JOOST – Turkey’s double standards on Russia

Turkey’s double standards on RussiaDoes Turkey really want to gain the reputation of being an underseller, a country that deliberately dodges and undermines international sanctions against rogue states?The question is pertinent bearing in mind the role of Turkish banks, companies and, as the Dec. 17 corruption allegations suggested, politicians and officials in circumventing the broad economic sanctions against Iran.

Despite all efforts by the ruling party to bury the dossier and stop further investigations, those lucrative but at least partly illegal actions have not been forgotten by the political and legal authorities in Washington and might pop up any time.On top of having busted the Iran sanctions in the past, Turkey now seems to be readying itself for another round of measures that will taint its reputation in the international arena — this time especially in Brussels and other European capitals that have entered into a trade war with Russia that might be long lasting.

Tensions between Russia and the EU have been building up for months since Putin shamelessly grabbed Crimea from Ukraine this spring and started a campaign of destabilizing the new pro-Western government in Kiev by actively supporting pro-Russian rebels in the eastern parts of Ukraine. The downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in July, which killed all 300 passengers, and the refusal of the rebels and their masters in Moscow to cooperate properly with the subsequent inquiries were the straw that broke the cameland#39s back.

The EU decided to impose tough sanctions against the Russian Federation that target broad sectors of the Russian economy, including oil companies and banks. In retaliation, Moscow has banned the imports of fruit, vegetables and dairy products from the EU.

Until recently, Turkey kept a low profile in this conflict. Ankara supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine and bravely said it would protect the rights of the Crimean Tatars, but in real terms abstained from any act that could endanger its relations with Russia Now, however, things have become more complicated.

Last week, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci announced that Turkey is ready to fill the gap, replace the banned EU agricultural products and increase its food exports to Russia It was exactly the kind of reaction the EU hoped Turkey would not give. Brussels already heightened diplomatic pressure on Latin American nations and on countries like Egypt not to try to take aantage of Moscowand#39s food embargo.

Last Friday, EU foreign ministers directly called on Serbia and Turkey to respect and not undercut EUand#39s policy: andldquoIn order to ensure the unity of the international community and to uphold international law, the EU expects third and candidate countries to refrain from measures which are aimed at exploiting new trading opportunities arising from the introduction of these measures [punishing Russia].andrdquoThe choice is now up to Turkey.

I am sure many Turks, including several Cabinet ministers, are not interested in Brusselsand#39 warnings and feel that Turkey can do whatever is in its best interests. Why show solidarity with a union that does not seem very interested in Turkeyand#39s opinions on other issues anyway? That feeling is understandable but focusing solely on Turkeyand#39s short-term economic interests might be a problem for two reasons.

One is the long-term fallout of Ankaraand#39s defiance in Brussels and Washington. Letand#39s not forget Turkey is desperately trying to get involved directly in the current transatlantic trade talks, which are of immense importance for the future of the Turkish economy.

Stubbornly insisting now on Turkeyand#39s right to raise its exports to Russia, could become a classic example of the famous saying andldquopenny wise, pound foolish.andrdquoBut there is a moral and political side to the present dispute as well, and that is the perception of Turkey applying double standards.

For good reasons, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan has repeatedly accused Western countries of acting immorally with regard to the military coup in Egypt or the moderate opposition in Syria Those appropriate rebukes donand#39t make much sense when, at the same time, Turkey is being perceived as prioritizing trade over moral judgment in the case of RussiaAfter the downing of MH17, it was ErdoIan who bluntly stated the missile was fired by Russia At an iftar dinner in Bursa on July 19 he spoke out strongly against the mentality behind the attack and warned that those who downed the plane will pay the price for it.That leads us to the following question: Is Turkey, finally, willing to confront Russia after its many wrongdoings in Ukraine or will it go without scruples, like the other countries it has vilified before, for strategic aantage and the quick buck.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman