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Turkey Is the Biggest Swing Player in the Russia-Ukraine War

Eugene Chausovsky

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Ankara has used its unique position for a strategic advantage.

As the Russia-Ukraine conflict heads for the six-month mark, Turkey has emerged as a major swing player in the protracted war. Ankara is involved in the conflict on a number of fronts, from security cooperation with Ukraine to energy cooperation with Russia to serving as a diplomatic mediator between Kyiv and Moscow. It was Turkey’s diplomacy that facilitated the grain shipments from Ukraine’s ports on Aug. 1, the first since the start of the war. This increasingly proactive approach to the conflict has presented both substantial opportunities and significant challenges for Ankara while offering important lessons for the West on how to most-effectively deal with Russia.

Ankara has long sought to leverage its strategic position at the intercontinental crossroads between Europe and Asia as well as emphasize the concept of connectivity. Functionally, Turkey serves as a vital transit corridor for key resources like energy and food supplies, and this corridor has become all the more important given the economic and trade disruptions of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Institutionally, Turkey is a vital member of the NATO security bloc but one that operates independently—and sometimes counter to—the position of its American and European partners, including in its relationship with Western adversaries like Russia and Iran.

Under the leadership of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara has leveraged both forms of connectivity to enhance its position as a regional power, one that doesn’t fit neatly into either the pro-Western or pro-Russian camp. Turkey provides substantial amounts of weaponry to Ukraine, including Bayraktar TB2 drones, which have proven instrumental in helping Ukrainian forces attack Russian positions.

Read the rest in Foreign Policy.