During an interview on April 20, 2022, Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu asserted that several NATO member nations want the Russo-Ukrainian conflict to drag on for as long as possible, so as to hurt Russia.
“There are countries within NATO who want the war to continue,” Cavusoglu said on CNN Turk. “They want Russia to become weaker.”
Per Iran’s Mehr News Agency, Cavusoglu originally believed that the conflict would not last long after Russia and Ukraine met for peace talks in Istanbul in March. After a NATO foreign ministers meeting, the Turkish Foreign Minister reached the conclusion that several alliance members don’t want the conflict to end.
Since Russia’s invasion on February 24, the US and its allies in the West have broken diplomatic ties with Russia. Dave DeCamp of Antiwar.com noted that “Instead of seeking a diplomatic solution, the Western powers are pouring weapons into Ukraine and waging an economic sanctions campaign against Russia.”
DeCamp cited a report from The Washington Post which detailed what NATO wants to get out of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict:
“For some in NATO, it’s better for the Ukrainians to keep fighting, and dying, than to achieve a peace that comes too early or at too high a cost to Kyiv and the rest of Europe.”
Turkey’s behavior is in line with its time-honored tradition of geopolitical hedging.
Over the past decade, Turkey has showcased its hedging behavior. After failing to secure membership to the European Union, Turkey opted to become a dialogue partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a multinational economic and security alliance, in 2012. The SCO is viewed as a strategic competitor to Anglo-American institutions such as NATO. At the time, Turkey re-assured fellow NATO members that its involvement in the SCO would not impede its work with NATO. Turkey first joined NATO in 1952.
Turkey dialed up the geopolitical uncertainty by purchasing Russia’s S-400 missile defense system during the Trump era.
None of Turkey’s behavior is particularly shocking when studying its geopolitical history.
As paleoconservative historian Paul Gottfried observed, Turkey has used geopolitical triangulation for the purpose of national survival. For example, in the aftermath of World War I, Turkey faced the prospect of national annihilation during the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923), when it faced off against military forces from Armenia, France, Greece, and the United Kingdom. This multinational force aimed to partition Turkey and carve it out like a Jack-O-Lantern, thereby dismantling the Turkish nation.
Instead, brilliant statesmen like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk worked to play off the allied powers occupying Turkey in that period.
Most notably, Ataturk was able to divide the British and French and took advantage of any differences between the two European powers. The British and French worked with the Armenians, Greeks, and other groups that were once subjects of the Ottoman Empire.
Fast forward to the 21st century, Turkey has continued its well-established policy of hedging during the Russo-Ukrainian War.
Turkey sold Bayraktar TB2 drones to Ukraine, a move that angered Moscow. At the same time, Turkey closed off the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to all warships as opposed to just closing it off to Russian warships like the West has pushed for Turkey to do.
As the unipolar moment continues unraveling, Turkey will proceed with this well-established behavioral pattern on the world stage. Time will tell if its hedging strategy will have it kicked out of NATO, thereby compelling it to pursue a more oriental foreign policy.