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Zelensky between Ankara and Washington

The United States is still Ukraine's key curator, but Turkey is getting closer in its weight

Zelensky between Ankara and Washington

After the Maidan victory in 2014, Ukraine lost its identity and independence in foreign policy to a considerable degree, if not utterly. Earlier Kiev was relatively successful in implementing the so-called multi-vector strategy, maneuvering between different geopolitical and geo-economic centers of power; today the latter are rather competing with each other in the Ukrainian political field to win back the spheres of influence. The multivectorness has taken a different turn, reducing drastically and moving inside. Naturally, those Ukrainian politicians who still need identity for some reason (and to the extent they need it) have to maneuver between the major players, acting like a tail wagging several dogs. Although more often only trying to do so.

Hot on the traces of the coup d'etat that took place seven years ago and was meant to cut off Ukraine from Russia, the influence of Europe and the United States in the Ukrainian arena was about the same. Europe even had some priority, being the main orchestrator of the winter 2014 events. Gradually, the influence of the Old World has decreased, while that of the New World is on the rise, even though being divided into Democratic and Republican. To date, the United States has become a confident number one in Ukrainian politics (both the intertwined foreign and domestic ones). Seeking to narrow the gap to a minimum, Turkey enjoys its steadfast runner-up status.

The issue is about both a variety of joint economic and infrastructure projects, the shady part of which rejoices the heart and pocket of the two countries' elites, and the objective processes of real politics (however, the two are closely related to each other). Your present correspondent has repeatedly written about the idea of a Southern geopolitical arc from Ukraine to North Africa, with all the conflicts, intrigues and challenging knots tied with the same participants, primarily Russia and Turkey. The Balkans, the Persian Gulf and Central Asia can be considered the arc's side branches. After their joint victory with Azerbaijan in the autumn Karabakh war, the Turks filed a high profile bid to be finally confirmed as the number one in the Southern geopolitical arc. Assistance to Ukraine during the Donbass war's new acute phase may help consolidate this status, turn Turkey into the main and nearly equivalent competitor of China in Eurasia and deal a new tangible blow in the same space. The Turks, like Washington, will assist the Zelensky regime in its military and political effort, but starting out from their own interests and seeking to drive the rival partner back, all the more so as the two countries' relations have become even more complicated under Biden.

While Turkey and the United States compete in Ukraine and for Ukraine, Zelensky also has an opportunity to maneuver between them to advance his own interests. This is what the Kiev regime has been aggressively pursuing over the recent months, with Zelensky's visit of April 10 to Ankara becoming another milestone in his tactics. However, amid a marked escalation in the Donbass, each stage of this kind appears particularly essential.

Formally, it was an ordinary working trip stipulating no breakthrough solutions or significant agreements on the record. Ankara once again validated Kiev's position on the "Crimean issue", calling the peninsula part of Ukraine. The same agenda involved a confirmation of readiness to allocate Turkish tranches for the construction of housing for the Kherson region's Crimean Tatars. A relatively low-priority but curious detail, demonstrating the dependence of one country on another in terms of both the Crimea and the Crimean Tatars.

At the same time, an agreement was also reached to establish an advisory board of the two countries' foreign and defense ministers. By the way, Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Taran came to Ankara along with his boss and had negotiations with his counterpart Hulusi Akar, where he talked about more specific, material and, most notably, urgent things (although Zelensky and Erdogan most likely discussed those either, not for the press). According to the official communiqué, the defense ministers discussed the implementation of contracts signed in late 2020 on the construction of corvette-class ships, the supply of soon-to-be legendary Bayraktar drones and ammunition, as well as prospects for new projects, particularly aviation ones. By coincidence, if any, the same day negotiations took place, Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada Committee for National Security, Defense and Intelligence Yuri Mysyagin posted on the social media that Bayraktar TB2 had made its first flight in the Donbass combat zone.

Interestingly, five days earlier, a Ukrainian delegation led by the same Zelensky paid a visit to Qatar. They reached a number of agreements in many areas, from agriculture and sports to the energy one, which the Qatari might rests on. However, many crucial issues were probably discussed privately, with the visit itself being quite a high-profile event and a signal to the outside world. After all, Qatar, whose international weight is massively greater than its modest territory, has close ties with Turkey, the American globalist elite and the United Kingdom, which in turn is clearly becoming Turkey's strategic partner. The trip to this small Middle Eastern state may be regarded as an attempt to improve positions in the tangle of interactions between Qatar and its counterparties. By the way, we have yet another piece of evidence of the Southern geopolitical arc' tightening links with the Persian Gulf region.

Another observation regarding the Turkish-Ukrainian negotiations is that Erdogan supported Ukraine's desire to join the North Atlantic Alliance, as Turkey itself is its obstinate and controversial member. A seemingly routine ordinary declaration, but just a couple of days later, Zelensky's interview was released, in which he urged the United States to actively promote Ukraine's integration into NATO and do more than talk. His impertinence is quite moderate, but next to egregious in the realm of relations between Kiev and Washington. Well, one may recognize Zelensky's certain success in maneuvering between the two powers, which is important for him personally in view of Washington's questions for him. However, to the Donbass region, success of this kind is fraught with new hardship.

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