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Turkiye’s Role in the War in Ukraine: Lessons for the West

Turkiye has emerged as one of the key players in the Russia – Ukraine War, which has had a significant impact on the world. A number of opportunities and risks have arisen as a result, as well as important lessons for the West on how to better deal with Russia.

Throughout the past 20 years, Ankara has used its strategic connectivity approach to strengthen its position as a regional power that doesn’t clearly align with either pro-Western or pro-Russian camps. Turkiye has provided Ukraine with significant military assistance, including the Bayraktar TB2 drones, which have been crucial in helping Ukrainian forces attack Russian bases. This assistance has been essential in resisting Russian aggression and giving Ukraine the defense resources it needs.

In addition to providing military assistance, Turkiye has been a key mediator between Moscow and Kiev over the supply of grains and food. A breakthrough agreement was reached in July 2022 that included the establishment of a grain coordination center in Istanbul, which Turkiye and the United Nations worked to unlock food and grain exports that had been blocked since the outbreak of the war in late February 2022. Therefore, Turkiye’s comprehensive connection approach has benefited all parties, as well as global community as a whole.

Turkiye, on the other hand, has taken a firm stance against Russia’s war in Ukraine. For Turkiye, it is crucial for its strategic interests that the Western security alliance opposes the invasion and weakens the ambitions of Putin. The recent Turkiye endorsement of Finland’s NATO membership is extremely significant in this regard. By joining NATO, Finland will double the alliance’s borders with Russia, affecting the security environment in Europe dramatically. In this action, Turkiye shows its commitment to fostering stability and security in the complex region of the world, and its growing involvement in the issue.

By combining pressure with constructive engagement, Turkiye has demonstrated that there is an alternative to the zero-sum strategy now used by both Russia and the West. While the United States and EU have focused on sanctions and other punitive measures in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has responded with its own energy cutoffs and pressure tactics, which have resulted in skyrocketing inflation, energy disruptions, rising food insecurity, and the death and displacement of thousands of Ukrainians.

Even though confronting Russia for its invasion of Ukraine is important, a more proactive approach that combines dialogue and pressure will likely be more effective in the long run. Turkiye’s strategy offers the West an alternative road map to adopt as it works to reduce the worst effects of the war and provide the foundations for peace.

Ummugulsum Cavus
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