The writer is a political analyst in Serbia. His work focuses mostly on the foreign policies of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, with special attention on energy and ‘pipeline politics’. Syndication Bureau.
Even as Russia struggles to achieve military and political success in Ukraine, its leaders have turned their attention to another regional objective: restarting business in the “graveyard of empires”.
The war in Ukraine has laid bare Russia’s military weaknesses, and a key area of concern for the Kremlin is the health of its navy. With the Russian Black Sea Fleet an easy target for Ukrainian anti-ship missiles, Moscow is eyeing alternatives, including a long-planned naval base in Sudan.
While Russia and Iran do not always concur, their status as pariahs of the West has pushed them to work as an “axis of the sanctioned”. One way this has materialized is through the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200-km network of road, rail, and shipping routes designed to move freight between India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe.
Central Asia and the South Caucasus have long been within Russia’s geopolitical orbit. But as the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine stumbles on, Turkey is looking to take advantage by increasing its influence in the strategically important regions.
As Russia’s war in Ukraine enters its ninth month, Turkey has emerged as one of the conflict’s most important external actors. With most global powers choosing sides, Ankara has managed to preserve ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, positioning itself as a key mediator in ending the conflict.
Last month, as protests spread across Iran, the military’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was focused on another, less obvious, threat to the regime: a potential peace deal between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The Balkans is often described as Turkey’s gateway to the EU. But for many years, Turkey, a Balkan state itself, maintained a low geopolitical profile in the region, portraying itself as the patron of Balkan Muslims, and little else.
While the war in Ukraine continues to rage, some are already looking ahead to what will happen when the guns fall silent and the construction work begins. In July, Ukraine’s prime minister estimated that rebuilding the country’s devastated cities, towns, and infrastructure would cost $750 billion. Amid the destruction has come opportunity for others, and Turkey is the frontrunner to eventually become one of the big financial winners of the conflict, especially if it manages to preserve good ties with both Moscow and Kyiv.
While the war in Ukraine rages on, Turkey is attempting to portray itself as a bridge between Russia and the West. Such a foreign policy may help Ankara achieve some of its geopolitical goals not just in the Black Sea region, but also in the Middle East, as well as in the South Caucasus.
Last week, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan accused Russia of trying to buy hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Iran for its ongoing war in Ukraine.