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Once does not a cus­tom make, on this Fri­day August 5th, Erdoğan and Putin insist­ed that their pre­lim­i­nary remarks pri­or to a pro­longed meet­ing be con­veyed to the media worldwide.

This new meet­ing in Sotchi is thus con­sid­ered by the two as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to address “the world”, as well as to dis­cuss domes­tic prob­lems, ener­gy, food, Syria…

Putin’s two pre­lim­i­nary remarks at first, fol­lowed by Erdoğan’s are in them­selves an exer­cise reach­ing into a dimen­sion from which cur­rent real­i­ty seems absent. We will know what the one wants to talk about with the oth­er, but what pre­vails is the sketch of a the­o­ry of a great West­ern plot against devel­op­ing coun­tries as per­tains to grain sup­plies, a plot thwart­ed thanks to the Turk­ish Pres­i­dent. At last, Rus­sia can feed the world, with Erdoğan’s deci­sive assis­tance. Appar­ent­ly, accord­ing to Putin, it was kept from doing so up until that point by the unjus­ti­fied West­ern sanc­tions. This the­o­ry, devel­oped by Min­is­ter Lavrov dur­ing his recent tour does not men­tion of course the cause of these sanc­tions, nor is there any word of Ukraine. The inva­sion and the war do not exist. All that is han­dled under the  head­ing “spe­cial oper­a­tion”. And no mat­ter how close­ly you may lend an ear, Ukraine sim­ply does not exist.

This aspect put for­ward in the mutu­al con­grat­u­la­tions was of course aimed at the Heads of States and pop­u­la­tions still deprived of grain exports orig­i­nat­ing in Ukraine… As a reminder, sanc­tions against Rus­sia do not extend to a food embar­go, and the reten­tion of Russ­ian grain was part of a strat­e­gy on Putin’s part, as is the case with the black­mail per­tain­ing to gas deliv­er­ies. In fact, pri­or to the recent agree­ment,  Ukrain­ian grain divert­ed by Rus­sia had already tran­sit­ed smooth­ly in order to feed “Russia’s friends”.

Lis­ten­ing to the two lead­ers, you might think this meet­ing is not about the war in Ukraine, the Russ­ian inva­sion, but about oth­er cru­cial mat­ters such as ener­gy prob­lems and pre­vi­ous­ly voiced demands on Erdoğan’s part con­cern­ing his com­bat­ting ter­ror­ism, par­tic­u­lar­ly in Syria.

The polit­i­cal div­i­dends of the grain agree­ment being cov­ered in the pre­lim­i­nar­ies, we can then move on to what will be the crux of the meeting.

Erdoğan voiced a reminder that Turkey itself will prof­it from this uptake of exports. This should be at the Russia’s expense. He then returned to ques­tions con­cern­ing energy.

In 2021, Turkey import­ed 45% of its gas con­sump­tion from Rus­sia, and around 10% of its oil. It did not con­sid­er itself con­cerned by the Euro­pean deci­sion to refuse pay­ing the bill in rubles.  Turkey being a mem­ber of NATO, but not of the EU.

But, on these ener­gy mat­ters, at a time when it was attempt­ing to grab poten­tial gas resources in the Mediter­ranean, Turkey had already signed con­tracts for nuclear pow­er, and notably for the build­ing of the Akkuyu sta­tion, one of Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s sig­na­ture projects;  said reac­tors “should” be in ser­vice in 2023. ’Should be’, because the sched­ule on this project is show­ing some slip­page, due to region­al ten­sions and Turkey’s finan­cial straits.

A reminder on the “con­tract” between Turkey and Rus­sia, via Rosatom, and notably the fol­low­ing found in a news­pa­per: “Turkey will have to pay a min­i­mum of 32 bil­lion dol­lars over 15 years for the elec­tric­i­ty pro­duced by this sta­tion. In oth­er words, Turkey will have to pay approx­i­mate­ly 2 bil­lion dol­lars a year to Rus­sia sole­ly for the sta­tion of Akkuyu, over and above what it pays for the gas.” One can imag­ine the Russ­ian expec­ta­tions, in these try­ing times, while funds for the 4th reac­tor are slow in appear­ing. On the oth­er hand, one also imag­ines Erdoğan’s impa­tience, for the crown­ing of the project in 2023 —  cen­ten­ni­al year of the Repub­lic and expiry date for those in power.

In the name of “mutu­al inter­ests”, there will be talk of Akkuyu at Sotchi.

Erdoğan’s oth­er desider­a­ta, unsur­pris­ing­ly, con­cern the “strug­gle against ter­ror­ism” he assim­i­lates with the Syr­i­an question.

His demand is well-known. It con­cerns the cre­ation of the famous “buffer zone” in Syr­i­an ter­ri­to­ry where Turkey could “re-local­ize” an “excess” of Syr­i­an refugees on its ter­ri­to­ry, refugees linked to the funds it obtains from the EU in order to ’con­tain’ them off Euro­pean soil. In order to do this, of course, as those he calls “PKK ter­ror­ists” in Syr­ia are opposed to the plan, a Turk­ish mil­i­tary incur­sion would be wel­come with­out any inter­ven­ing “com­pli­ca­tions”.

Here again, as a reminder, this already ancient “project” is seen favor­ably by a major­i­ty of the Kemal­ist elec­torate, Erdoğan’s oppo­si­tion, both in order to get rid of the “Syr­i­ans” and to reclaim ter­ri­to­ries “that were once ours”.

Main­tain­ing the belief that Erdoğan’s oppo­si­tion is favor­able to the Kurds is and will always remain a heresy. In its vast major­i­ty, this elec­torate is nation­al­ist and only turns toward the Kurds to beg for their voic­es dur­ing elec­tions, such as was the case in Istanbul.

Erdoğan would thus like to receive an all-clear from Putin for the mil­i­tary oper­a­tion he is prepar­ing, as he already attempt­ed to do with NATO with the black­mail over Swe­den and Fin­land’s join­ing the organization.

He hasn’t yet received the green light in the frame­work of the Astana agree­ments either. The Amer­i­can High Com­mand, with good rea­son, sees in it a threat of region­al desta­bi­liza­tion that could lead to a resur­gence of ISIS.

Putin’s change of foot­ing on the top­ic would be of great impor­tance, espe­cial­ly in view of two obvi­ous facts:

Even with­in the frame­work of the Astana agree­ments, Turkey has been unable to car­ry its own share, both because of its long-last­ing prox­im­i­ty with the Jihadist groups as well as because of its will to attack the Kur­dish move­ment, lead­ing to its refusal to rec­og­nize in any way the autonomous enti­ty of North­ern Syr­ia and its diversity.

Fol­low­ing the inva­sion of Afrin and of its region, Turkey set­tled for reap­ing the ben­e­fits of the pil­lag­ing of the region’s agri­cul­ture and del­e­gat­ed its “admin­is­tra­tion” to the Jihadists. As a result, a human­i­tar­i­an cat­a­stro­phe has ensued, with the instal­la­tion of a zone in which pil­lag­ing, kid­nap­pings and rapes are com­mon and where dif­fer­ent fac­tions attack one another.

Although the two lead­ers share impe­ri­al­ist ambi­tions, they can­not agree on this mat­ter of inter­na­tion­al import in the course of a meeting.

And when we read, in a cer­tain Euro­pean press that they might broach the top­ic of “peace in Ukraine”, we won­der if we are dream­ing, but most­ly, we ask our­selves seri­ous­ly what lev­el of knowl­edge of inter­na­tion­al ques­tions those writ­ing such assi­nine state­ments have, or tru­ly believe. Are we real­ly in such a hur­ry to sac­ri­fice Ukraine to Euro­pean gas interests?

These two war blood­let­ters met in Sotchi sole­ly to exam­ine their mutu­al inter­ests and attempt to obtain for a while longer a max­i­mum out of the “spe­cial oper­a­tion”, and not to talk about peace.

Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges

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Daniel Fleury
Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…