The Turkey-US Agreement: Walking a Tightrope*


*Editor’s note: On March 4, 2022, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.

Economist Alexey Bobrovsky stresses that Turkey neither wants to make the U.S. angry nor intends to do everything Russia wants.

We often hope that countries we maintain strong economic ties with won’t team up with others against us. Every time that happens, it’s a big disappointment. It’s particularly frustrating for us to see, for instance, post-Soviet countries strengthening their relationships with Western partners. Well, I guess this is the multipolar world order at its finest.

However, when it comes to Turkey, it is important to understand its challenging economic and political landscape. Having agreed to comply with the U.S. sanction scheme against Moscow, Turkey is walking a tightrope. Here’s how the agreement will likely unfold: The U.S. will inform Turkey about local companies that may potentially evade anti-Russian sanctions, and Turkey will react accordingly.

Western countries believe that Turkey has too many bilateral work agreements with Moscow. Recently, we’ve been working together on several major projects, including a gas hub, a nuclear power plant, grain shipments and construction ventures, just to name a few.

Turkey doesn’t want to anger the U.S., especially during a time of high inflation. The devaluation of the lira hurt not only consumers, but also the banking industry, tourism, real estate and manufacturing. The recent devastating earthquake adds to the challenges facing the country. Western investors tightly control the Turkish debt and financial markets. The country is running out of foreign exchange reserves, capital flight is accelerating, and the country’s balance of payments is still negative, which further weighs down the lira. As one can see, Turkey grapples with a never-ending stream of different problems. However, the country’s top priority now is to bolster material processing partnerships with Russia while simultaneously maintaining good relations with the United States.

Turkey is caught in a dilemma. It has to choose what to do: work with everyone, not work with anyone, or pick a side. Ultimately, Turks prefer to engage with all parties. This choice makes sense. It’s not that now we have to sympathize with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but at least we can understand the Turks’ actions and, thus, have no unnecessary illusions about them. In addition, we shouldn’t overlook Turkey’s critical role in our countries’ exports.

Will Turks comply with everything Americans want? No, they won’t. Will they do everything we ask them to do? No, they won’t do that either.

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About Nane Sarkisian 4 Articles
Born in Armenia, and raised mostly in Russia, Nane Sarkisian earned a BA in Linguistics from Surgut State University and a Fulbright-sponsored MA in Linguistic Anthropology from Northern Illinois University, where she studied language-culture correlation. Her professional journey includes roles as a Senior Language Specialist, Freelance Translator, and English Teacher. Fluent in English, Russian and Armenian, Nane actively engages in academic discourse, volunteering programs and anti-discrimination projects. She is a firm believer in the transformative power of education, inclusivity, empathy, cross-cultural exchange and social cohesion. Please feel free to contact Nane by email at nanesosovnasarkisian@gmail.com

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