Turkey and Russia’s strained relations in Caucasia

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The roots of the colliding interests of Russia and Turkey in the Caucasian region come from their imperial relations and it has been omitted to modern ages. Especially, Russian Imperium and followed by USSR’s biased policies towards region countries laid the foundation of border problems and more importantly ethnic confrontation in the Caucasia. The dynamics inherited from the imperial ages of both countries, mainly geopolitical interests of the cold war period in the Turkish- Russian relations that haven’t lost importance for centuries and currently have specific effects on their relations with independent South Caucasian countries. On the one hand, Turkey has shaped its foreign policies based on active support for Azerbaijan on almost every platform, as well as, strong economic cooperation with Georgia in the South Caucasus. Paradoxically, Georgia is more determined to broader its relations with Turkey in the frame of NATO programs rather than Azerbaijan which is a strategic partner and has deeper historical and cultural ties with Turkey. On the other hand, although separatism and border management are actual problems in both countries, Azerbaijan pursues a sheer balanced foreign policy with Turkey, Russia, and West, as well. Instead of that, Georgian political decision-makers prefer to negotiate with Western allies using the expansionist image of Russia to solve the separatism problems, as well as, strengthen the integration process to the West. In this regard, the membership of Turkey in the alliance may motivate Georgia in the integration process to NATO and it clashes with the geopolitical interests of Russia in the Black Sea and Caucasia. In addition to this, transporting of Caspian energy resources over Turkey (bypassing Russia) and the USA’s intention of using the straits to help Georgia in the 2008 crisis period changed the Turkey and Russia’s bilateral relations dramatically. Subsequently, Moscow constituted the proactive support to Armenia against the national interests of Turkey included the “Armenian genocide” claims. The processes that took place after the “SU-24 jet” crash in Syria which were more complex and challenging have also affected Turkey and Russia's bilateral and multilateral relations in the South Caucasus. During this period Turkey faced the Armenian - Russian partnership in the context of security which both countries have signed an agreement on a joint air defense system. Strong military cooperation between Russia and Armenia is indirectly linked to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which certainly affects the national interests of Azerbaijan. Understandably, as a NATO state - Turkey faces a myriad of problems in its policies towards Caucasia because of its internal problem in terms of security affairs. Especially, PKK is the main danger for Turkey which Russia may use it as a tool for instability in Turkey. On the contrary, Turkey’s ties with Muslim people of North Caucasia may also be conceived as a potential danger for Russia. Therefore both countries as regional powers implement a fragile policy on their relations in Caucasia.
South Caucasia, Turkey, Russia, Bilateral relations, Geopolitical interests