Is a Spurned Turkey Looking Toward Moscow?

MOSCOW -- Under the leadership of the Justice and Development Party, Turkey has been drifting eastward in recent years -- but not toward the Islamic world. Instead, disputes with European countries over Cyprus and other barriers to Turkey's entry into the European Union, as well as continuing differences between Ankara and Washington over U.S. policy in Iraq, have helped launch a de facto Ankara-Moscow axis in Eurasia.

The last decade has seen a weakening of the factors that have traditionally tied Turkey to the West. Turkish leaders no longer believe they need NATO's support in an unlikely military confrontation with Moscow. They also no longer anticipate Turkey's imminent admission into the EU. Furthermore, the war in Iraq has substantially weakened Turkish-American security ties. In particular, Turkey's security establishment believes that U.S. policies have created an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. In the view of Turkish analysts, this development is stimulating Kurdish-linked separatism and terrorism in Turkey.

In contrast to Turkey's worsening relations with Europe and America, ties between Ankara and Moscow have noticeably strengthened in recent years. Bilateral commerce and investment have soared due to Russia's role as Turkey's major energy supplier, the millions of Russian tourists who visit Turkey, and the extensive involvement of Turkish contractors in several sectors of the Russian economy, especially construction. With an annual volume of $15 billion, Russia has become Turkey's second-largest trading partner, ranking behind only the EU.

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