Does Turkey hold the key to allaying Ukrainian fears about Russia?

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As 2021 draws to a close, Russia has caught the world’s attention by massing nearly 100,000 troops along the border with Ukraine.

Yet so far he has failed to frighten many Ukrainians. As I write in my central Kiev apartment just up the street, hundreds of revelers sip mulled wine, browse trinket stalls and pose for Instagram photos at the lavishly decorated Christmas market outside the cathedral. Hagia Sophia, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Perhaps they know they have committed allies in the region and beyond. As I detailed in these pages last month, Turkey has supported Kiev in Crimea, where it has historic ties to the Tatar community. It has also sold its advanced drones to Ukraine, which have already had an impact on the battlefield.

US analyst Dmitri Alperovich, cybersecurity expert and director of the Silverado Policy Accelerator, a think tank, believes that one of the incentives for any Russian military escalation against Ukraine would be to limit Turkey’s ability to build forces. Ukrainian. Russian President Vladimir Putin, he writes, “observed the Karabakh war last year and has a good appreciation of what an army equipped with modern NATO weapons such as Turkish TB2 drones can do. to reclaim the territory ”.

The eminent American political scientist Francis Fukuyama shares this opinion. “Ukraine’s use of Turkish drones could be a game changer,” he said recently, “which is why Moscow seems so concerned about this issue.”

Another sign of Russia’s respect for Turkey’s military might is Moscow’s reported interest in purchasing Turkish drones, a move Turkish officials have said they would be prepared to endorse.

Moscow could also exert subtle pressure on its former ally, Turkey. Two weeks ago, Russian authorities arrested two Turkish journalists in Moscow and charged them with espionage. Then, last week, Mr Putin made a pointed remark that appeared to target his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was criticized for his refusal to raise interest rates amid a sharp drop in the pound. Asked about the country’s interest rate hike by the Central Bank of Russia, he replied, “If you don’t, [the outcome] will be like in Turkey.

For now, Turkey is sticking to its guns against Ukraine. “We will not ignore our principles and our close relations with Ukraine just because we have extensive relations with Russia,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week.

These extensive and complex relations include Turkey’s 2019 purchase of S-400 missile defenses, which boosted US sanctions, energy and military balancing in the Black Sea, continued negotiations over a tense situation in the province. Syrian Idlib and important economic cooperation underlined by the Russians. predilection for vacations on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

How much is an economically struggling Turkey willing to risk to support Ukraine? This remains to be seen, and Ankara has already offered to mediate the talks between the two rivals, stressing its interest in avoiding war. If that were to happen, it is possible that a full-fledged Russian-Ukrainian conflict will continue, giving Ankara time to consider its options.

Russia has a fighting force of over 3 million people – more than even the US military. In addition, Moscow has in recent weeks recruited as many mercenaries as it can find, many of whom have previously fought in Ukraine and Syria. “They bring everyone together with combat experience,” a recruit told Reuters.

And some observers believe the growing sense of nationalism in Russian society, supported by recent Russian military interventionism, may have seasoned the population for major conflict. “People are getting used to the idea of [war’s] eligibility, ”the Moscow-based newspaper’s editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov said in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize this month.

The Ukrainian army, meanwhile, is much stronger than it was in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and supported separatist forces in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. Kiev has since increased its military spending from 1.6% of GDP to 4%, while the United States has invested $ 2.5 billion in the Ukrainian military.

With 250,000 soldiers and 900,000 reservists, Kiev now has the third largest army in Europe, behind Russia and France. Last week, the Ukrainian government ordered all women to register their profession to make them eligible for military service, a move that will dramatically increase the number of Ukrainian troops available.

Besides Turkey, other NATO states appear to have sided with Ukraine. After strongly supporting the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, intended to bring Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Western Europe, Germany now says the pipeline has yet to pass EU regulatory authorities and has pledged that it would remain closed if Russian forces enter Ukraine.

This month, U.S. officials included an additional $ 300 million for the Ukrainian military in their annual defense bill, and Washington sent military experts to Ukraine to assess the country’s air and sea defenses. Additionally, the US and UK have sent cybersecurity experts to Ukraine to help Kiev defend against a recent increase in cyber attacks aimed at destroying the banking system, government institutions, and the power grid.

Washington is now considering a larger cyber warfare deployment, and U.S. and British officials have repeatedly warned Russia of severe economic sanctions if its forces enter Ukraine. What they might also want to do is rely more on Turkey, which has close military ties to Kiev as well as the potential to influence thought in Moscow.

The situation is getting tense day by day. Outside of Kiev, villagers began to organize voluntary militias, collect weapons and prepare for combat. Some Ukrainian friends have prepared a bag ready in case they need to flee the country quickly. Others have memorized the location of Soviet-era bunkers – including a few that also serve as smart cocktail bars – in the event of an air raid. But most have struggled to live their normal lives, despite several recent days of wind, snow and sub-zero cold, not to mention the Omicron variant which is wreaking havoc across Western Europe.

At a holiday rally last weekend, shortly after dinner, the lights dimmed, the musical selections became more and more lively, and attendees aged 7 to 70 took to the dance floor, gesturing, twirling and celebrating their freedoms as dark clouds gathered over 2022.

Posted: Dec 28, 2021 6:00 AM

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