World Ukraine turns to Turkey as Russia threatens full-scale war
Ukraine accuses Russia of ‘muscle-flexing’ as tensions rise
Kremlin spokesman plays down military build-up, says Russia taking measures to ensure the security of its own borders.Unverified social media footage has suggested Russia has been moving large quantities of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and other equipment to regions that border Ukraine, as well as to Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Istanbul over the weekend to mark the 10th anniversary of his country’s strategic partnership with Turkey and shore up support from his Black Sea neighbour as tensions escalate with Russia over Ukraine’s simmering war in Donbas.
“Turkey’s support for the restoration of our sovereignty and territorial integrity is extremely important,” Zelensky stated in a joint press-conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Following a meeting with the Turkish leader, Zelensky tweeted, “We share common values with #Turkey, including human life and support.”
Russian 'troop build-up' near Ukraine alarms Nato
Thousands of Russian troops have allegedly massed near Ukraine, but Russia does not confirm it.Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia would take "additional measures" if Nato were to make such a move.
While Turkey spars with the United States and other Western European leaders over the purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile system and the conflict in Syria, the aspiring NATO country of Ukraine has developed strong ties with Ankara.
Saturday’s visit marks the Ukrainian leader’s second trip to Turkey in less than six months.
In 2017 the countries created a passport free travel zone and they are currently working on the implementation of a free-trade agreement, which leaders say will more than double the level of bilateral trade between them.
“The drifting away from the West discourse is very popular in European and US capitals. The West doesn’t want to see that there are really problematic areas in Turkish-Russian relations,” Bilgehan Ozturk, an analyst with the SETA Foundation, an Ankara-based think-tank seen as close to the Erdogan government, told Al Jazeera.
Ukraine urges NATO to speed up membership in 'signal' to Moscow
Ukraine urges NATO to speed up membership in 'signal' to MoscowZelensky spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after an increase in clashes and Russian military movements on the border raised fears of an escalation of the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Ozturk said Russia’s annexation of Crimea was a game-changer for Ankara’s relations with Moscow and how it viewed the balance of power in the Black Sea.
Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 has become one of the most intractable elements of Turkey’s relationship with the West, but placed outside its borders and in the hands of Russia the missile system is also a serious challenge to Turkey’s security.
When Russia seized Crimea in 2014 it immediately began deploying the S-400 there. It also built up its naval forces, stationing submarines and ships with Kalibr cruise missiles capable of hitting targets 2,400km (1,500 miles) away.
Istanbul is roughly 600km (375 miles) from Crimea.
That math led to a 2016 speech by Erdogan in which he stated the Black Sea was becoming a “Russian Lake” and warned “if we do not take action history will not forgive us”.
Erdogan has advocated for a stronger NATO presence in the region as Russia increases the size of its naval fleet.
U.S. Should Sidestep Ukraine-Russia Conflict | Opinion
With violence in eastern Ukraine bubbling to the surface, the clamor in Washington for a more aggressive U.S. response is growing louder. The Biden administration, which agreed to send an additional $125 million in military support to the Ukrainian military in March, will continue to feel the pressure as long as hostilities between Kyiv and separatists remain on the upswing. President Joe Biden should resist the temptation to get the United States more involved in what has proven to be an intractable conflict in Ukraine. Restraint and foresight, not reactive posturing, is the best approach.
More recently Turkey has looked at the Black Sea as a step towards greater energy independence.
In October 2020 it announced the discovery of 405 billion cubic metres of gas off its coast, the largest finding in the country’s history.
“Our main goal is that the Black Sea continues to be a sea of peace, tranquility and cooperation,” the Turkish President stated, speaking next to his Ukrainian counterpart at Saturday’s news conference.
Ankara views Ukraine as a crucial buffer against Russia and has been a strong advocate for its acceptance into the NATO alliance
The two countries are cooperating on a range of defence projects and agreements.
Last year Ukraine agreed to purchase 4 of Turkey’s MILGEM Ada-class corvettes, small warships known for their manoeuvreability. The countries are jointly producing the vessels.
Faced with growing animosity in Western capitals Ankara views Ukraine as a partner in the development of military technology in everything from satellites and radar to missiles.
Experts say one of the more advanced areas of cooperation is engine production and design. Turkey is working with Ukrainian companies to develop diesel engines for its fifth generation fighter jet and main battle tank.
Is Russia moving towards war with Ukraine?
Russia is amassing troops and weaponry near Ukraine’s eastern border, a move some say is a strategic show of force.Asked why it amassed 40,000 troops, armoured personnel carriers, tanks and artillery near Ukraine’s eastern border and another 40,000 servicemen in annexed Crimea in recent weeks, Moscow “refused to provide substantial information”, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
But it is Ukraine’s purchase of Turkey’s combat drones, which military experts and analysts are watching closely, especially as tensions in eastern Ukraine heat-up.
Turkey has positioned itself as a niche exporter of UCAV’s (unmanned combat aerial vehicles) and promoted them for success on battlefields in Syria, Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh. In the latter conflict, Turkey’s Bayraktar drone is widely credited with helping to tip the balance of power towards Azerbaijan in that country’s war with Armenia.
In 2018 Ukraine purchased six Bayraktar TB-2 drones and 200 high-precision missiles from Turkey as part of a $69m defence agreement.
Ukrainian military experts closely studied the use of the drone in Nagorno-Karabakh. They say the similarities between Azerbaijan’s fight against Armenia in that conflict, and Ukraine’s own struggle to wrest back control of its breakaway region from another set of Russian supplied forces bodes well for Kyiv.
“We know that Russian capacity is not enough in the face of Turkish UAV’s,” said Ozturk. “They would give the upper hand to Ukrainian forces. Russian backed separatists have their edge, but they are not capable of stemming the new UAVs.”
After engaging in seven years of conflict with Russian-backed separatists, many in Kyiv appear anxious to test the new Turkish technology on the battlefield and see if it can lead to winning back any territory.
Russia Labels U.S. an 'Adversary' As Tensions Rise Over Troop Buildup by Ukraine
Sergei Ryabkov's comments come after Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Moscow about acting "recklessly."In a departure from the Kremlin's usual description of the U.S. as a "partner"—however fraught that partnership might be—Sergei Ryabkov's comments follow a warning by Secretary of State Antony Blinken that "there would be consequences" if Moscow "acts recklessly" in Ukraine.
Russia says Ukraine is trying to provoke a conflict, while Kyiv has accused the Russian-backed separatists of increasing their attacks against government forces and Moscow of massing troops on its border.
President Erdogan called for an end to the rising tensions in eastern Ukraine but also said Turkey was ready to provide necessary support to Kyiv.
Ozturk said Turkish support would likely entail advisors and technicians being sent to Ukraine as they were in Azerbaijan. “A combination of the widespread use of UCAVs and experienced input.”
If heavier fighting breaks out in the east, Ankara may be given the chance to turn the tables on Russia as Moscow has done in Syria.
“Turkey has been suffering because of Russia’s continued pressure in northern Syria, where they have the superiority of escalation. If it’s not happy, it can make Turkey pay a cost,” Ozturk said.
Turkish drones deployed in eastern Ukraine allow Ankara to bring its military capabilities to a festering war at Russia’s border.
The chance of replicating the successful combination of Turkish drones and military expertise that led to victory in Nagorno-Karabakh is surely tempting to risk-takers in Kyiv and Ankara.
Russia ‘threatening Ukraine with destruction’, Kyiv says .
Foreign minister’s comments come as his counterparts from the Baltic nations visit Kyiv in a show of solidarity.Fighting has intensified in recent weeks in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions, where government forces have battled Russian-backed separatists since April 2014 after the rebels seized a swath of territory there.