strategic dialogue and, if possible, a negotiation process between Russia and Western/European security institutions. Before the Geneva meeting, two issues overshadowed the expectations of the Europeans. The first is this: The process that started in Geneva is the open and implicit discussion of the demands announced in the two draft documents announced by the Kremlin. These draft documents limit NATO's open-door policy and demand that NATO cease military activities in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. When these demands were announced, it was said by commentators that Moscow wanted a "soft Yalta" and that it wanted to achieve this through direct negotiations with the United States by creating challenges over Ukraine and European stability. Even these comments alone can annoy Europeans because beyond the limitation that Moscow's demands may create in terms of NATO deterrence, it also implies that the fate of European security is determined without negotiating with the Europeans. The Biden administration said that it established constant consultations with NATO and European allies before and after Geneva to avoid previous misunderstandings. The second point is that Geneva is not expected to change the position of the parties in Ukraine and beyond. Therefore, the pressure on European stability is likely to linger. When we look at the statements made by the Foreign Affairs officials of the two countries after Geneva, the parties showed that they can give the green light to some confidence-building measures, although they do not trust each other. This is especially important for Europeans who are concerned about the disarmament agreements affecting European security. For example, we see that questions are asked in various channels whether the parties can take a positive step regarding INF. However, it should not be forgotten that if the parties come to the table with the future of disarmament agreements, European security and Russia-U.S. competition will not be the only issues on their minds. The United States does not take such strategic steps without thinking about how they will affect China's armament potential and American interests in the Asia Pacific. Back to top Rıfat Öncel NATO-Russia Talks and Arms Control While the NATO-Russia talks have failed to produce a meaningful achievement, the arms control issue emerged as a potential first step in making progress over de-escalating tensions. The U.S., Russia, and NATO suggest in principle that they desire a new agreement and relevant verification mechanisms that would limit the number and deployment of offensive missiles. Hence, after the Trump administration’s antagonistic view toward arms control agreements, now there is a renewed prospect that new treaties are a possibility. However, given the scope and extent of Russian security proposals, reaching a new arms limitation treaty would likely solely serve as an initial confidence-building measure, rather than addressing the whole issue concerning Ukraine and the rest of Europe. Russian security demands from NATO require a fundamental change in NATO force posture and a significant decline in American security commitments to Eastern Europe, which would end the rationale of NATO’s existence and would destroy American credibility. That’s why the U.S. responded to Russian demands as “non-starters.” Under these circumstances, it hardly seems that reaching an even limited agreement like the now-defunct INF Treaty is possible. After the U.S. and Russia withdrew from the treaty, both countries accelerated efforts to develop and deploy missiles previously prohibited under the treaty. Similarly, relevant force postures have undergone important shifts as some commands were reactivated and existing military drills were intensified. On the other hand, emerging military technologies such as hypersonic weapons further jeopardize this deteriorating security situation, providing actors with significant offensive capabilities. In sum, both the declining commitments and new weapon technologies have increased mutual threat perceptions for years. During the Cold War, arms control treaties helped build confidence because the political climate was convenient and most of the deployed conventional and nuclear missiles were unnecessary. However, today’s geopolitical balance emerged after years of accumulated security problems and is based on fierce competition in a military technological race. Therefore, even if the actors reach an arms treaty, it would likely remain as a limited instrument in addressing the security problems between Russia and the West. Back to top
  • For a better understanding of Turkey-Africa relations, we have asked experts to analyze different dimensions such as education, economy, diplomacy, and defense. At the same time, we have touched upon the importance of the ongoing Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has arrived in Doha today with bilateral and regional issues high on agenda. Qatar is one of the strongest allies of Turkey in the Gulf region, with strong cooperation both in terms of security and trade. The visit of President Erdoğan comes at a very important time as a wave of normalization has started in the Middle East. Last week Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) visited Turkey as both states seek to repair their bilateral relations. At this point, we have asked the experts what the meaning of President Erdoğan’s visit to Qatar is and whether the ongoing developments will have an impact of Turkey-Qatar relations. Prepared by Gloria Shkurti Özdemir Experts Helin Sari Ertem Özden Zeynep Oktav Marwan Kabalan Emad Y. Kaddorah Osama Kubbar Gökhan Ereli Helin Sari Ertem Istanbul Medeniyet University President Erdogan's visit to Qatar serves as the proof of the rapprochement between Turkey and the UAE, so to speak. Tensions have already thawed between UAE and Qatar since the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in al-Ula at the beginning of 2021, and it was time for Turkey to normalize relations with the countries of the region. The atmosphere of dialogue that Turkey has initiated with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain in recent months has brought about normalization with the UAE. In a sense, Qatar has acted as a catalyst for all these normalization efforts. Therefore, there is nothing to worry about Turkey-Qatar relations; on the contrary, there is potential to further develop this cooperation. Despite the troublesome processes and pressures in the region, both countries have been in cooperation for a long time. On the other hand, Turkey and Qatar have similar views on many global and regional issues, especially in Syria, Libya and Yemen crises, and thus they have established a strategic partnership. In this new period, which stands out with the emphasis on regional reconciliation and covers a wide part of the countries in the region, the cooperation between Turkey and Qatar will continue to get stronger in a more relaxed atmosphere. It is possible to make sense of all these events in terms of systemic, regional and local dynamics. From a systemic point of view, it can be said that the global competition between the US and China is decisive. Focusing on competition with China, the American administration has followed a policy in Europe and the Middle East - since Former US President Barack Obama came to power - that champions that the countries of the region "solve their own problems themselves first"; in other words, we observe that it chooses the path of  offshore balancing. From this point of view, both Turkey and other allied countries in the Middle East should minimize the problems between them; therefore, normalization is a situation that the US also wants to see in terms of systemic balances. Strengthening the ties between its allies will make it easier for these actors to intervene in regional crises instead of the US; and thanks to this, the US will be able to direct its attention to Asia-Pacific. From a regional perspective, it can be said that countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are trying to benefit from the "unity in the Middle East" by pursuing policies that are more harmonious and open to cooperation. This approach is in harmony with Turkey's recent expectations and needs. There is a deadlock in critical regional issues such as Libya, Syria and Yemen, and the leading countries of the region have no choice but to compromise or make concessions on certain issues in order to overcome this. The ongoing instability and pressures in the region harms the countries of it the most. At this point, all parties have understood that the improvement of relations has more benefits than worsening thereof. Here, the positive impact of the said improvement on the domestic politics of the countries should be mentioned. Gaining a solid foothold in relations with the countries of the region will lead to a relative relief in domestic politics and to the strengthening of Turkey's power against the problems it faces in other geographies (for example, in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean). Thanks to the normalization with the Gulf countries, the hot money that can be directed to Turkey is a lifeline, especially in economic terms. Even if the flow of hot money does not occur to the expected extent, it will be perceived as a message of support by the public in the first place; and it will reduce the feeling of loneliness. The strengthening of the sense of unity in the Middle East will also have a positive impact on the peoples of the other countries in question; it will make it easier to overcome the introversion experienced during the pandemic period. It has been clearly observed in recent years that returning to the "win-win" approach in the Middle East is much more advantageous not only for Turkey but also for other actors. We hope that the normalization moves we see in the region will be permanent in the long run. Because, if this situation can be evaluated wisely, it will create results most of which will be in favor of the peoples of the region; and it will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Middle East by reducing the feeling of fragmentation that the Islamic world is suffering from, even if by a little bit. Back to top Özden Zeynep Oktav Istanbul Medeniyet University Qatar and Turkey have been allies since 1972. There are two factors that lead to these two countries getting closer to each other. One of those factors is security, and the second is trade. In 2015, Turkey established a military base with around 3,000 troops in Qatar led by the Qatar-Turkey Combined Joint Force Command. Qatar’s total investments in Turkey have now reached $22 billion. Erdoğan visits Qatar amid Turkey’s warming ties with the UAE while Ankara aims for better ties with Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well. Here, the issue is about the position of Israel as Tel Aviv wants more and more actors to be a part of the normalization process. However, it seems quite difficult for Israel to make the regional actors including the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) accept Israel’s penetration into the Middle East and the Gulf as a leading actor. In this context, it can be said that the GCC countries’ (specifically Qatar and the UAE) main motive behind their enthusiasm to start or increase trade and security relations with Turkey is closely related to their strategic decision to rapidly diversify economy and security. With incumbent US President Joe Biden’s coming to power, Washington made it evident that human rights and diplomacy rather than a transactional relationship centered around oil, weapons sales, and the containment of Iran would be the new priorities in US relations with the Gulf. This also led to GCC states, primarily Qatar and the UAE, seeking more intra-regional cooperative relations. As Turkey continues to work on the operation of Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport together with Qatar, both leaders will probably handle the security issue of Afghanistan on 6-7 December. Added to this, safety of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, which would be held amid the criticisms concerning Qatari violations of human rights will be the main concern of both leaders. Back to top Marwan Kabalan Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies Since President Erdoğan’s last visit to Doha in December 2020, the regional and international settings have fundamentally changed. On January 2021, the al-Ula GCC summit in Saudi Arabia ended almost a four-year crisis that shattered the Gulf Club and could have led to its demise. Qatar-Turkey relations developed to a near-alliance relationship during that crisis. The two countries concluded a military agreement, allowing Turkey to deploy forces to the Gulf region for the first time since the collapse of Ottoman Empire in WWI. The Arab Spring revolutions, which have also contributed to strengthening the relationship between the two countries, have ended in a fiasco. Turkey and Qatar supported democratic transition in the Arab world wherein Islamic forces stood to gain. These revolutions turned into bloody internationalized civil wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen. Even in Tunisia, which witnessed smooth and peaceful democratic transition, President Kais Saied suspended the constitution and froze Parliament in July 2021. Internationally, former US President Donald Trump has left the stage after losing the November 2020 elections and his democratic rival, Joe Biden, came to power. Qatar, which suffered under Trump, who initially supported the blockade by accusing Qatar of financing terrorism, welcomed the news. Turkey, by contrast, was not very happy with the victory of Joe Biden, who was very critical of Turkey during his election campaign. Qatar became, therefore, the US’ favorite Gulf ally, especially after the chaotic withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan, whereas Turkey began having a hard time trying to cope with Biden’s Middle East policy especially in Syria, wherein the US supports the YPG/PYD and its umbrella organization SDF, both of which are listed by Turkey as terrorist organizations. Yet, despite the changing regional and international environment, there is no reason to believe that Turkey-Qatar relations will suffer. On the contrary, they are expected to survive and thrive. The two countries have enough shared views and common interests to guarantee that. President Erdoğan’s Doha visit is meant to ensure and signal that Turkey’s changing regional orientations will not affect its strategic relations with Qatar. Back to top Emad Y. Kaddorah Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies In the first place, President Erdoğan’s visit to Qatar, on December 6-7, 2021, will be within the regular annual meetings of the Turkish-Qatari Higher Strategic Committee (TQHSC), which was established in 2014. However, it is of especially great importance this year. Politically, this is the first visit to Doha after the end of the Gulf crisis in January 2021. It is also the first after the visit of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, to Ankara in November that established a new chapter in their bilateral relations and perhaps regional cooperation. The visit is expected to confirm once again that the changing situation in the Gulf and the new Turkish openness to the UAE does not mean that the Qatari-Turkish alliance will lose its momentum. Particularly, they are in agreement on most of the current regional issues. On the contrary, these positive developments may prove that the alliance has paid off, and it is important to discuss its development during the Summit. Economically, everyone is currently focused on Ankara’s efforts to address the value of the Turkish lira against the dollar and to attract new foreign investments, including those from Qatar. But economic relations with Doha are broader than that. Since the establishment of the Turkey-Qatar High Strategic Committee, relations have deepened, and the two countries had signed 62 agreements. The volume of trade exchange doubled to $1.6 billion. Qatar’s investments in Turkey, amounting to $22 billion, exceeded those of all other GCC states. However, opening a trade route from Port Khalid in Sharjah (UAE), through Bandar Abbas in Iran, to the port of İskenderun in Turkey is likely to pose a challenge. Erdoğan’s visit is expected to emphasize the benefits of this path of regional cooperation and that it will not be at the expense of the relations with Qatar. Finally, this visit may focus on cooperation in the field of natural gas. New gas discoveries in the Black Sea do not diminish the importance of developing energy relations with Qatar. Turkey may need to strengthen its relationships with this traditional producer, both in exchanging experiences and in negotiating production quotas and market relations. Back to top Osama Kubbar Qatar Strategic Studies Centre Turkey and Qatar enjoy what is recognized as a “special relationship”, within the different levels of international relationships and cooperation. I expect that this visit comes as a response to some perceived threats in the region, while Erdoğan is working with his close ally, Qatar, to coordinate closely and unify the stand in front of these new developments. The Turkish Lira is coming under a major pressure and going through a critical retreat against the US dollar. The Lira retreat is causing much domestic pressure while Erdoğan fights against the establishment in the economy sector. Also, the looming election in Libya might end up being a major turn-around of an event if things go wrong. Libya is heading to a presidential election with no guidelines or no constitutional rule regulating the electoral process , with Saif Al Islam Gaddafi and the Ret. General Haftar are both candidates. There is no chance of a fair election in Libya, and the outcome is very threatening as it stands. There is also the UAE rapprochement with Turkey, and the visit of Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ) to Ankara last week most likely has carried a lot of weight. Erdoğan is seeking to open up a new chapter with Turkey’s regional rivals, and to reduce the tensions. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have been opposing to Turkey’s vision and aspirations in the region, while all of them paid the price for such contention and stress. The whole region is in a great need for a reconciliation and cooperation, and the visit of MBZ to Ankara is now more promising with Erdoğan’s visit to Qatar. Keeping in mind the strong UAE-Israel relationship, MBZ must have carried a lot with him in his Ankara visit. I think the region is coming into new arrangements, and Erdoğan is visiting Qatar with many issues to discuss, and build a consensus on. Back to top Gökhan Ereli ORSAM President Erdoğan will visit Qatar on December 6-7, 2021. First of all, President Erdoğan's visit will enable political, military and economic relations between Turkey and Qatar to move forward. However, the visit in question can be dealt with on two main points. The first of these points is the political and military dimensions of Turkey-Qatar relations, while the second point is about the new page opened in Turkey-Gulf relations. Having experienced a political normalization with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in 2021, Turkey strengthened its diplomatic relations, especially with Bahrain, and gained an significant room for maneuver in the Gulf. With the resolution of the Gulf crisis, the ongoing political and military relations between Turkey and Qatar have become a role model in the Gulf. In this sense, a face-to-face meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Ferhan has become possible, signifying the level of political normalization between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In normalization with the UAE, the arrival of the country's de facto leader, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, to Ankara, has showed that normalization was managed from the highest levels of both governments and it has also confirmed the mutual political will that was formed as a result of this. In this sense, with Erdoğan’s visit to Doha, the already strong partnership between Turkey and Qatar will be proven once again. It is reported that President Erdoğan will also pay an official visit to the UAE in February. When evaluated in this sense, the signals that the normalization processes will be carried out with Egypt and Israel as they were done so with the UAE recently also make the said visit to Qatar more important in terms of timing. The visit, which will happen amid normalizations, may also include the issue of harmonization of positions the two countries take in various matters. In this sense, during the said visit, the reflections of Turkey-Qatar political relations on regional politics and the reflections of regional politics and normalization climate on the relations between the two countries are likely to be discussed. In this sense, it is likely that the two countries' perspectives on the political normalization trends in the Middle East and the development of common ways of cooperation, Qatar's role in Afghanistan and Turkey-Qatar military relations will also be discussed during the said visit. Back to top

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  • On the eve of the meeting between Erdoğan and MBZ, questions about possible issues that may be discussed and the meeting’s impact on bilateral and regional affairs have been discussed in media debates. Given that, experts in the field have contemplated these questions and have provided their opinions regarding the meeting.

  • Various developments in Europe’s eastern front have started to attract the attention of many. Starting with the migrant crises on the border between Poland and Belarus and the gathering of military forces at the Russia-Ukraine border to the joint military exercises in the Baltic region and the growth of interethnic tensions in Bosnia-Herzegovina – all of these bring to the fore the fact that the struggle for spheres of influence is gaining momentum once again in Europe. For a better understanding of the situation, experts have analyzed Russia’s latest foreign policies, the migration crisis on the Poland-Belarus border as well as the implications of these events for Turkey, the West and the international system in general. Prepared by Gloria Shkurti Özdemir Experts Yaşar Sarı Oktay F. Tanrısever Vişne Korkmaz Magdalena Kumelska-Koniecko Muhammed Koçak Yaşar Sarı Haydar Aliyev Eurasia Studies Research and Application Center, Ibn Haldun University and International Relations, Bolu Abant Izzet Baysal University Considering Russia’s latest moves on its western front, how might they affect the international system, NATO and the U.S.? What is Russia aiming for with these developments? Russia's recent moves should be assessed by considering several developments. The U.S.' build-up in the region (particularly in Alexandroupolis in Greece), the frequent visits of the U.S. and other Western warships to the Black Sea, the closure of Russia's representative office in NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, the expected new government led by Social Democrats formed in Germany and the supply shortage in natural gas are some of these developments. Moreover, the parliamentary election in Germany, France distancing itself from U.S.-led NATO and Turkey's recent troubles with its Western allies provide unmissable opportunities Russia hopes to utilize and make diplomatic maneuvers. So, Russia gets on Western countries' nerves both militarily (through military drills and build-up) and politically (as in the immigration issue and making statements supporting the separatists in Bosnia). It can be clearly understood that Russia has four main objectives: to reduce the increasing U.S. pressure; to get rid of the embargoes imposed by the Western states (especially the European Union members); to have the international community accept Russia's geopolitical gains – especially the annexation of Crimea, at least a de facto level, even if not officially; and finally, to widen the cracks in the Western alliance by taking advantage of the differences in the policies of the leading states in the Western bloc (the U.S., Germany, France and to a lesser extent, Turkey) toward Russia. Russia has been pressured to take tactical back steps following the elimination of the disparity in rhetoric and policy between the president of the United States and the establishment (disparity existed during Donald Trump's term). After Joe Biden became president, the disparity disappeared, and the U.S. has pushed its allies to act together to deal with Russia. Finally, it is also known that the decision-makers in Russia (which has a ruling elite dominated by people who worked in security units, such as Putin) are quick to take advantage of strategic opportunities. Russia's success in the annexation of Crimea reflects this. We should also consider that Russia has an authoritarian regime, albeit a soft one, which speeds up the decision-making processes. For this reason, Russia will manipulate, test and take advantage of the deepening disagreements among Western countries on policies toward Moscow. It will look for possible opportunities to establish a better relationship with the coalition government, led by the Social Democrats, which will be established in Germany (mirroring in the relationship between Social Democratic Prime Minister Gerhard Schroeder and Vladimir Putin). Back to top Oktay F. Tanrısever Department of International Relations, METU What are the possible implications of recent Russia-West tensions for Turkey? The fact that Russia-Western relations are becoming tenser in a region that stretches from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, which is very close to Turkey, poses risks for Ankara in general. It should be expected that this tension, which has emerged between actors that have important relations with Ankara, will have serious direct and indirect impacts on Turkey. First of all, since Turkey maintains a principled position on the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Ankara does not recognize the annexation of Crimea and is against Russia’s military threat to Ukraine's territorial integrity. It was also not surprising that Ukraine showed interest in the purchase of new Bayraktar TB-2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from Turkey during this period. It will also not be surprising that Russia will react as it did amid the previous sales process. In this context, Ankara is also expected to emphasize that the deepening defense cooperation between Turkey and Ukraine is not a stance against any third countries, including Russia. While Turkey is expected to maintain its stance against Russia's military build-up against Ukraine and the increase in its military activities – which could turn the current balances in the Black Sea region in its favor – the steps that Ankara will take to keep the diplomatic channels open between the parties may be welcomed by all parties, including Russia. The fact that some Polish and Western circles claim that Turkish-flagged planes played a role in bringing migrants to Belarus during the migrant crisis in Belarus shows that Ankara must closely follow the development of this crisis. It would be an effective step for Ankara to convincingly explain to the relevant parties that these claims aiming to involve Turkey in this crisis are invalid, using both diplomacy and public diplomatic channels. Likewise, Turkish-flagged airline companies' decision to temporarily not sell tickets to or accept passengers in transit to Belarus from Middle Eastern countries, where the risk of irregular migrants is high, may also undermine their efforts to draw Turkey into this crisis. As a result, it seems that it would be both necessary and beneficial for Turkey to play an active role in reducing the tensions in Russian-Western relations. It could do this by using crisis management tools and with initiatives made through diplomatic channels while maintaining its foreign policy priorities in these crises that have emerged between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. Back to top Vişne Korkmaz Nişantaşı Üniversitesi How do you assess the latest developments in Belarus and what could be Russia’s role in the migrant border crisis? The refugee crisis on the Belarus-Polish border has once again exposed the different weaknesses of the EU and Europe. In this respect, it is quite ironic that the crisis emerged on the days when the EU is discussing the Strategic Compass. As it is known, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova (perhaps Georgia and Azerbaijan can be added to this list) are in a gray area where Russia and the West’s strategic spheres of influence overlap. Therefore, they were exposed to encouragement, especially from the EU. This encouragement also made it difficult for the countries to pursue balanced diplomacy between Russia and the West. Belarus is a country that has disrupted its balanced policy in the face of the inertia of the West and the preparations of Russia by standing close to Moscow. As a result, Lukashenko gets a chance to strengthen his regime. The pressure exerted by the EU on Belarus through the political process and crises paves the way for EU sanctions. Here, we see the use of sanctions as a means of punishment – ​​damaging Minsk's already fragile economy. As a result, with the refugee crisis, Minsk also shows that it has some tools of its own, pushing the EU to consider changing its penal policy toward Belarus. However, this crisis is not just an EU-Belarusian issue. It is a two-fold hybrid crisis. On one hand, it is hybrid because refugees are being used as a threat to border security and through that threat, it is hoped political concessions will be made. On the other hand, it is hybrid again because the Kremlin provides Minsk a deterrent through its support, including the deployment of Russian warplanes and air defense systems in Belarus, which protect against the possibility of military pressure against Belarus. In other words, it turns the crisis into a tool through which Russia lays down its hand. Therefore, while it shows the West that without an agreement with Minsk and Moscow, the refugee crisis will remain an ongoing problem, it also shows that the Russian deterrent against the Western threat is valid. Moreover, it also shows that the questioning and testing of Russia's actions in Ukraine and the Black Sea has a price. Through the example of the fear Europe is facing, it also sends a message to the U.S. to abandon the Black Sea without escalating tensions as such moves may cause the destabilization of Europe. Back to top Magdalena Kumelska-Koniecko University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn What are the Polish and Russian perspectives on the migrant border crisis? The escalation of tensions on the Polish-Belarusian border (the external border of the European Union) is a direct result of the actions of Alexander Lukashenka, which fit the definition of a hybrid war. The reason why the Belarusian regime used Middle East migrants to destabilize Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and thus the entire European Community, was the implementation of sectoral sanctions on Belarus (petrochemical, tobacco, fertilizer industries) in response to the rigged presidential elections and subsequent repressions against the opposition and Belarusian citizens. Alexander Lukashenka, provoking the migration crisis, counted on the lifting of the sanctions imposed by the European Community, without fulfilling the precondition of releasing political prisoners, including Polish journalist Andrzej Poczobut and Polish activist in Belarus Andżelika Borys.  Brussels not only stood firm but on November 15, 2021, it approved further sanction criteria under which the so-called "back list" (ban on leaving the territory of the EU and freezing financial assets) including people, companies and institutions associated with the Lukashenka regime will be extended. If we assume that the plan to destabilize the European Union by using human tragedies was written in Moscow, it can be concluded that Russia's short-term goal is to ridicule the European Community by abusing the values on which it is based (a tactic already being implemented by Russian and Belarusian propaganda); in the medium term, undermining the cohesion of the European Union by using the contradictions in the perception of the migration crisis and testing the solidarity of the signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty; in the longer term, permit Russia's military presence in Belarus, obviously to “protect it,” which would be the worst-case scenario for Poland. It would also be particularly dangerous for Ukraine, which in this situation, would find itself in the so-called “Russian claws.” Although Moscow strongly denies the accusations of involvement in the crisis, it would be naive to believe in the promissory of Kremlin authorities, given their close relations with Minsk. Vladimir Putin, on the one hand, can use the migration crisis to strengthen Russia's image as a mature and responsible power, which can take on the responsibility of mediating between Minsk and Brussels; on the other hand, the concentration of the international community on the Polish-Belarusian border has created a space for the mobilization of the Russian military forces on the eastern border of Ukraine, which raises legitimate concerns, not only in Kyiv. Back to top Muhammed Koçak Florida International University In the last weeks, we have witnessed armament and troop build-up on the Ukrainian-Russian border. How might this situation play out? Tensions between Russia and Ukraine, based on the color revolutions that took place in the mid-2000s, increased in 2013. The ongoing protests against the pro-Russian Yanukovych in Ukraine caused Yanukovych to flee the country at that time, after which Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine and supported the separatists who occupied the east of Ukraine in the ongoing process. While the conflicts in Ukraine have continued in the past years, Russia has preferred to keep the tension at a certain level. This conflict is not just between two countries. It is a platform for arm wrestling between Russia and the West. Russia's foreign policy strategy is based on establishing full dominance over the former Soviet geography and breaking the global hegemony of the West. The Ukraine issue is highly significant geopolitically for Russia in terms of both purposes. Tensions in the region have once again increased in the past weeks. Mutual military build-ups by Russia and Ukraine on the border, Russia's disproportionate price hikes on natural gas, and Belarus' attempt to put Europe in a difficult position by creating an artificial migrant crisis can be considered part of Russia's strategy. In this respect, the present and future of the region are closely related to how much the U.S. will support Eastern European countries against Russia. Considering that the priority given to the region by the U.S. in the past has shifted to China, it can be predicted that Russia will push the limits of U.S. tolerance a little more. Back to top

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