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«The era of Turkey»: Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the Grand Master of global geopolitics

photo: arcpublishing.com
4 June 2023

On 28 May 2023, the incumbent President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan was reelected the head of state. According to the Supreme Election Council, he received 52.18% votes in the runoff poll winning over his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu with his 47.82%. [1] The poll results mean that Erdogan is extending his practically 20-year reign for another five years. From the standpoint of duration of ruling the country, Recep Tayyip Erdogan will outmatch Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the legendary founder of the Turkish Republic, who ruled from 1923 to 1938. After his success in the runoff poll, Erdogan proclaimed «the great victory of Turkey» and «the start of the era of the Republic». What will the next Erdogan's five years look like? What ambitious tasks is Erdogan setting himself? How will Turkish foreign policy change, in particular Ц the current relations with Russia and Caspian countries?

Tough choices Ц tough elections

The recent elections turned out tough for the incumbent leader of Turkey. For the first time in national history the candidates made it to the second round, and Erdogan came short of less than half of one per cent of votes in order to win in the first round. Experts believe that the incumbent President had all the chances to repeat the success of his previous campaigns and win his traditional 52-53% right in the first round. Especially given the fact, that the opposition proposed soft and down-to-earth 74-year-old Kemal Kilicdaroglu against imperious and charismatic Erdogan. The Turkish media nicknamed Kilicdaroglu «the built-in loser», he is believed to be an underdog in politics. This politician ran 10 times at different levels and lost all of these campaigns in favor of the acting government. His chances for success were not high from the very beginning, because the main candidate of the opposition Ekrem Imamoglu, the 54-year-old Mayor of Istanbul, could not run because of a court suit against him. However, the tenseness of the campaigning quite unexpectedly turned out very high, which is an evidence of significant polarization in the Turkish society.

Observers emphasize, that the two candidates had diametrically opposite election programs. The slogans of the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were focused at strengthening of Turkish state and at domestic policy agenda, while the slogans of his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu Ц at liberalization and reinstatement of friendly relations with the West. In the environment of high politicization of the society, practically all the voting public came to the ballot boxes. At the first round, the turnout was 87%, in the second round it was over 84%. However, the traditional electorate of Erdogan turned out to be better organized and more consolidated. It is worth noting that the third candidate, Sinan Ogan, having won 5.17% in the first round, called on his supporters to vote for the incumbent President. «All the surveys and financial markets forecasted tougher campaign due to economic problems and the February earthquake. Erdogan responded by engaging the state media machine to divide the opposition and mobilize his conservative masses», this is how Bloomberg describes Erdogan's key to success. [2]

If we take a look at the electoral preferences map, we can see very well, that such metropolitan cities as Istanbul and Ankara, as well as coastal towns and provinces across the entire Turkey coast from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea voted for opposition, i.e., for Kilicdaroglu. Erdogan's electorate was concentrated in the inner regions with conservative population, more affected by religion and poverty. To put it simply, modernized urban Turkey turned out unhappy with Erdogan, while more traditional groups of population being socially vulnerable and dependent on government support, on the contrary, voted for the incumbent. The causes of complaints of urban population are, first of all, linked to Erdogan's economic policy. The main economic centers of Turkey suffered from the high inflation of the recent period and abrupt fall of Turkish Lira. In addition, the share of secular proEuropean citizens usually voting against Islamist parties is traditionally high in the cities.

There is another important element of Erdogan's victory Ц the international one. One of the prominent politician from the opposition said he was ready to vote for the incumbent President, because the world was getting tougher and more experience Erdogan was more trustworthy in this dangerous environment. All Turkish policy of the two recent decades is directly connected with Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He is a tough politician of personalistic type, who assured Turkey becoming a more active player as a regional power. Many of the achieved agreements and compromises are directly connected with Erdogan providing certain guarantees. If the recent elections had a different result, it could lead to significant changes not only inside Turkey, but also across the huge geopolitical region. It means that the issues of the continuity of foreign policy in Syria, Libya, South Caucasus, Central Asia and Russia were at stake. After Ukrainian conflict emerged and brought the entire European security platform into motion, new Turkish break could have negatively affected the  fragile geopolitical balance. Figuratively speaking, many global politicians breathed a sign of relief after learning about Erdogan's victory, which explains a burst of congratulations on the occasion of his victory. [3]

Home policy issues

Immediately after the elections Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be facing the challenge of simultaneous coping with multiple difficulties inside the country Ц to live up to his campaign promises, satisfy the requirements of his allies and solve the accumulated problems that the country is facing. By the way, certain Erdogan's campaign promises were implemented immediately after they were voiced. For example, salary raise for the public officers, tax privileges and direct support to lowincome families. Other home policy tasks need more serious and longterm efforts. According to Turkish media, in exchange of his support Sinan Ogan demanded that Erdogan should not change certain articles of the Constitution and to fight against all the «terrorist organizations». And one of the main requirements was to gradually deport Syrian refugees from the country (according to different estimates, there are from 2 to 4 mln of them currently in Turkey). Hence, the reelected President of Turkey will have to make a number of urgent steps and new personnel appointments. [4]

Three home policy issues may be identified as the most pressing ones: splitapart society, growing inflation and refugees. During the recent presidential campaign Turkey displayed itself as the country split into halves Ц both based on the religious/secular principle, and geographically. Such antithetical setup became customary over the recent years, it is in line with campaigning practices of many big countries (the US, Brazil, Poland). Today, the «political bipolarity» issue may be resolved in a much more peaceful way, without revolutions and civil wars. For example, the winner of the campaign proclaims his/her commitment to protecting the interests of «all the citizens», but in practice he/she implements a series of political and economic reforms fixing the preferences of his/her main electorate. The pragmatic logic here is the following: «all the urban liberals have different ideas of happiness» and it is difficult for them to get united; but all the conservative provincial residents are unhappy and poor in a similar way, so they need paternalistic care on behalf of the leaders.

The postelections statements of Erdogan demonstrate that he understands the danger of internal split and does not intend to «stir the pot». On the contrary, regional experts believe that the reelected President will try to decrease the level of adversarial relations and to «cool down» the society before important municipal elections of 2024. The «vapor relief» valve may be found in the process of the Constitution reform. During the campaign, Erdogan suggested changing the Constitution of Turkey written in 1980-ies with participation of military servants and repeated quite often that it needs to be made «more civilian». But what does «civilian» mean and what will be the amendments to the Constitution is still an open question. The amendments may vary from merely tactical ones (e.g., «zeroing out» Erdogan's elected terms) to the strategic concept of the «New Sublime Porte». In any case, the Constitution reform will become a political «joker» in Erdogan's sleeve. [5]

Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself believes inflation to be the hardest challenge that the country is facing. According to official statistics, in March 2023, the inflation in Turkey was 50.5% Ц vs the record 85.6 % in October 2022. The incumbent resident was the advocate of an arguable theory that decrease of the interest rate was the best way to counteract the Turkish Lira devaluation. The Turkish experience demonstrated that such policy does not lead to suppression of inflation, but to surge in prices and the level of public discontent. According to Yashar Niyabaev, «Erdogan's economic policy will be changing. He already invited specialists oriented towards free market to his team». Indeed, President Erdogan plans to reinforce the new government with the supporters of stringent monetary policy. Analysts from Morgan Stanley are warning: by the end of 2023, the Turkish Lira exchange rate may go down by 29% more in case Erdogan refuses to modify the economic policy. [6]

The recent Presidential campaign was rich in antimigrant rhetoric. Both main candidates competed in terms of promises to deport about 3.5 mln Syrian refugees, who settled in Turkey over the recent 12 years. The new Erdogan's plan on refugees includes the initiative of creating a city designed for  resettlement of the Syrians coming back to their homeland. Using the financial aid from Qatar, Turkish builders will erect new housing in the North-West of Syria in the region controlled by rebels and Turkish troops. [7] However, this plan may not fly due to a number of reasons.

Firstly, the recent UN report states that the majority of Syrian refugees (94%) do not intend to return to their country in the nearest future. Secondly, significant strengthening of Turkish influence in Syria will be required, despite the demand of Bashar alAssad to withdraw Turkish troops as the key condition of settling the conflict. Thirdly, the grudge against the refugees may grow drastically in case Erdogan continues his dangerous economic policy. Then we will be able to see new «migration waves» to Europe despite the deal between the EU and Turkey on refugees. According to regional experts, the most realistic solution for Erdogan would be using refugees for reconstruction after the catastrophic February earthquake, but not their deportation or expulsion.

Foreign policy balance

The logic underpinning Turkish foreign policy was always based on domestic factors. During the elections Erdogan won the mandate of credit from the rural areas of Turkey, where people share his conservative approach. This is the mandate for Islamization of the public life, reinforcement of the state and strengthening the military power and global influence of Turkey. Strategic autonomy assurance and achieving the global level as a regional power today are the strategic priorities of Ankara in the international arena. In practice, this leadership is implemented through efficient mediation, the concept of the «great logistic superpower» and «Turkish switchboard», as well as through building a modern army, the strongest one in the historical footprint of the Ottoman Empire. It is assumed that during the new Erdogan's fiveyear period the modernized Turkish military-industrial complex will be able to independently manufacture all the necessary arms range including modern fighter aircrafts, unmanned combat air vehicles of all types, missile systems and air defense facilities. [8] It means that during the new presidential term of Erdogan Turkey will remain an active player in the big geopolitical region: from Eastern Europe to Central Asia, from the Caucasus to Syria.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the current crisis of the European security architecture open gamechanging opportunities and horizons for Turkey. In essence, Ankara became the main beneficiary of Russian Ц Ukrainian conflict from the economic, political and military standpoints. Thanks to its position on non-joining the antiRussian sanctions and to its mediation efforts, modern Turkey is not only earning good money, but also gets new leverage on the global level. Turkey used to act rather carefully to strengthen its positions Ц it was methodologically filling the niches at the regional level, skillfully played the game putting a stake on weakening global players, at the same time maintaining membership in the basic institutions of the West, such as NATO. However, over the recent years Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been actively implementing foreign policy often contrary to the interests of the West. The shift of Turkish foreign policy vector towards non-western-centric organizations becomes visible. Previously Ankara demonstrated its interest towards NATO and the EU, but now it is closely monitoring SCO and BRICS. Gradually, Turkey is mastering the role of the global superpower: it proposed the reform of the United Nations Organization and is a supporter of switching to a fairer polycentric world.

Hilal Kaplan, the columnist of Sabah newspaper described the new vision of the role of Turkey in the brightest way. This is how she explains Erdogan winning the presidential race: «this victory signals the new era in our fullscale war of independence against antiimperialism, and the days when we were a satellite state turning about the axis of NATO, the USA and the EU are now thrown into the dustbin of history». According to her words, this victory also «sets the stage for the events of greater importance for our national defense, national technology and energy» and opens the new era of «the era of Turkey». [9] However, Turkish political analyst Ikbal Dyurre believes that Erdogan will try to avoid bruteforce clash with the West, «otherwise he will not be able to keep power across his entire new term». Moreover, the reelected President will be forced to a certain rapprochement with the West, e.g. on Sweden's accession to NATO. This will happen mainly due to complicated economic situation in the country, because Turkey needs Western investment.

Regional experts believe that during his new term Erdogan will continue to apply the balancing approach in the foreign policy. For example, he will be using Russia as a source of raw materials, NATO Ц as a «power umbrella» and supplier of arms, and he will offer himself as a unique intermediary with a focus on protecting Turkish national interests between the West and Russia. Historically, Turkey was always skillful in maneuvering between the political counterparties without fully taking the side of anyone of them. And now, during the new political era, we see the ambitious strive of Ankara to expand its strategic opportunities on the tracks of increasing its global influence. Such masterly balancing has reached quite impressive scale after such an experienced politician as Recep Tayyip Erdogan came into power, because he is capable of finding common grounds with different centers of power and of having his own way. Today Erdogan's victory satisfies practically all the active players in the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, but this compromise will be used mainly for strengthening the positions of Turkey.

Strategic allies

The relations with Russia and other Caspian countries should be singled out into a separate node of Turkish foreign policy. A new geopolitical combination is developing here thanks to an exceptional geoeconomic position of Turkey and strong international and resourcebased influence of Russia. As was earlier mentioned in the report by the Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies, political interaction of Moscow and Ankara is gradually picking up the momentum and getting up the format of strategic alliance. This policy is based on healthy pragmatism, on taking mutual interests into account, on summarizing the capabilities of both countries for achieving the maximum effect. [10] Let us note here, that modern Turkey has been acting quite consistently within the logic of special relations with the RF. Ankara did not support antiRussian sanction neither in 2008, after the conflict around South Ossetia, not in 2014 after accession of Crimea, nor in 2022 after the start of special military operation in Ukraine. Ibrahim Kalyn, one of the key advisors to President Erdogan in foreign policy recently appointed to the position of the Head of MIT (Turkish intelligence agency) speaks about not joining the antiRussian sanctions on a regular basis. Given all the «bends» of its political mix, Turkey maintains the general trend for strategic alliance with Russia. It is especially important that this course gets support and understanding of the significant part of Turkish society.

Let us remind here, that President Erdogan to a great extent built his elections campaign on continuing the cooperation with Russia. Western media even wrote that «it was Vladimir Putin who won the presidential race in Turkey». [11] In fact, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not a proRussian politician, but exclusively a proTurkish one. The reelected President was pretty straightforward in saying that «the era of Turkey is coming» and that he will continue his efforts to make his country one of the key powers in the international arena. Good relations with Russia are just an important resource for implementing this strategic objective. For the forthcoming 5-year period, Moscow and Ankara are destined for this pragmatic alliance, because this course is mutually beneficial: Russian investment into Turkish economy strengthen the capabilities of both countries, and Turkey helps Russia to overcome sanctionsrelated pressure of the West. On top of that, no other country except Russia cannot help Turkey to assure the required technological breakthrough in the delicate and super important sphere of nuclear and military technologies. The political circles of Turkey understand this very well, so at the current historical stage they will be working together with Russia to resolve the issues of logistics and security, including in the South Caucasus.

Some Russian Ц Turkish projects were announced by Erdogan immediately after elections. [12] They are the gas hub, broader cooperation in the energy sphere, mutual trade expansion and creation of joint ventures. Experts highlight to key milestones: for the first time the Turkish export into Russia achieved USD 10 bn. Akkuyu nuclear power plant currently built by Rosatom is the major investment of the Russian Federation into Turkey, it will cost USD 20 bn. Let us note here, that during the next 5-year period of Erdogan's rule the construction of two other nuclear plant stations is planned in other regions of the country, i.e. Turkey will receive a new industry Ц the nuclear energy sector. In the nearest future Turkey will become the key supplier of pipeline gas and «green energy» for the South-Eastern Europe. Implementation of the gas hub project will noticeably rise the energyrelated importance of the Caspian region and its connection with the European market.  Another important aspect of Russian Ц Turkish cooperation is the common food market affecting the entire Eurasia. All the above listed projects make the strategic cooperation of Moscow and Ankara a new important factor of the global geopolitics for the nearest five years.

Relations with the Caspian region

The observers highlight that the Office of the Turkish President especially emphasized receiving congratulations with winning the race from two leaders Ц Vladimir Putin of Russia and Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan. Today these three countries Ц Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan Ц have become an illustrative example of new effective cooperation in the quickly changing world. This cooperation is based on the following fundamental principles: direct dialogue between the national leaders, hedging political and military risks, account of the interests of all the parties. At the same time, they are ready for non-standard decisive solutions and immediate reaction to international events. Russian analyst Alexander Karavayev believes that «in the context of global ascension of China and the growing rivalry between PRC and USA, the triangle Ankara Ц Baku Ц Moscow will continue to form the new nucleus of subregional integration». [13] This is quite a logical conclusion, because for Azerbaijan Turkey and Russia are the key partners in the spheres of security, logistics, economy and development of non-hydrocarbon export. Sustainability and effectiveness of Turkish Ц Russian Ц Azerbaijanian triangle is a personal merit of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ilham Aliyev and Vladimir Putin, who are the authors of the facilitated development project for strategic Caspian region.

There are all the grounds to believe that the logic of the «win-win» strategy will eventually come uppermost in the Central Asian region as well. Today, in Russian media, thanks to the efforts of Armenian lobbyists, there are a lot of alarmist publications about Erdogan's plans to build «the Great Turan». Undoubtfully, active influence over Turkic countries is a part of Ankara's global foreign policy. The practical implementation of this plan is fast growth and strengthening of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS). However, Russia also may become a fullfledged OTS member, because it has Turkic regions in it, such as Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. Moscow is ready for immediate response to the threats and challenges in front of the Turkic states Ц members of CSTO and SCO. We may remember the situation in Kazakhstan in January 2022 and quick response by CSTO targeted at restoring the law and order there and the stability in the country. It demonstrated that for Russia this region is extremely important, that is why joint actions with Turkey may improve the level of security there and provide a new impetus for its development.

The Central Asian countries were closely monitoring the presidential race in Turkey and ardently supported the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Every telegram with congratulations from the leaders of the CA countries evidenced their «respect and hopes for future friendship and cooperation». [14] However, for the CA countries interaction with Turkey is just one of the opportunities to hedge the risks in the sphere of political and economic partnership. Regional leaders are ready to expand their cooperation with China, which is actively investing into the security in Central Asia and in developing the regional infrastructure and industries. Today, they are also building special relations with the European Union, which the CA countries perceive as an important source of investment, of education and new technologies. The Turkish integration project is attractive for the countries of the CA region, first of all, because it is focused on developing trade, opening new transportation corridors and diversifying the supplies of arms. Implementation of the neoOttoman project will require significant investment into the region in behalf of Ankara, however, the Turkish economy is undergoing not its best times today. According to some experts, the optimal solution here could be aligned activities of Russia, Turkey and the Central Asian countries in developing new logistics and energy supply routes.

New personnel appointments

In his speech at the inauguration ceremony, President Erdogan confirmed certain expert forecasts of the future policy of Turkey. He emphasized that after the May elections the period of prosperity and growth of the nation should start. The Turkish leader called for unity, he proposed to set aside the preelection contradictions and to implement together the concept of «the era of Turkey». He also called to each resident of the 85-million country to close the ranks «during the period, when the Republic needs unity more than ever». The head of state announced that the democracy in Turkey will be strengthened due to the revised Constitution and «rejecting the current Constitution, which reflected the realities of the military coup-d'état». As we can see, the new Erdogan's forthcoming 5-year period manifests the growth of the international importance of Turkey as a global power and will be accompanies by material changes in all spheres of the public life Ц from the new Constitution to the new diplomacy. «We will see new Turkey, which will be investing even more efforts in resolving global problems, regional security issues, assuring the rights of Turkic and Muslim world», Recep Tayyip Erdogan assured. [15]

Representatives of 78 countries attended the inauguration ceremony including more than 20 heads of states and governments, and Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation represented Russia. During the solemn ceremony, Erdogan thanked his foreign colleagues, who congratulated him with his next presidential term. «We will never forget those, who supported us. At the same time, we always remember the attempts to interfere with the people's will», the Turkish leader said.  Nicolas Maduro, the President of Venezuela and «a dear close friend having arrived from half the world away» was the first one to be thanked by Erdogan. The observers emphasized that these words represented not just Ankara's interest in new sources of oil, but a distinctive antiAmerican gesture. President Erdogan especially mentioned «dear brother, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev», and also all the leaders of the OTS countries. Another dozen of leaders of foreign states, mainly the ones form the Balkans and from Africa were also mentioned in Erdogan's inauguration speech, and separately Ц the Secretary General of NATO. However, Erdogan did not mention at all the Prime Minister of Armenia, also invited to the ceremony. Moreover, Nikol Pashinyan was deliberately put in the back seat for everyone to see Ц in the second row of the guests, which is an evidence of straightforward reestimations of the current role of Armenia. In the course of the Second Karabakh War and followup negotiations, as well as during the period when Russia was overcoming the Western sanctions, Armenia itself and the global Armenian lobby turned out to be inefficient and unreliable partners not capable of meaningful activities contrary to Turkey.

The reelected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the new Cabinet, where almost no one of the previous members were found. [16] The personnel changes exceeded the bravest forecasts. Only two ministers kept their positions Ц Fahrettin Koca, the head of the Ministry of Healthcare who manifested himself very well during the COVID pandemic and February earthquake, and Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, the Minister of tourism and culture. Professional economist Mehmet Simsek, the advocate of tough monetary policy was appointed the new Minister of Finance and Treasury. Erdogan proposed 56-year-old Cevdet Yilmaz to be the Vice-President (previously he headed the Budget Committee of the Turkish Parliament). Let us remind here that the Republican Alliance headed by the Justice and Development presidential party received more than 50% of the national Parliament. These important appointments demonstrate the intent of President Erdogan to switch from tough personalistic governance model to more flexible and institutional model.

Regional experts emphasize that in his next term President Erdogan placed a bet on the technocratic government. Thus, the new Minister of Trade is now Omer Bolat, who used to be the general coordinator of Albayrak Group (the construction concern). Arparslan Bayraktar, the former Deputy Minister of Energy, became the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources. Abdulkadir Uraloglu, the former Director of the Motorways General Department headed the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure. Young Mehmet Fatikh Kadjyr, the former Deputy Minister, is now the Minister of Industry and Technologies. Yusuf Tekin became the Minister of Education (previously, he was the Rector of AHBV University in Ankara). Osman Askin Bak became the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs (prior to that he headed the Turkish delegation in NATO Parliamentary Assembly). Mehmet Ozhaseki got the post of the Minister of Urban Planning and Environment (he already held this post earlier), the member of Parliament Yilmaz Tunc Ц the post of the Minister of Justice, Vedat Isikhan Ц the post of the Minister of Labor. The only woman in the Cabinet is Mahinur Ozdemir, the Minister of Family and Social Services. All the appointees have sufficient professional experience and committed to invest all their energy into implementing the ambitious plan of Erdogan to foster «the era of Turkey». [17]

The most meaningful changes took place in international and law enforcement blocks. Yasar Guler was appointed the new Defense Minister, who served the Chief of the General Staff starting from 2018. Ali Yerlikya, the exGovernor of Istanbul Province, became the Internal Affairs Minister replacing Suleyman Soylu, who criticized the USA and the American Ambassador to Ankara in the course of the presidential race. Hakan Fidan was appointed the new Minister of Foreign Affairs (he headed Millî Istihbarat Teşkilatı Ц MIT, the National Intelligence Service of Turkey) starting from May 2010. In his new position Fidan replaced Mevlut Cavusoglu, who headed the diplomatic ministry for almost a decade and now is a parliament member representing Antalya, his home province. Hakan Fidan was an active participant of negotiations on Syria, he has published academic papers in international security and foreign policy of Turkey. The former foreign policy advisor of the Turkish President and his spokesperson Ibrahim Kalyn was appointed the head of MIT. It means further rapprochement of intelligence and diplomatic communities forming a single coordinated and efficient organism. In the modern turbulent world, successful diplomacy can only be assertive and enforcing, or even pervasive, i.e., using all available tools for achieving the established goals.

Preliminary conclusions

International assessment of the results of the presidential elections in Turkey is in acknowledging the fact, that it was not just an ordinary race of the two rivals Ц Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu. It was a lifechanging choice between the Turkish own way and the return to the older proWestern policy. In essence, Turkey, the key Southern neighbor of Russia and a growing regional power, was selecting the strategic way of its future development. Within his own political course, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pursues a balanced policy in the international arena, the policy of equal distance from the great powers, with a clear focus on the national Turkish objectives. However, the pragmatism and wisdom of the Turkish leader predefine the constructive relations with neighboring Russia. This already allowed for using joint efforts to undo a series of tangly knots in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean areas, in the Caucasus and in the Caspian region. There are all the grounds to assume that this course towards strategic cooperation of Moscow and Ankara will be maintained in the next 5-year period of Erdogan.

The joint implementation by Russia and Turkey of a series of very important strategic projects is a tangible result of such cooperation. Such rapprochement is taking place within the «leaders' diplomacy» of the two Presidents Ц Putin and Erdogan, sometimes to the open irritation or even active counteraction of the Western countries. We mean the operating gas pipeline «Turkish Stream», the newly built Akkuyu nuclear power plant, supplying Russian long range air defense missile systems S-400, and many other things including resolution of Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts and plans to create a future Russian Ц Turkish gas hub. The fact of Ankara not joining the antiRussian sanctions of the collective West caused a real ascension of Russian Ц Turkish relations in absolutely every sphere, from trade and finance to tourism and joint ventures. Further rapprochement of Russia and Turkey may take place over the course of the next several years in the framework of promising EAEU and OTS projects and of the North-South International Transportation Corridor (ITC).

Until recently, modern Turkey positioned itself as a prominent regional player, the «great logistic superpower» and «Turkish switchboard». New appointments made by Erdogan in the law enforcement and foreign policy blocks tell us that Ankara is switching to a new active phase of «pervasive diplomacy» and will be assuming a broader role of a «diplomatic hub». In addition to the ongoing efforts to resolve the Russian Ц Ukrainian conflict and the situation in Syria, there are new peacemaking statements by Ankara, e.g., for resolving the situation around Kosovo. Turkey is firmly moving towards the global power status and will be combining the effective negotiations with peace enforcement actions, including within the attempts to close «the Kurdish issue» or to resolve the Greek islands' problem.

The statement of Recep Tayyip Erdogan about starting «the era of Turkey» should be viewed very seriously, not just like a preelection political rhetoric. In the next five years, we will be seeing rapid ascension of Turkey and the growth of its influence in many areas including the FSU region. This strengthening of Turkey does not promise Russia an «easy life» in the Southern areas, because our two countries have a series of contradictions and disputes. It is important to understand that sovereign Turkey is nowadays acquiring its true political identity, that is why all the decisions on our bilateral relations will be made only by Ankara and Moscow, not by Washington or Brussels. Hence, during the new 5-year period of Erdogan Turkey will remain a difficult, but still extremely important partner for Russia and a hub in the broad sense of the word Ц in the sphere of parallel imports, energy, logistics and finance. It is known that there are no mythical «friends» in international politics, but there are national interests and independent partners. Being the Grand Master of the global geopolitics, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is always playing his own game, but it lies in our power and is in line with Russia's interests to play even with him.

1. Erdogan was conclusively recognized winner of the presidential race in Turkey. TASS, 01.06.2023. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/17899999

2. Erdogan Defies Naysayers to Extend His 20-Year Rule in Turkey. Bloomberg, 28.05.2023. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-05-28/erdogan-seals-election-victory-in-turkey-to-defy-naysayers?srnd=premium-europe

3. Fahrettin Altun: President Erdogan received congratulations from the leaders of more than 120 countries of the world. Anadolu Agency, 30.05.2023. https://www.aa.com.tr/ru/%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0/%D1%84%D0%B0%D1%85%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%82%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BD-%D0%B0%D0%BB%D1%82%D1%83%D0%BD-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B7%D0%B8%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%82-%D1%8D%D1%80%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BD-%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D1%83%D1%87%D0%B8%D0%BB-%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%B7%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%BE%D1%82-%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%B4%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2-%D0%B1%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B5-120-%D1%81%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BD-%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%80%D0%B0/2909646

4. The head of Turkish intelligence may be appointed the Vice-President. MK-Turkey, 31.05.2023. https://mk-turkey.ru/bezopasnost/2023/05/31/glava-razvedok-fidan.html

5. Erdogan announced the plans to develop the new Constitution of Turkey. TASS, 22.05.2023. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/17815723

6. Turkey's Erdogan Meets Former Finance Minister in Cabinet Planning. Bloomberg, 29.05.2023. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-05-29/turkey-s-erdogan-meets-former-finance-minister-in-cabinet-planning?srnd=politics-vp

7. Erdogan to build a city for Syrian refugees. Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 30.05.2023. https://www.ng.ru/world/2023-05-30/1_2_8736_turkey.html

8. In five or six years Turkey will be able to create the air defense missile system similar to S-400 and Patriot. TASS, 04.04.2023. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/17445621

9. Erdoğan, çok güzel kazandı - HİLAL KAPLAN. Sabah, 29.05.2023. https://www.sabah.com.tr/yazarlar/hilalkaplan/2023/05/29/erdogan-cok-guzel-kazandi

10. The future of Eurasia: Russian Turkic strategic alliance. Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies. https://caspian.institute/product/ciss/rossijsko-tyurkskij-soyuz-kak-budushchee-evrazii-37966.shtml

11. Putin Scores a Win in Turkey's Election. Newsweek, 28.05.2023. https://www.newsweek.com/putin-scores-win-turkeys-election-1803087

12. Erdogan confirmed the intent to create a gas hub in Turkey in cooperation with the RF. MK-Turkey, 29.05.2023. https://mk-turkey.ru/politics/2023/05/29/t-erdogan-rf-gaz3.html

13. Russia and Turkey - destined for alliance. haqqin.az, 30.05.2023. https://haqqin.az/news/284931

14. The Central Asian countries cheered for Erdogan. Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 29.05.2023. https://www.ng.ru/cis/2023-05-29/5_8735_asia.html

15. Erdogan: Turkey needs unity and solidarity. Anadolu Agency, 03.06.2023. https://www.aa.com.tr/ru/%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0/%D1%8D%D1%80%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BD-%D1%82%D1%83%D1%80%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%BD%D1%83%D0%B6%D0%B4%D0%B0%D0%B5%D1%82%D1%81%D1%8F-%D0%B2-%D1%81%D0%BF%D0%BB%D0%BE%D1%87%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%B8-%D0%B8-%D1%81%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%B4%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%BD%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B8/2913494

16. Turkish President Erdogan unveils new Cabinet. Anadolu Agency, 03.06.2023. https://www.aa.com.tr/en/politics/turkish-president-erdogan-unveils-new-cabinet/2913761

17. Erdogan replaces almost the entire Cabinet. TASS, 03.06.2023. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/17922097

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Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Reports

«The era of Turkey»: Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the Grand Master of global geopolitics

photo: arcpublishing.com
4 июн€ 2023

On 28 May 2023, the incumbent President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan was reelected the head of state. According to the Supreme Election Council, he received 52.18% votes in the runoff poll winning over his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu with his 47.82%. [1] The poll results mean that Erdogan is extending his practically 20-year reign for another five years. From the standpoint of duration of ruling the country, Recep Tayyip Erdogan will outmatch Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the legendary founder of the Turkish Republic, who ruled from 1923 to 1938. After his success in the runoff poll, Erdogan proclaimed «the great victory of Turkey» and «the start of the era of the Republic». What will the next Erdogan's five years look like? What ambitious tasks is Erdogan setting himself? How will Turkish foreign policy change, in particular Ц the current relations with Russia and Caspian countries?

Tough choices Ц tough elections

The recent elections turned out tough for the incumbent leader of Turkey. For the first time in national history the candidates made it to the second round, and Erdogan came short of less than half of one per cent of votes in order to win in the first round. Experts believe that the incumbent President had all the chances to repeat the success of his previous campaigns and win his traditional 52-53% right in the first round. Especially given the fact, that the opposition proposed soft and down-to-earth 74-year-old Kemal Kilicdaroglu against imperious and charismatic Erdogan. The Turkish media nicknamed Kilicdaroglu «the built-in loser», he is believed to be an underdog in politics. This politician ran 10 times at different levels and lost all of these campaigns in favor of the acting government. His chances for success were not high from the very beginning, because the main candidate of the opposition Ekrem Imamoglu, the 54-year-old Mayor of Istanbul, could not run because of a court suit against him. However, the tenseness of the campaigning quite unexpectedly turned out very high, which is an evidence of significant polarization in the Turkish society.

Observers emphasize, that the two candidates had diametrically opposite election programs. The slogans of the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were focused at strengthening of Turkish state and at domestic policy agenda, while the slogans of his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu Ц at liberalization and reinstatement of friendly relations with the West. In the environment of high politicization of the society, practically all the voting public came to the ballot boxes. At the first round, the turnout was 87%, in the second round it was over 84%. However, the traditional electorate of Erdogan turned out to be better organized and more consolidated. It is worth noting that the third candidate, Sinan Ogan, having won 5.17% in the first round, called on his supporters to vote for the incumbent President. «All the surveys and financial markets forecasted tougher campaign due to economic problems and the February earthquake. Erdogan responded by engaging the state media machine to divide the opposition and mobilize his conservative masses», this is how Bloomberg describes Erdogan's key to success. [2]

If we take a look at the electoral preferences map, we can see very well, that such metropolitan cities as Istanbul and Ankara, as well as coastal towns and provinces across the entire Turkey coast from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea voted for opposition, i.e., for Kilicdaroglu. Erdogan's electorate was concentrated in the inner regions with conservative population, more affected by religion and poverty. To put it simply, modernized urban Turkey turned out unhappy with Erdogan, while more traditional groups of population being socially vulnerable and dependent on government support, on the contrary, voted for the incumbent. The causes of complaints of urban population are, first of all, linked to Erdogan's economic policy. The main economic centers of Turkey suffered from the high inflation of the recent period and abrupt fall of Turkish Lira. In addition, the share of secular proEuropean citizens usually voting against Islamist parties is traditionally high in the cities.

There is another important element of Erdogan's victory Ц the international one. One of the prominent politician from the opposition said he was ready to vote for the incumbent President, because the world was getting tougher and more experience Erdogan was more trustworthy in this dangerous environment. All Turkish policy of the two recent decades is directly connected with Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He is a tough politician of personalistic type, who assured Turkey becoming a more active player as a regional power. Many of the achieved agreements and compromises are directly connected with Erdogan providing certain guarantees. If the recent elections had a different result, it could lead to significant changes not only inside Turkey, but also across the huge geopolitical region. It means that the issues of the continuity of foreign policy in Syria, Libya, South Caucasus, Central Asia and Russia were at stake. After Ukrainian conflict emerged and brought the entire European security platform into motion, new Turkish break could have negatively affected the  fragile geopolitical balance. Figuratively speaking, many global politicians breathed a sign of relief after learning about Erdogan's victory, which explains a burst of congratulations on the occasion of his victory. [3]

Home policy issues

Immediately after the elections Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be facing the challenge of simultaneous coping with multiple difficulties inside the country Ц to live up to his campaign promises, satisfy the requirements of his allies and solve the accumulated problems that the country is facing. By the way, certain Erdogan's campaign promises were implemented immediately after they were voiced. For example, salary raise for the public officers, tax privileges and direct support to lowincome families. Other home policy tasks need more serious and longterm efforts. According to Turkish media, in exchange of his support Sinan Ogan demanded that Erdogan should not change certain articles of the Constitution and to fight against all the «terrorist organizations». And one of the main requirements was to gradually deport Syrian refugees from the country (according to different estimates, there are from 2 to 4 mln of them currently in Turkey). Hence, the reelected President of Turkey will have to make a number of urgent steps and new personnel appointments. [4]

Three home policy issues may be identified as the most pressing ones: splitapart society, growing inflation and refugees. During the recent presidential campaign Turkey displayed itself as the country split into halves Ц both based on the religious/secular principle, and geographically. Such antithetical setup became customary over the recent years, it is in line with campaigning practices of many big countries (the US, Brazil, Poland). Today, the «political bipolarity» issue may be resolved in a much more peaceful way, without revolutions and civil wars. For example, the winner of the campaign proclaims his/her commitment to protecting the interests of «all the citizens», but in practice he/she implements a series of political and economic reforms fixing the preferences of his/her main electorate. The pragmatic logic here is the following: «all the urban liberals have different ideas of happiness» and it is difficult for them to get united; but all the conservative provincial residents are unhappy and poor in a similar way, so they need paternalistic care on behalf of the leaders.

The postelections statements of Erdogan demonstrate that he understands the danger of internal split and does not intend to «stir the pot». On the contrary, regional experts believe that the reelected President will try to decrease the level of adversarial relations and to «cool down» the society before important municipal elections of 2024. The «vapor relief» valve may be found in the process of the Constitution reform. During the campaign, Erdogan suggested changing the Constitution of Turkey written in 1980-ies with participation of military servants and repeated quite often that it needs to be made «more civilian». But what does «civilian» mean and what will be the amendments to the Constitution is still an open question. The amendments may vary from merely tactical ones (e.g., «zeroing out» Erdogan's elected terms) to the strategic concept of the «New Sublime Porte». In any case, the Constitution reform will become a political «joker» in Erdogan's sleeve. [5]

Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself believes inflation to be the hardest challenge that the country is facing. According to official statistics, in March 2023, the inflation in Turkey was 50.5% Ц vs the record 85.6 % in October 2022. The incumbent resident was the advocate of an arguable theory that decrease of the interest rate was the best way to counteract the Turkish Lira devaluation. The Turkish experience demonstrated that such policy does not lead to suppression of inflation, but to surge in prices and the level of public discontent. According to Yashar Niyabaev, «Erdogan's economic policy will be changing. He already invited specialists oriented towards free market to his team». Indeed, President Erdogan plans to reinforce the new government with the supporters of stringent monetary policy. Analysts from Morgan Stanley are warning: by the end of 2023, the Turkish Lira exchange rate may go down by 29% more in case Erdogan refuses to modify the economic policy. [6]

The recent Presidential campaign was rich in antimigrant rhetoric. Both main candidates competed in terms of promises to deport about 3.5 mln Syrian refugees, who settled in Turkey over the recent 12 years. The new Erdogan's plan on refugees includes the initiative of creating a city designed for  resettlement of the Syrians coming back to their homeland. Using the financial aid from Qatar, Turkish builders will erect new housing in the North-West of Syria in the region controlled by rebels and Turkish troops. [7] However, this plan may not fly due to a number of reasons.

Firstly, the recent UN report states that the majority of Syrian refugees (94%) do not intend to return to their country in the nearest future. Secondly, significant strengthening of Turkish influence in Syria will be required, despite the demand of Bashar alAssad to withdraw Turkish troops as the key condition of settling the conflict. Thirdly, the grudge against the refugees may grow drastically in case Erdogan continues his dangerous economic policy. Then we will be able to see new «migration waves» to Europe despite the deal between the EU and Turkey on refugees. According to regional experts, the most realistic solution for Erdogan would be using refugees for reconstruction after the catastrophic February earthquake, but not their deportation or expulsion.

Foreign policy balance

The logic underpinning Turkish foreign policy was always based on domestic factors. During the elections Erdogan won the mandate of credit from the rural areas of Turkey, where people share his conservative approach. This is the mandate for Islamization of the public life, reinforcement of the state and strengthening the military power and global influence of Turkey. Strategic autonomy assurance and achieving the global level as a regional power today are the strategic priorities of Ankara in the international arena. In practice, this leadership is implemented through efficient mediation, the concept of the «great logistic superpower» and «Turkish switchboard», as well as through building a modern army, the strongest one in the historical footprint of the Ottoman Empire. It is assumed that during the new Erdogan's fiveyear period the modernized Turkish military-industrial complex will be able to independently manufacture all the necessary arms range including modern fighter aircrafts, unmanned combat air vehicles of all types, missile systems and air defense facilities. [8] It means that during the new presidential term of Erdogan Turkey will remain an active player in the big geopolitical region: from Eastern Europe to Central Asia, from the Caucasus to Syria.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the current crisis of the European security architecture open gamechanging opportunities and horizons for Turkey. In essence, Ankara became the main beneficiary of Russian Ц Ukrainian conflict from the economic, political and military standpoints. Thanks to its position on non-joining the antiRussian sanctions and to its mediation efforts, modern Turkey is not only earning good money, but also gets new leverage on the global level. Turkey used to act rather carefully to strengthen its positions Ц it was methodologically filling the niches at the regional level, skillfully played the game putting a stake on weakening global players, at the same time maintaining membership in the basic institutions of the West, such as NATO. However, over the recent years Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been actively implementing foreign policy often contrary to the interests of the West. The shift of Turkish foreign policy vector towards non-western-centric organizations becomes visible. Previously Ankara demonstrated its interest towards NATO and the EU, but now it is closely monitoring SCO and BRICS. Gradually, Turkey is mastering the role of the global superpower: it proposed the reform of the United Nations Organization and is a supporter of switching to a fairer polycentric world.

Hilal Kaplan, the columnist of Sabah newspaper described the new vision of the role of Turkey in the brightest way. This is how she explains Erdogan winning the presidential race: «this victory signals the new era in our fullscale war of independence against antiimperialism, and the days when we were a satellite state turning about the axis of NATO, the USA and the EU are now thrown into the dustbin of history». According to her words, this victory also «sets the stage for the events of greater importance for our national defense, national technology and energy» and opens the new era of «the era of Turkey». [9] However, Turkish political analyst Ikbal Dyurre believes that Erdogan will try to avoid bruteforce clash with the West, «otherwise he will not be able to keep power across his entire new term». Moreover, the reelected President will be forced to a certain rapprochement with the West, e.g. on Sweden's accession to NATO. This will happen mainly due to complicated economic situation in the country, because Turkey needs Western investment.

Regional experts believe that during his new term Erdogan will continue to apply the balancing approach in the foreign policy. For example, he will be using Russia as a source of raw materials, NATO Ц as a «power umbrella» and supplier of arms, and he will offer himself as a unique intermediary with a focus on protecting Turkish national interests between the West and Russia. Historically, Turkey was always skillful in maneuvering between the political counterparties without fully taking the side of anyone of them. And now, during the new political era, we see the ambitious strive of Ankara to expand its strategic opportunities on the tracks of increasing its global influence. Such masterly balancing has reached quite impressive scale after such an experienced politician as Recep Tayyip Erdogan came into power, because he is capable of finding common grounds with different centers of power and of having his own way. Today Erdogan's victory satisfies practically all the active players in the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, but this compromise will be used mainly for strengthening the positions of Turkey.

Strategic allies

The relations with Russia and other Caspian countries should be singled out into a separate node of Turkish foreign policy. A new geopolitical combination is developing here thanks to an exceptional geoeconomic position of Turkey and strong international and resourcebased influence of Russia. As was earlier mentioned in the report by the Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies, political interaction of Moscow and Ankara is gradually picking up the momentum and getting up the format of strategic alliance. This policy is based on healthy pragmatism, on taking mutual interests into account, on summarizing the capabilities of both countries for achieving the maximum effect. [10] Let us note here, that modern Turkey has been acting quite consistently within the logic of special relations with the RF. Ankara did not support antiRussian sanction neither in 2008, after the conflict around South Ossetia, not in 2014 after accession of Crimea, nor in 2022 after the start of special military operation in Ukraine. Ibrahim Kalyn, one of the key advisors to President Erdogan in foreign policy recently appointed to the position of the Head of MIT (Turkish intelligence agency) speaks about not joining the antiRussian sanctions on a regular basis. Given all the «bends» of its political mix, Turkey maintains the general trend for strategic alliance with Russia. It is especially important that this course gets support and understanding of the significant part of Turkish society.

Let us remind here, that President Erdogan to a great extent built his elections campaign on continuing the cooperation with Russia. Western media even wrote that «it was Vladimir Putin who won the presidential race in Turkey». [11] In fact, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not a proRussian politician, but exclusively a proTurkish one. The reelected President was pretty straightforward in saying that «the era of Turkey is coming» and that he will continue his efforts to make his country one of the key powers in the international arena. Good relations with Russia are just an important resource for implementing this strategic objective. For the forthcoming 5-year period, Moscow and Ankara are destined for this pragmatic alliance, because this course is mutually beneficial: Russian investment into Turkish economy strengthen the capabilities of both countries, and Turkey helps Russia to overcome sanctionsrelated pressure of the West. On top of that, no other country except Russia cannot help Turkey to assure the required technological breakthrough in the delicate and super important sphere of nuclear and military technologies. The political circles of Turkey understand this very well, so at the current historical stage they will be working together with Russia to resolve the issues of logistics and security, including in the South Caucasus.

Some Russian Ц Turkish projects were announced by Erdogan immediately after elections. [12] They are the gas hub, broader cooperation in the energy sphere, mutual trade expansion and creation of joint ventures. Experts highlight to key milestones: for the first time the Turkish export into Russia achieved USD 10 bn. Akkuyu nuclear power plant currently built by Rosatom is the major investment of the Russian Federation into Turkey, it will cost USD 20 bn. Let us note here, that during the next 5-year period of Erdogan's rule the construction of two other nuclear plant stations is planned in other regions of the country, i.e. Turkey will receive a new industry Ц the nuclear energy sector. In the nearest future Turkey will become the key supplier of pipeline gas and «green energy» for the South-Eastern Europe. Implementation of the gas hub project will noticeably rise the energyrelated importance of the Caspian region and its connection with the European market.  Another important aspect of Russian Ц Turkish cooperation is the common food market affecting the entire Eurasia. All the above listed projects make the strategic cooperation of Moscow and Ankara a new important factor of the global geopolitics for the nearest five years.

Relations with the Caspian region

The observers highlight that the Office of the Turkish President especially emphasized receiving congratulations with winning the race from two leaders Ц Vladimir Putin of Russia and Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan. Today these three countries Ц Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan Ц have become an illustrative example of new effective cooperation in the quickly changing world. This cooperation is based on the following fundamental principles: direct dialogue between the national leaders, hedging political and military risks, account of the interests of all the parties. At the same time, they are ready for non-standard decisive solutions and immediate reaction to international events. Russian analyst Alexander Karavayev believes that «in the context of global ascension of China and the growing rivalry between PRC and USA, the triangle Ankara Ц Baku Ц Moscow will continue to form the new nucleus of subregional integration». [13] This is quite a logical conclusion, because for Azerbaijan Turkey and Russia are the key partners in the spheres of security, logistics, economy and development of non-hydrocarbon export. Sustainability and effectiveness of Turkish Ц Russian Ц Azerbaijanian triangle is a personal merit of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ilham Aliyev and Vladimir Putin, who are the authors of the facilitated development project for strategic Caspian region.

There are all the grounds to believe that the logic of the «win-win» strategy will eventually come uppermost in the Central Asian region as well. Today, in Russian media, thanks to the efforts of Armenian lobbyists, there are a lot of alarmist publications about Erdogan's plans to build «the Great Turan». Undoubtfully, active influence over Turkic countries is a part of Ankara's global foreign policy. The practical implementation of this plan is fast growth and strengthening of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS). However, Russia also may become a fullfledged OTS member, because it has Turkic regions in it, such as Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. Moscow is ready for immediate response to the threats and challenges in front of the Turkic states Ц members of CSTO and SCO. We may remember the situation in Kazakhstan in January 2022 and quick response by CSTO targeted at restoring the law and order there and the stability in the country. It demonstrated that for Russia this region is extremely important, that is why joint actions with Turkey may improve the level of security there and provide a new impetus for its development.

The Central Asian countries were closely monitoring the presidential race in Turkey and ardently supported the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Every telegram with congratulations from the leaders of the CA countries evidenced their «respect and hopes for future friendship and cooperation». [14] However, for the CA countries interaction with Turkey is just one of the opportunities to hedge the risks in the sphere of political and economic partnership. Regional leaders are ready to expand their cooperation with China, which is actively investing into the security in Central Asia and in developing the regional infrastructure and industries. Today, they are also building special relations with the European Union, which the CA countries perceive as an important source of investment, of education and new technologies. The Turkish integration project is attractive for the countries of the CA region, first of all, because it is focused on developing trade, opening new transportation corridors and diversifying the supplies of arms. Implementation of the neoOttoman project will require significant investment into the region in behalf of Ankara, however, the Turkish economy is undergoing not its best times today. According to some experts, the optimal solution here could be aligned activities of Russia, Turkey and the Central Asian countries in developing new logistics and energy supply routes.

New personnel appointments

In his speech at the inauguration ceremony, President Erdogan confirmed certain expert forecasts of the future policy of Turkey. He emphasized that after the May elections the period of prosperity and growth of the nation should start. The Turkish leader called for unity, he proposed to set aside the preelection contradictions and to implement together the concept of «the era of Turkey». He also called to each resident of the 85-million country to close the ranks «during the period, when the Republic needs unity more than ever». The head of state announced that the democracy in Turkey will be strengthened due to the revised Constitution and «rejecting the current Constitution, which reflected the realities of the military coup-d'état». As we can see, the new Erdogan's forthcoming 5-year period manifests the growth of the international importance of Turkey as a global power and will be accompanies by material changes in all spheres of the public life Ц from the new Constitution to the new diplomacy. «We will see new Turkey, which will be investing even more efforts in resolving global problems, regional security issues, assuring the rights of Turkic and Muslim world», Recep Tayyip Erdogan assured. [15]

Representatives of 78 countries attended the inauguration ceremony including more than 20 heads of states and governments, and Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation represented Russia. During the solemn ceremony, Erdogan thanked his foreign colleagues, who congratulated him with his next presidential term. «We will never forget those, who supported us. At the same time, we always remember the attempts to interfere with the people's will», the Turkish leader said.  Nicolas Maduro, the President of Venezuela and «a dear close friend having arrived from half the world away» was the first one to be thanked by Erdogan. The observers emphasized that these words represented not just Ankara's interest in new sources of oil, but a distinctive antiAmerican gesture. President Erdogan especially mentioned «dear brother, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev», and also all the leaders of the OTS countries. Another dozen of leaders of foreign states, mainly the ones form the Balkans and from Africa were also mentioned in Erdogan's inauguration speech, and separately Ц the Secretary General of NATO. However, Erdogan did not mention at all the Prime Minister of Armenia, also invited to the ceremony. Moreover, Nikol Pashinyan was deliberately put in the back seat for everyone to see Ц in the second row of the guests, which is an evidence of straightforward reestimations of the current role of Armenia. In the course of the Second Karabakh War and followup negotiations, as well as during the period when Russia was overcoming the Western sanctions, Armenia itself and the global Armenian lobby turned out to be inefficient and unreliable partners not capable of meaningful activities contrary to Turkey.

The reelected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the new Cabinet, where almost no one of the previous members were found. [16] The personnel changes exceeded the bravest forecasts. Only two ministers kept their positions Ц Fahrettin Koca, the head of the Ministry of Healthcare who manifested himself very well during the COVID pandemic and February earthquake, and Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, the Minister of tourism and culture. Professional economist Mehmet Simsek, the advocate of tough monetary policy was appointed the new Minister of Finance and Treasury. Erdogan proposed 56-year-old Cevdet Yilmaz to be the Vice-President (previously he headed the Budget Committee of the Turkish Parliament). Let us remind here that the Republican Alliance headed by the Justice and Development presidential party received more than 50% of the national Parliament. These important appointments demonstrate the intent of President Erdogan to switch from tough personalistic governance model to more flexible and institutional model.

Regional experts emphasize that in his next term President Erdogan placed a bet on the technocratic government. Thus, the new Minister of Trade is now Omer Bolat, who used to be the general coordinator of Albayrak Group (the construction concern). Arparslan Bayraktar, the former Deputy Minister of Energy, became the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources. Abdulkadir Uraloglu, the former Director of the Motorways General Department headed the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure. Young Mehmet Fatikh Kadjyr, the former Deputy Minister, is now the Minister of Industry and Technologies. Yusuf Tekin became the Minister of Education (previously, he was the Rector of AHBV University in Ankara). Osman Askin Bak became the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs (prior to that he headed the Turkish delegation in NATO Parliamentary Assembly). Mehmet Ozhaseki got the post of the Minister of Urban Planning and Environment (he already held this post earlier), the member of Parliament Yilmaz Tunc Ц the post of the Minister of Justice, Vedat Isikhan Ц the post of the Minister of Labor. The only woman in the Cabinet is Mahinur Ozdemir, the Minister of Family and Social Services. All the appointees have sufficient professional experience and committed to invest all their energy into implementing the ambitious plan of Erdogan to foster «the era of Turkey». [17]

The most meaningful changes took place in international and law enforcement blocks. Yasar Guler was appointed the new Defense Minister, who served the Chief of the General Staff starting from 2018. Ali Yerlikya, the exGovernor of Istanbul Province, became the Internal Affairs Minister replacing Suleyman Soylu, who criticized the USA and the American Ambassador to Ankara in the course of the presidential race. Hakan Fidan was appointed the new Minister of Foreign Affairs (he headed Millî Istihbarat Teşkilatı Ц MIT, the National Intelligence Service of Turkey) starting from May 2010. In his new position Fidan replaced Mevlut Cavusoglu, who headed the diplomatic ministry for almost a decade and now is a parliament member representing Antalya, his home province. Hakan Fidan was an active participant of negotiations on Syria, he has published academic papers in international security and foreign policy of Turkey. The former foreign policy advisor of the Turkish President and his spokesperson Ibrahim Kalyn was appointed the head of MIT. It means further rapprochement of intelligence and diplomatic communities forming a single coordinated and efficient organism. In the modern turbulent world, successful diplomacy can only be assertive and enforcing, or even pervasive, i.e., using all available tools for achieving the established goals.

Preliminary conclusions

International assessment of the results of the presidential elections in Turkey is in acknowledging the fact, that it was not just an ordinary race of the two rivals Ц Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu. It was a lifechanging choice between the Turkish own way and the return to the older proWestern policy. In essence, Turkey, the key Southern neighbor of Russia and a growing regional power, was selecting the strategic way of its future development. Within his own political course, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pursues a balanced policy in the international arena, the policy of equal distance from the great powers, with a clear focus on the national Turkish objectives. However, the pragmatism and wisdom of the Turkish leader predefine the constructive relations with neighboring Russia. This already allowed for using joint efforts to undo a series of tangly knots in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean areas, in the Caucasus and in the Caspian region. There are all the grounds to assume that this course towards strategic cooperation of Moscow and Ankara will be maintained in the next 5-year period of Erdogan.

The joint implementation by Russia and Turkey of a series of very important strategic projects is a tangible result of such cooperation. Such rapprochement is taking place within the «leaders' diplomacy» of the two Presidents Ц Putin and Erdogan, sometimes to the open irritation or even active counteraction of the Western countries. We mean the operating gas pipeline «Turkish Stream», the newly built Akkuyu nuclear power plant, supplying Russian long range air defense missile systems S-400, and many other things including resolution of Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts and plans to create a future Russian Ц Turkish gas hub. The fact of Ankara not joining the antiRussian sanctions of the collective West caused a real ascension of Russian Ц Turkish relations in absolutely every sphere, from trade and finance to tourism and joint ventures. Further rapprochement of Russia and Turkey may take place over the course of the next several years in the framework of promising EAEU and OTS projects and of the North-South International Transportation Corridor (ITC).

Until recently, modern Turkey positioned itself as a prominent regional player, the «great logistic superpower» and «Turkish switchboard». New appointments made by Erdogan in the law enforcement and foreign policy blocks tell us that Ankara is switching to a new active phase of «pervasive diplomacy» and will be assuming a broader role of a «diplomatic hub». In addition to the ongoing efforts to resolve the Russian Ц Ukrainian conflict and the situation in Syria, there are new peacemaking statements by Ankara, e.g., for resolving the situation around Kosovo. Turkey is firmly moving towards the global power status and will be combining the effective negotiations with peace enforcement actions, including within the attempts to close «the Kurdish issue» or to resolve the Greek islands' problem.

The statement of Recep Tayyip Erdogan about starting «the era of Turkey» should be viewed very seriously, not just like a preelection political rhetoric. In the next five years, we will be seeing rapid ascension of Turkey and the growth of its influence in many areas including the FSU region. This strengthening of Turkey does not promise Russia an «easy life» in the Southern areas, because our two countries have a series of contradictions and disputes. It is important to understand that sovereign Turkey is nowadays acquiring its true political identity, that is why all the decisions on our bilateral relations will be made only by Ankara and Moscow, not by Washington or Brussels. Hence, during the new 5-year period of Erdogan Turkey will remain a difficult, but still extremely important partner for Russia and a hub in the broad sense of the word Ц in the sphere of parallel imports, energy, logistics and finance. It is known that there are no mythical «friends» in international politics, but there are national interests and independent partners. Being the Grand Master of the global geopolitics, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is always playing his own game, but it lies in our power and is in line with Russia's interests to play even with him.

1. Erdogan was conclusively recognized winner of the presidential race in Turkey. TASS, 01.06.2023. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/17899999

2. Erdogan Defies Naysayers to Extend His 20-Year Rule in Turkey. Bloomberg, 28.05.2023. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-05-28/erdogan-seals-election-victory-in-turkey-to-defy-naysayers?srnd=premium-europe

3. Fahrettin Altun: President Erdogan received congratulations from the leaders of more than 120 countries of the world. Anadolu Agency, 30.05.2023. https://www.aa.com.tr/ru/%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0/%D1%84%D0%B0%D1%85%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%82%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BD-%D0%B0%D0%BB%D1%82%D1%83%D0%BD-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B7%D0%B8%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%82-%D1%8D%D1%80%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BD-%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D1%83%D1%87%D0%B8%D0%BB-%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%B7%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%BE%D1%82-%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%B4%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2-%D0%B1%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B5-120-%D1%81%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BD-%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%80%D0%B0/2909646

4. The head of Turkish intelligence may be appointed the Vice-President. MK-Turkey, 31.05.2023. https://mk-turkey.ru/bezopasnost/2023/05/31/glava-razvedok-fidan.html

5. Erdogan announced the plans to develop the new Constitution of Turkey. TASS, 22.05.2023. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/17815723

6. Turkey's Erdogan Meets Former Finance Minister in Cabinet Planning. Bloomberg, 29.05.2023. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-05-29/turkey-s-erdogan-meets-former-finance-minister-in-cabinet-planning?srnd=politics-vp

7. Erdogan to build a city for Syrian refugees. Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 30.05.2023. https://www.ng.ru/world/2023-05-30/1_2_8736_turkey.html

8. In five or six years Turkey will be able to create the air defense missile system similar to S-400 and Patriot. TASS, 04.04.2023. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/17445621

9. Erdoğan, çok güzel kazandı - HİLAL KAPLAN. Sabah, 29.05.2023. https://www.sabah.com.tr/yazarlar/hilalkaplan/2023/05/29/erdogan-cok-guzel-kazandi

10. The future of Eurasia: Russian Turkic strategic alliance. Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies. https://caspian.institute/product/ciss/rossijsko-tyurkskij-soyuz-kak-budushchee-evrazii-37966.shtml

11. Putin Scores a Win in Turkey's Election. Newsweek, 28.05.2023. https://www.newsweek.com/putin-scores-win-turkeys-election-1803087

12. Erdogan confirmed the intent to create a gas hub in Turkey in cooperation with the RF. MK-Turkey, 29.05.2023. https://mk-turkey.ru/politics/2023/05/29/t-erdogan-rf-gaz3.html

13. Russia and Turkey - destined for alliance. haqqin.az, 30.05.2023. https://haqqin.az/news/284931

14. The Central Asian countries cheered for Erdogan. Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 29.05.2023. https://www.ng.ru/cis/2023-05-29/5_8735_asia.html

15. Erdogan: Turkey needs unity and solidarity. Anadolu Agency, 03.06.2023. https://www.aa.com.tr/ru/%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0/%D1%8D%D1%80%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BD-%D1%82%D1%83%D1%80%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%BD%D1%83%D0%B6%D0%B4%D0%B0%D0%B5%D1%82%D1%81%D1%8F-%D0%B2-%D1%81%D0%BF%D0%BB%D0%BE%D1%87%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%B8-%D0%B8-%D1%81%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%B4%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%BD%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B8/2913494

16. Turkish President Erdogan unveils new Cabinet. Anadolu Agency, 03.06.2023. https://www.aa.com.tr/en/politics/turkish-president-erdogan-unveils-new-cabinet/2913761

17. Erdogan replaces almost the entire Cabinet. TASS, 03.06.2023. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/17922097