Turkey's Erdogan plays peacemaker in Ukraine crisis as Putin hits dead-end - MEHMET ACET

Turkey's Erdogan plays peacemaker in Ukraine crisis as Putin hits dead-end

After Russia launched a devastating invasion in Ukraine on Feb. 24, there is now, finally, a spark of hope on the horizon regarding a ceasefire.

At least, this is how the markets perceived it. 

The prospect of peace in Ukraine played a determining role in the recent drop in fuel and gold prices. 

Statements were made on behalf of the two parties on the stage of this hopeful atmosphere. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “We are close to reaching a compromise with Ukraine.”  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a statement along the same lines: “We’ve started reaching an agreement over some matters,” adding that talks were becoming more “realistic.” 

So, if a deal is going to be struck, what will it entail? 

We can discern possible outcomes by reading between the lines of these statements. For example, Russian Minister Lavrov’s following statement: 

“Neutral status is now being seriously discussed along with security guarantees.” 

Additionally, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia is “open to the idea of a neutral state in Ukraine, exactly like the one in Sweden.” 

 Note: Sweden is the world’s oldest neutral country that has not joined war since 1814.

It seems that they are following a course that will require the exclusion of Ukraine from NATO’s expansion objective – a point the Russians primarily declared as their “red line” – and that this will be put into writing, including constitutional guarantees. 


 Is Putin in a pickle?  

According to The Economist magazine, the primary reason for hope in the Ukraine crisis is that things did not go as Russian President Vladimir Putin had planned. Below is a quote from the magazine’s cover article titled, “The Stalinisation of Russia”: 

“Suppose that Russia manages to impose a new government. Ukrainians are now united against the invader. Mr. Putin’s puppet could not rule without an occupation, but Russia does not have the money or the troops to garrison even half of Ukraine. American army doctrine says that to face down an insurgency—in this case, one backed by NATO—occupiers need 20 to 25 soldiers per 1,000 people.” 

 If we were to evaluate this through The Economist’s view, it seems the British have long accepted that Putin lost this war. Furthermore, the revelation that Russia’s majestic army, which was believed to be invincible, failed to achieve victory against a much smaller, less equipped, yet more motivated army, puts a large dent in Russia’s reputation.

 As this article is a reflection of the British perspective, in other words, as it clearly represents one side of the war, part of the convictions could be considered wishful thinking. It would be overly optimistic to expect that Putin will easily allow the disrepute of his “majestic army.” 

 However, as stated in the article, the fact that Putin is facing serious challenges reflects another side of the medallion. 


Ankara’s constructive role keeping tensions at bay 

The trilateral summit held last week in Antalya with top-level representation bore no real results for Ukraine. However, there was a surprise development in the following days, and Turkey found itself conducting fresh shuttle diplomacy befitting its mediation mission.  

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu traveled to Moscow Wednesday to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. He is expected to meet with Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and his delegation today (Thursday).  

Two statements that Çavuşoğlu made at the beginning of these inter-delegation meetings constituted a summary of Turkey’s mission in this diplomacy traffic: 

 1-Turkey has not changed its clear, balanced stance in terms of the rule of law and human rights. We are continuing our role as a mediator and facilitator country who has friendly relations with both sides. 

 2-Bilateral relations aside, we worked with Russia on numerous challenging cases to date. We are at peace talks today thanks to the trust that formed as a result of these activities. 

 The “challenging cases” mentioned by Çavuşoğlu bring to mind Syria. 

 If we were to adapt Russia’s approach in Syria to Ukraine, what could be said? 

 Since Putin said, “Russians and Ukrainians are the same people,” he is trying to avoid mass slaughter and broad destruction, which transpired in Syria, in the name of “Slavic solidarity.” 

 However, the Syrian war suggests that Russians may take two steps forward and one step back in Ukraine. In other words, even though there may be a ceasefire in the short term, there is no guarantee that it won’t be violated in the medium and long term. 


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