A day after the Presidents of Russia and Iran praised the Astana peace format which sees Russia, Iran and Turkey cooperating in a process to end bloodshed in Syria, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated,
“We do not have any disagreements with Russia. We continue our contacts with Russia. We need to inform each other in a timely manner, especially [regarding] air strikes and the developments in the field. We contact them in real time or in advance”.
This is the clearest confirmation yet that in spite of mild diplomatic rhetoric urging caution on all sides, that Russia implicitly green-lighted Turkey’s ongoing Operation Olive Branch which targets US proxy Krudish militias in northern Syria. Contrasting with the Foreign Minister’s positive words about Russia, Turkey’s President Erdogan has issued another stern rebuke of the US track record of dishonesty in its dealings with Ankara. He said,
“Obama deceived Turkey on the issue of the Syrian Kurdish militants in Manbij, and Trump follows the same path. Trump told us that they cannot stay there and head east from the Euphrates. He acknowledged that the Arabs are the real rulers of Manbij. But what he promised was not fulfilled”.
The Turkish President further added that Kurdish/US occupied Manbij will soon be returned to its rightful rulers.
This comes as a new public survey in Turkey found that popular attitudes about the US and Russia have gone in totally opposite directions. In spite of a fraught geopolitical history through the centuries, Turkey has long been a favourite tourist destination for Russians who travel abroad. Unlike American tourists for whom Turkey has never held a particular significance, many Turks living in major cities and seaside resort towns have had contact with ordinary Russians throughout the years, in such a manner that tends to transcend political considerations. This combined with Russia and Turkey currently enjoy the best relations in their history – arguably even better than when Lenin and Ataturk struck up a brief but meaningful geopolitical friendship in the 1920s, has led to the majority of Turks surveyed, having a positive view of Russia.
By contrast, the Twitter hashtag “KillerAmerkia” has been trending in Turkey after it became known that many of the Turkish soldiers being killed by extremist YPG militants have been killed by the weapons the US gave the YPG. Thus, the contrasting views Turks have of Americans and Russians should not be surprising. According to the survey, cited by Sputnik,
“The disaffection of the US is on the rise in many counties, including Turkey. Almost 95 percent of Turkish citizens display different anti-US sentiments local media reported Tuesday, citing an Optimar organisation survey.
71.9 percent of respondents had anti-US views and 22.7 percent were partially against the United States according to the Anadolu news agency.
At the same time, 62.1 percent said that warming relations with Russia were a positive development, with only 22.4 percent considering it a negative trend.
More than half of Turks said that the United States, Israel and European countries were helping strengthen Daesh in Syria and Iraq.
The survey involved over 1,500 respondents from across Turkey. According to them, the United States was perceived as a greater threat to security than Russia or China”.
This survey represents an intersection of the personal with the political. While ordinary Turks have always had more face to face interactions with Russians than Americans, it has only been over the two years where Russia and Turkey’s ever growing trade, cultural, security and diplomat partnership has begun to catch up to the day to day cultural realities that are generally free of the ill feelings conjured by an obsession with history.
This year also marks a year of cultural exchange between Russia and Turkey, which will see Russian and Turkish artists, scientists and athletes visit one another’s countries in a festival like environment that will include a diverse set of events in major cities including Moscow, Ankara, Istanbul and St. Petersburg.
While the Astana format has given the Russo-Turkish-Iranian partnership a clear sense of purpose, in reality the diverse partnership between all three nations reaches far beyond the perimeters of the conflict in Syria.