Two countries with vague attitudes towards Turkey, Serbia and Russia

On Sunday, February 27, the European Union announced a series of new sanctions against Russia, including the closure of airspace and the ban on Russian media. The EU also announced for the first time the delivery of weapons to Ukraine. Measures to punish Moscow after the invasion of armed forces in Ukraine, towards Turkey and Serbia, where not all countries in Europe or NATO have taken such measures.

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Turkey’s attention

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine puts Turkey, another neighboring Black Sea state, in a difficult position. Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly condemned Russia’s attack, but refused to impose sanctions on Moscow. But for the first time, Turkey declared on Sunday, February 27, that its effects would make Russia uncomfortable. Turkey finally recognized the “state of war” between Russia and Ukraine and announced that it would apply the Montreux Convention to the letter. This treaty is an international agreement from 1936 that controls traffic in the Straits of Dardaneres and Bosphorus, located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. In summary, the agreement states that during the war, ships of the warring states do not have the right to circulate in the strait unless it is a matter of returning to their homeport. Turkey manages these strategic routes.

Therefore, with this announcement, Turkey declares that it is legal to prevent Russian warships from accessing the Black Sea, as Ukraine claims. In the short term, such measures will not significantly reduce Russia’s offensive power, which had already strengthened its fleet in the Black Sea before attacking Ukraine. But symbolically, Turkey is the first to act against Russia since the beginning of the war. This is certainly not a trivial matter for NATO member and Ukrainian partner Turkey, but it also has close ties with Russia for Vladimir Putin. This explains Turkey’s cautious attitude since the beginning of the conflict. On the one hand, a firm condemnation of Russia’s attack. But on the other hand, the will to maintain dialogue with Moscow. Turkey, for example, abstained from voting in the Council of Europe, which suspended Russia’s representation, and categorically refused to participate in Western sanctions. In fact, Ankara is acting in a balanced manner, maintaining economic, energetic and diplomatic relations with Russia, while showing support for Ukraine, which has a close relationship. For example, in recent years Ankara has sold about 20 combat drones to Kyiv. Kyiv is currently being used against Russian targets in Ukraine.

Turkey hopes that in any case there is no need to make strategic choices between Ukraine and Russia, and between the West and Russia. But to be precise, the war in Ukraine faces Turkey’s foreign policy due to its limitations and contradictions. In fact, because Turkey is a member of the alliance and NATO, it is constrained by its geopolitical position, making it increasingly difficult to claim to occupy an intermediate position between the two countries in the war. I am.

Strange middle of Serbia

Some countries that take off gloves with Vladimir Putin are especially Serbia. Serbian President Alexander Vucci has had a very good relationship with Russia for many years. Vladimir Putin traveled frequently to Belgrade, and Vucci did the same in Moscow. But in Serbia and elsewhere, no one was expecting a war in Ukraine. After the Russian invasion, Serbia’s first official reaction was to announce a 48-hour deadline to save time. Then, at three meetings of the National Security Council of Serbia, the President announced his position full of subtle nuances. The goal is, above all, not to confuse Moscow, where political and commercial relations are in good condition, or Europeans, whose relations have improved a bit but are still good. Therefore, Serbia does not impose sanctions on any country and is written in black and white because it violates the important interests of that country. The decision does not even mention the word Russia, but humanitarian aid to Ukraine has been announced.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) will meet with Serbian counterpart Alexander Vucci in Sochi on November 25, 2021.  (MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV / SPUTNIK)

Strangely in the middle, but remember that Serbia was bombed by NATO in 1999 because of the separatist region of Kosovo. In addition, Kosovo’s independence raises the same issues of international law that arise in Ukraine, which have recently been duly condemned by Westerners. Therefore, Alexander Vucci recalls that Kosovo is not an independent country from the perspective of the United Nations. He also recalls that Russia has always supported Serbia by not recognizing Kosovo. For the same reason, Serbia is aware of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, including Crimea, and Vladimir Putin is indifferent.

There are also economic reasons for Serbian neutrality. Belgrade buys Russian gas at a very favorable price, which is essential to its economy. There is no doubt about playing price-increasing cards when inflation has already reached 8%. The Serbian general election in April will also begin. Serbian President Alexander Vucci knows that the majority of the population is pro-Russian. These voters appreciate Vucci’s friendly attitude towards Putin because the two men know each other well. The Serbian president cannot afford to alienate this part of the electorate as his popularity is declining.