Relations between Russia and Turkey are far from recovery. Moscow is “concentrating” by deploying sanctions against the Turkish economy, informing the world community about the “skeletons in the closet” of President Erdogan and preparing for the next problems from Ankara in Syria and beyond (there is little doubt that there will be such problems).
For its part, the Ankara, with its characteristic mixture of assertiveness and hopes to minimize the damage from the consequences of its own actions, is looking for new energy suppliers and allies in its planned future clashes with Russia, while maintaining aggressive plans for Syria and Iraq. Consider the current state of affairs and prospects on the “Turkish front”, relying on materials prepared by the experts of IBI M. V. Kazanin, I. I. Starodubtsev and Yu. B. Shcheglovin.
China looks askance
It is known that domestic analysts are closely following the policy of Turkey in Syria. It is far less known that the actions of both Russia and Turkey are no less closely examined by Chinese experts. At the same time, their point of view is very indicative, good, Beijing supports an equidistant policy towards most countries of the world. Relations with Russia are no less significant for him than ties with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, but in the Syrian events Beijing clearly supports Moscow.
According to the PRC military intelligence information, the NATO countries have been using the Turkish port of Iskanderun in Hatay province since 2011 for the transfer of weapons and military equipment from the warehouses of the former Libyan forces to Syria. British and French military instructors trained Syrian anti-government fighters at military bases in the area of this city. The CIA and the US Special Operations Forces Command provided them with communications and intelligence systems.
Joint training of the Syrian anti-government structures and the Turkish Armed Forces ensured a high level of mutual understanding between field commanders and the Turkish military. Ankara organized a training center in Adana, 130 kilometers from the border with Syria. The center for the distribution of weapons, communication systems and military equipment for the militants of the Islamic State (IG) banned in Russia was located in Istanbul.
The highest form of “active defense” of Ankara’s interests in the Syrian conflict was the destruction of the Russian bomber by the Turkish fighter. Obviously, the Turkish secret services, in coordination with NATO partners, planned to capture Russian pilots, but the Islamists supported by Ankara could not carry out the ground part of the operation.
The Turkish authorities supported the IG, wanting to destroy Syria and earn money on the trade in smuggled oil. According to Chinese experts, the IG extracts only from the Al-Tank and Al-Omar fields (the IG in total is located near the 10 fields) from 20 to 40 thousand barrels per day. At a cost of 10 dollars per barrel, terrorists earn from 200 to 400 thousands of dollars. Turkish businessmen get a margin of two to three times as much as the average world price of oil reaches 39 dollars per barrel. According to Chinese media, the salary of an ordinary IG fighter is 400 dollars. To maintain 30 thousands of fighters, stable operation of two oil fields for one week per month is necessary. The Turkish side, with the lowest supply of Syrian oil, earns hundreds of millions of US dollars annually.
Chinese intelligence agencies have made very unfavorable conclusions regarding Turkey on the results of the processing of photographic and video materials after the attack on the Russian military aircraft. In an interview with reporters, one of the leaders of the Turkish Gray Wolves group declared his key role in the murder of a Russian military pilot. Activists of this organization took part in the pogroms of Chinese restaurants and shops and demonstrations in 2015, accompanied by attacks on Chinese tourists and the burning of the Chinese flag in front of the Chinese Embassy. According to the Thai secret services, members of this particular group organized a terrorist attack in Bangkok, the purpose of which was to become Chinese tourists.
According to Chinese analysts, the role of the official Ankara in the formation of the IG is indicated by statements by the former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (acting premier) made in 2014 in connection with the detention of Xinhumin Uighurs in 400 in Thailand, which he called illegal. It is known that the Turkish Embassy in this country gave out to those who wished to go to war against the “infidels” in Syria passports and tickets to Istanbul. To suppress the replenishment of the IG, the special services of China and Thailand conducted a number of activities. During the first 10 months of 2015, employees of the PRC MOB arrested 109 compatriots who returned from Syria and 20 Turkish citizens who recruited recruits from Chinese Muslims. 653 of the passport form of citizens of the Republic of Turkey and 200 applications for an entry visa at the Turkish Embassy in Bangkok were seized.
Well-known Chinese military analyst Rear Admiral Zhang Zhizhong said that the basis for a restrained position of NATO was the possibility of Russian long-range aviation. He noted that the Russian Air Force’s missile attacks carried out by strategic Tu-160 bombers demonstrated to the NATO leadership that Russian aviation can safely perform long flights with refueling in the air and launch cruise missiles with high accuracy (X-101, X-555). These flights are expensive, but they send a clear signal to NATO about the need to refrain from supporting Turkey in its actions against the Russian Aerospace Forces and Syria.
According to the chairman of the PLA Navy Information Council, Rear Admiral Yin Kyaw, Turkey’s actions are a provocation planned in Washington and Brussels, however, President Putin’s reaction to them was not calculated. According to him, the Turkish military did not expect the rapid deployment of C-400, and an additional sobering factor for Ankara was the placement of air-to-air missiles on Su-34 fighter-bomber aircraft.
In this situation, Ankara began an active search for new partners in the fight against Russia. It is noteworthy the combination of Turkish and Ukrainian defense industry companies developing armored vehicles. Chinese media report that Turkey invited Ukrainian experts to collaborate on the development of an AKCOR active defense system for the new Turkish tank Altai The main problem of this system is the low efficiency of missile detection radar.
The PRC media, evaluating Erdogan’s actions, say that it’s not just a “stab in the back” in Moscow, but “his behavior is reminiscent of that of a venomous reptile, which attacks from ambush, and then retreats awaiting results.” Chinese experts believe that the political elite of Turkey will continue the course of aggravating relations with the Russian Federation, but will eventually be driven into a corner, since NATO understands the real level of Russia's military power and refuses to support Ankara.
Speaking about the current state of affairs in Turkey, it can be stated that the election marathon in Turkey has been completed: the president, Majlis and local authorities with terms of office up to 2019 have been elected. Erdogan became the first president of the country, elected by direct vote. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) set a record for being in power. However, the confirmation of its authority became possible under the promise to restore stability in the country and continue the course towards political and economic reforms. The overall goal in the economy is recovery and a return to high growth rates. Long before the appointment of the government of November 24, it was clear that the country was in a difficult state. Currently, the situation in Turkey can be described as a crisis. We list the main problems.
* Fallen to three percent per year rate of economic growth. In 2002 – 2008, Turkey’s economy grew at an average of 6,8 percent. The reforms initiated at the beginning of the century have exhausted themselves.
* For the first nine months of this year, industrial production growth was 1,3 percent. At the same time, it depends on import deliveries (dependence at the level of 70 percent), and therefore, on exchange rate fluctuations of the national currency against the dollar and the euro.
* Exports declined by about nine percent as a result of the “Arab Spring” and deteriorated relations with a number of countries in the region, including Iraq, Israel, Egypt and Syria. The Libyan construction market is also lost.
* Official unemployment reached 10 percent. According to unofficial data, the number of unemployed is about 16 percent.
* The fall of the national currency due to domestic political instability (for the year against the euro by 10 percent, against the dollar - by 30 percent) does not contribute to the increase in exports due to the high dependence of Turkish producers on imports.
* The country has a large fork of population income. 10 percent of the richest people in the country get 13 times more than 10 percent of the poorest. *
* The ongoing antiterrorist operation in the east of the country, the situation with refugees and the direct involvement in the civil war in Syria lead to a decline in the attractiveness of Turkey in the eyes of foreign investors. At the same time, a growing competitive pressure from Iran is predicted.
* The country is waiting for a referendum on the adoption of a new constitution and the transition to a presidential form of government, which will require additional costs and prolong the period of internal political instability.
The Turkish domestic market is overheated and characterized by high competition. The development of the economy is impossible without the rapid growth of exports and the receipt of projects by Turkish contractors abroad. In this regard, the consequences of the crisis in relations with Russia, which are still expressed in direct calculations of the value of canceled contracts, have yet to be extrapolated to the medium and long term. Turkey is losing the Russian market, which is a priority for it according to the officially adopted long-term export strategy of the country. This will exacerbate internal competition and reduce the rate of return. Turkey’s real replacement for the Russian market is not visible either in the region or in the world.
Ankara is developing plans to respond to measures taken by Russia. However, it is in a vulnerable economic situation in terms of war sanctions. The ban on the passage of Russian ships through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles is regarded by American experts as an incredible option. This violation of the Montreux Convention makes Ankara the loser in terms of international law. In addition, such a move may entail a justified cessation of the supply of Russian natural gas to Turkey. Despite Ankara’s rhetoric on counter-sanctions, Western analysts have noted that it is designed to “save face”.
Turkey is the world's second largest buyer of Russian natural gas, a significant importer of Russian oil, coal and metals, and the largest one is wheat and sunflower oil. Theoretically, Ankara can find alternative suppliers, but only at a higher price. There is no alternative to the supply of Russian natural gas from Turkey, especially during the peak of the heating season. Russia supplies 55 percent of gas imported by Turkey (27 billion cubic meters of annual volume of 50 billion cubic meters). Deliveries are made through the Blue Stream gas pipeline and through the pipeline network of Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria. 20 percent supplies Iran to Turkey. However, Ankara is actively competing with Tehran in Syria and Iraq, so the Iranians will be in solidarity with Moscow. In any case, Iran can not dramatically increase the volume of gas exports to Turkey due to lack of infrastructure.
The statements of President Erdogan regarding alternative supplies of Qatari gas to Russian gas are not based on themselves. Turkey has two terminals for liquefied gas: Marmara Ereglisi (8,2 billion cubic meters per year) and Aliaga (5 billion cubic meters), which is not enough to meet annual needs. Construction of new terminals requires two to three years and serious investments. Even with the consent of Qatar to provide their development will take time. Americans doubt that Doha will take real steps to cover the entire volume of gas imports to Turkey. Qatar is likely to get off with the construction of one or two terminals. Doha is unprofitable to supply natural gas to Turkey - Ankara as a strategic partner of Qatar requires discounts and preferential loans, and Doha is more profitable to sell raw materials to Asia and Europe.
Turkey’s oil can be replaced by supplies from Iraqi Kurdistan personally controlled by Erdogan and Barzani. This is their family business. The situation in this area is influenced by military actions against the IS and the elimination of oil smuggling routes (which the Kurds “mix” with their own), as well as Turkish pressure on the detachments of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). PKK detachments in Iraqi Kurdistan play a major role in the fight against ISIS, holding the oil-rich Kirkuk. However, this is true only if the current leadership of Turkey remains. Otherwise, things can change very quickly.
Plans to revitalize the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP) from Azerbaijan to Turkey are put at the forefront by Ankara, but there are several serious obstacles to its implementation. Baku today and in the future will not be able to fill the entire volume of the pipeline alone. It can only give 16 billion cubic meters. In order to bring this volume to the level of domestic consumption in Turkey, it is necessary to fill the deficit in 40 billion cubic meters. There are two ways here - to buy gas from Russia or from Turkmenistan. Moreover, Ankara will not receive any discounts that Gazprom provided to Ankara as part of the Blue Stream or the frozen Turkish Stream. All alternative ways of obtaining hydrocarbons in Russia will be more expensive for it and require additional investments in infrastructure construction.
The latter applies primarily to the Turkmen version. For its implementation, it is necessary to lay a gas pipeline under the Caspian Sea, which requires coordination with the Caspian littoral countries, including Russia and Iran. Erdogan nevertheless tries to develop the Turkmen version of receiving gas. On December 11, he paid a visit to Ashgabat, where he met with President Berdymukhammedov. At the same time, the attitude towards Turkey in Central Asia cannot be called friendly. In the region, four out of five republics have Turkic roots. Their leadership is wary of Ankara’s re-enactment of the “Great Turan”. Turkish organizations and lyceums in Central Asia are under the supervision of local special services. Moreover, they were mostly hostile with Erdogan by Imam F. Gulen, who is behind a good half of media leaks about corruption in the family of the Turkish president. Tashkent at the same time remembers that Turkey is hiding the functionaries of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), who are patronized by local special services.
And Ashgabat is not very necessary
Ashgabat stands alone in this case. 26 percent of imports to this country comes from Turkey. At the same time, Ashgabat consistently eradicated any attempts to expand Ankara in the field of education and create agents of influence from 2011. Erdogan’s visit was intended to outline the contours of future economic interaction, primarily in gas projects. Turkmenistan produces about 83 billion cubic meters of gas per year and about 58 percent (about 43 billion cubic meters) supplies to the PRC on long-term contracts. Ashgabat is interested in diversifying supplies, but the Turkish-Azerbaijani option of export is not a priority for it - primarily on profitability.
Currently, Turkish carriers are forced to deliver cargo to Turkmenistan through Azerbaijan, and then by sea. Since the beginning of the Turkish-Russian conflict, Ashgabat has sharply reduced purchases of Turkish products. Turkmenistan has to look back at Moscow, realizing that in the event of the expansion of the Islamists from Afghanistan, only Russia can provide military support to it. Ankara’s hopes for Turkmen businessmen who lobbying relations with Turkey failed, and Erdogan was convinced of this during his visit to Ashgabat.