The country with the second largest military in NATO, and one which has in recent years had a strained love-hate relationship with Russia (but also the US), particularly over Syria, is now wagging its finger at Moscow, telling it to drop its demands which have brought it into severe tensions with the West over Ukraine.
Turkey this week urged for Russia to drop its "one-sided" demands in its engagement with NATO, strongly suggesting that its current requests for no "guarantees" of more eastward expansion of the Western military bloc are too "maximalist". This after Turkey has been caught quietly expanding its military assistance to Kiev via drone and military equipment sales.
"For any proposal to be accepted, it should be acceptable by both sides. Russia made some proposals. But maybe NATO seeks the same kind of guarantees from Russia. This is not a one-sided issue," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recently told reporters.
"If the requests are maximalist — I’m not saying that Russia is maximalist in any case — both sides must be constructive," he said, with the suggestion clearly being in Anakara's eyes Moscow is indeed pressing for too much. "They should come to the table with proposals that both sides can accept."
"If Russia has any certain specific expectation or issue from Turkey regarding reducing tensions between Russia and NATO, Turkey will evaluate this positively because our objective is clear," said Cavusoglu added. "Everyone would be affected, God forbid, by conflict in the region."
But Russia's position is that the West merely abide by promises made soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union; instead, it's seen NATO encroach up to its doorstep in eastern Europe and the Baltics from the mid-2000s on to now. For example, among the current demands on the table is for Brussels to rescind its prior pledges to put Ukraine and Georgia on paths to NATO membership, with Kremlin officials repeatedly affirming this would be a "red line" requiring drastic "action".
In his latest comments Friday, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov underscored precisely that Euro-Atlantic countries have broken prior commitments to not expand NATO to Russia's borders. "Our proposals are aimed at creating and legalizing a new system of agreements based on the principle of the indivisibility of security and abandonment of attempts to achieve military superiority, which was approved unanimously by the leaders of all Euro-Atlantic states in the 1990s. I would like to emphasise that what we need is legally binding guarantees since our Western colleagues systematically fail to fulfill political obligations, not to mention voiced assurances and promises given to Soviet and Russian leaders," Lavrov said.
For now, Turkey appears to be expanding its cooperation with Ukraine, providing military assistance:
#Ukraine’s government confirms that #Turkey has granted it a licence to manufacture Bayraktar TB2 combat drones locally.— AEROSINT Division PSF (@PSFAERO) December 27, 2021
Turkey is ready to provide and has provided licenses for the local manufacture of TB-2s to other allies as well.
But there's more than meets the eye in Turkey's latest call for Russia to drop its demands. Also at issue is Turkey's hugely controversial drone sales to Ukraine, which were recently found to be much bigger than previously disclosed, outraging the Kremlin:
Turkey has sold Ukraine significantly more of the armed drones that drew a rebuke from Russia than previously disclosed, with further deals in the pipeline, Bloomberg reported.
Baykar, an arms manufacturer based in Istanbul, has sold dozens of drones to Ukraine since 2019, together with control stations and missiles, according to several officials and an executive at a Turkish defense company with close government ties. Orders for at least two dozen more drones are under way, the people said, asking not to be named due to the sensitivity of the subject.
Putin in a phone call with Erdogan during the first week of December directly raised the issue, calling it "destabilizing", pointing out that Turkish-made drones are being used against pro-Russia separatists in the war-torn Donbass region.