An Anatomy of Turkish Foreign Policy: 1995 – 2020, Issue 2
This study is the first bilateral analysis of Turkish Foreign Policy (TFP) in the research project titled: “An Anatomy of Turkish Foreign Policy.” Our goal is to quantify TFP’s evolution between 1995 and 2020 through a data-driven account free of speculative remarks. In this analysis, we will focus on the evolution of Turkey’s bilateral relations with Russia. In doing so, we will begin with a quantitative analysis of the relations to provide an overview. Next, we will survey the notable events between the two countries that impacted the bilateral relations.
We use data from the publicly available Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Lab’s Integrated Crisis Early Warning System (ICEWS) event database in the present analysis. We discuss the methodology in Issue #1 of this series. In brief, ICEWS features information on directed dyadic interactions between countries (i.e., Turkey→Russia), where each observation includes details of who (source) did what (action) to whom (target), when (time), and where (location). Each interaction is then assigned an intensity score that ranges between -10 and +10 based on the category of the interaction. Negative interaction intensity scores imply conflict, and positive interaction intensity scores imply cooperation. We calculate monthly and annual averages of the intensity scores to form indices.
Turkey – Russia Relations: An Overview
How frequently does Turkey interact with Russia, and what is the nature of its interactions? As we discuss in Issue #1, Turkey’s interactions with Russia are second to Turkey’s interactions with the United States by interaction frequency. The data described below covers the period between January 1st, 1995, and April 30th, 2020. ICEWS features 15,341 observations with Russia within this timeframe, of which 2,592 unique interactions. This number corresponds to a little over eight percent of Turkey’s total interactions of 186,255. Table 3.1 below compares the summary statistics of Turkey’s directed dyadic interaction intensity scores with Russia and the rest of the World.
Table 3.1 above provides summary statistics for the interaction intensity scores between Turkey and Russia and Turkey and the World for the period under consideration. The higher overall average intensity score of 1.83 between Turkey and Russia compared to the 1.34 between Turkey and the World suggests that Turkey’s relations with Russia vis-à-vis the World were, on average, more cooperative. This difference can also be qualitatively captured by exploring the shapes of the distributions. Figure 3.1 and Figure 3.2 below are event intensity score distributions. In both distributions, any value to the left of 0 suggests a conflictual interaction and to the right suggests a cooperative interaction. We also include the results of a simple difference-in-means test in Table 3.2, which suggests that there was a statistically significant difference in the average intensity of interactions towards Russia compared to the World.
Looking within the relations between Turkey and Russia exclusively, the summary statistics from Table 3.1 suggest the instances of cooperation between the two countries were slightly more than instances of conflict, given the negative skewness in the data’s distribution and the median of 1.9. The kurtosis of 2.57 suggests that most of the interactions were clustered around low-stakes interactions.
The frequencies of aggregate interactions over time provide more insights into the evolution of TFP towards Russia. Figure 3.3 below demonstrates the frequency of both cooperation and conflict initiations by Turkey towards Russia by year. This figure does not consider the magnitude of cooperation or conflict. The figure suggests that Turkey’s interactions with Russia have been characterized by acts of cooperation. While the interaction frequency ranges between 100 and 500 per year before 2014, the subsequent year marks a shift in the bilateral relations, with interaction frequency ranging between 750 and 2000 per year. Accordingly, Turkey’s relations with Russia entered a new phase in 2014.
The annual disaggregation of the interactions is informative regarding the extent of variation in bilateral relations in a given year. Figure 3.4 demonstrates the annual distributions of interactions. While 0 marks neutral events, any interactions that are located to the right of 0 are classified as instances of cooperation, and to the left are instances of conflict. The magnitude of interaction intensity increases as it approaches the extreme values (10 and -10). The figure suggests a gradual shift to the right side of the 0 over the past two and a half decades. We find the greatest moment crisis in 2015, which corresponds to the SU-24 incident that we discuss below. Figure 3.5 demonstrates the variation in relations during a given cabinet. The intensity and frequency of interactions with Russia are at their highest during the 65th and the 66th cabinets. We also observe higher-than-usual interactions during the 59th and 60th cabinets.
The construction of an index of bilateral relations can be particularly useful for understanding the overall evolution of bilateral relations. In Figure 3.6, we trace the trend of bilateral relations between Turkey and Russia. In doing so, we first calculate a simple monthly intensity average of all interactions for a given month. The values of these averages are displayed with the black dots. Next, we calculate a six-month moving average, which is displayed with the red dashed line. This line shows the average intensity scores considering the preceding six months. Finally, we fit a non-parametric locally weighted smoothing line among all the monthly averages, which is displayed with the blue line. The band around the blue line shows the 95% confidence interval.
The red line in Figure 3.6 provides information regarding the short-term trends in bilateral relations. This trendline describes the short-term cascades in which the two countries engaged with each other. The blue line in the trend describes the long-term evolution of bilateral relations. The blue line suggests a rapprochement between Turkey and Russia. If we were to fit a straight line throughout the data within the timeframe under consideration, the slope of the line would be positive, suggesting a gradual growth in cooperative interactions between the two countries.
Defining Moments in Turkey-Russia Relations
What are the momentous events that defined the relations between Turkey and Russia?
In this section, we focus on the milestones that defined the bilateral relations within the past two and a half decades between the two countries. We use the ICEWS intensity variable for filtering individual milestone interactions. Figure 4.1 summarizes the timeline of events for the countries.
Blue Stream Deal, 15 December 1997
Russia and Turkey signed an intergovernmental agreement for the construction of the Blue Stream pipeline that aims to transport gas from Stavropol Krai to Ankara over Durusu with an annual capacity of 16 billion cubic meters. The pipeline was constructed by the Blue Stream Pipeline B.V., which was established as a joint venture company of Russian Gazprom and Italian ENI. [Source]
Cooperation Discussions, 17 May 1998
Chief of General Staff Ismail Hakki Karadayi met with Russian Defense Minister Marshal Igor Sergeyev, Chief of General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin, and Russian Security Council Secretary Andrey Kokoshin. The meeting was on assessing the current and future military cooperation between the two countries. [Source]
Joint Action Plan for Cooperation, 16 December 2001
The joint Action Plan for Cooperation in Eurasia was signed between the two countries at the level of Foreign Ministers in New York. The plan envisaged multidimensional cooperation in the Eurasian geography. [Source]
First Meeting of the Joint Action Plan for Cooperation, 9 April 2002
The first meeting of the high-level joint working group was established and held in Moscow under the Joint Action Plan for Cooperation in Eurasia, signed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Turkey and the Russian Federation on 16 November 2001. During the meetings held at the level of Deputy Undersecretary, current regional and international issues were discussed, particularly relating to Eurasia. [Source]
Military Cooperation Discussion in Eurasia, 1 June 2002
Chief of General Staff General Huseyin Kivrikoglu visited his counterpart General Anatoly Kvashnin in Moscow after Kvashnin’s Ankara visit. They discussed increasing military cooperation following the agreement of the “Joint Action Plan for Cooperation in Eurasia” in New York. [Source]
Military Procurement Discussion, 5 June 2002
Chief of General Huseyin Kivrikoglu met with Russian Chief of General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov to discuss the procurement of Russian and Israel made K-50-2 attack helicopters named as Erdogan in Turkish. [Source]
First Putin Visit Turkey, 5 December 2004
Russian President Vladimir Putin made a two-day official visit to Turkey, the first by any Russian leader in thirty-two years. Vladimir Putin met with his counterpart Ahmet Necdet Sezer in Cankaya. He then met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, where they discussed possible cooperation areas in defense, energy, and finance. The visit had been seen as a historic step for bilateral relations. [Source]
First Erdogan Visit to Russia, 10 January 2005
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made his first overseas visit in 2005 to Moscow. This trip followed the first official visit of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin to Ankara since the end of the Cold War. A wide group of businesspeople joined the Turkish Prime Minister’s entourage during his Moscow visit. [Source]
Increasing Engagement, 18 July 2005
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Sochi in a closed meeting. After the meeting, Turkish Prime Minister said, “We lay the groundwork for common interests.” Russian President announced that Turkey and Russia commonly aimed to increase their trade volume by around twenty-five billion USD. This meeting was the fourth meeting between the sides in the last seven months.[Source]
Blue Stream Inauguration, 17 November 2005
The Blue Stream project’s inauguration, which carries Russian natural gas under the Black Sea to Ankara through Samsun, was held in Samsun by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. [Source]
Operation Black Sea Harmony, 27 December 2006
Russian Federation joined Turkey’s Operation Black Sea Harmony, which aims to deter terrorism and asymmetric security threats in the Black Sea region. [Source]
Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization Meeting, 25 June 2007
Turkey held the 15th Summit of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) in Istanbul. The theme of the conference was presented as “exploration of new horizons”. During the conference, Turkey’s President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul engaged in several bilateral talks with the leaders of neighboring countries. Turkish Prime Minister and President held their meetings with the Russian Prime Minister separately. [Source]
South Ossetian Conflict, 13 August 2008
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to Moscow to hold talks on the South Ossetian conflict between Russia and Georgia. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev indicated that the trade volume between the two countries was at its highest. [Source]
Expansion on Energy Trade, 6 August 2009
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his counterpart Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed twenty cooperation protocols in Ankara, focusing particularly on energy trade. One of the signed protocols initiated the Blue Stream 2 project, aiming to transport Russian gas via the Black Sea to international energy markets. [Source]
Akkuyu Nuclear Plant Deal, 12 May 2010
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Turkish President Abdullah Gul met in Ankara and signed a comprehensive agreement on seventeen titles, including visa exemption and establishing the Akkuyu nuclear power plant agreement. This agreement enables both countries’ citizens free visas for their mutual free visa travels not exceeding 30 days within 90 days. [Source]
High-Level Cooperation Council Formed, 21 May 2010
Turkey and Russia initiated the High-Level Cooperation Council (HLCC/UDIK) in 2010 to institutionalize and strengthen cooperation between the two governments and societies of the two countries. The HLCC meetings, which are held alternately once a year, are co-chaired by the two countries’ leaders. [Source]
Readmission Agreement, 18 January 2011
Turkey and Russia signed the Readmission Agreement as a legal instrument in the fight against illegal migration that aims to prevent human mobility. The agreement is expected to be protective after the acceptance of a visa-free travel regime regarding potential problems related to illegal migration. [Source]
Syrian Civil War, 29 November 2011
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Turkey does not intend to intervene militarily in Syria. [Source]
Invasion of Crimea, 20 February 2014
Beginning of the Russian invasion of Crimea. The invasion ended with the annexation of the territory by Russia on 18 March 2014. [Source]
Turkish Stream Discussion, 1 December 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia decided to build an alternative pipeline route through Turkey after the suspension of the South Stream project. In line with this, Turkey’s BOTAS and Russian Gazprom signed a new Memorandum to construct an offshore natural gas pipeline, called Turkish Stream, across the Black Sea to the Turkey-Greece border. [Source]
Russia Joins War in Syria, 1 October 2015
Russian warplanes carry out their first air strikes against the opponents of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. [Source]
Russian SU-24 Crisis, 24 November 2015
Turkey shot down a Russian warplane SU-24 fighter on the Syria border due to Turkish Air Space border disputes. Putin’s described the incident as a “stab in the back” committed by “accomplices of terrorists”. [Source]
Increasing Tensions Over the Downed SU-24, 26 November 2015
Russia imposed sanctions related to joint economic projects, restricting financial transactions, and changing customs duties on Turkey over the downed SU-24 fighter jet. Some Turkish workers in Russia were arrested or rounded up due to visa violations. [Source]
PYD Office in Moscow, 10 February 2016
PYD, defined as a terrorist organization by the Turkish Republic, opened a representative office in Moscow. The office defined itself as the Western Kurdistan Representative. [Source]
Crimean Tatar Assembly Ban, 27 April 2016
Russia declared that the Crimean Tatar Milli Mejlis was banned. In response to the unilateral decision of Russia, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Turkey announced its full support to the Crimean Tatar community and their Assembly. [Source]
Apology Over Downed SU-24, 27 June 2016
Turkey sent a letter to the Kremlin about the event of the downed Russian jet in 2016. Kremlin said, “Turkey apologized for shooting down the Russian jet.” [Source]
Détente, 8 August 2016
Turkish president made his first foreign visit after the coup attempt to Russia. The visit was noticed as the first meeting after Russia’s SU-24 jet shooting down due to a border dispute in December 2015. According to the TASS News Agency, Erdogan said, “I believe a new page in bilateral relations will be opened” before the meeting. [Source]
Military Cooperation Discussion, 15 September 2016
Chief of General Staff General Hulusi Akar met with his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, to discuss the developments in the Syrian Civil War and other regional issues. While the meeting was privately held, some military sources said that it “was very positive and productive since the last visit of General Valery Gerasimov to Ankara eleven years ago.” [Source]
Turkish Stream Deal Announced, 10 October 2016
Turkey and Russia signed a bilateral agreement to build the Turkish Stream pipeline. [Source]
The Assassination of the Russian Ambassador Karlov, 19 December 2016
Andrey G. Karlov, who served as the Russian Ambassador to Turkey wasassassinated by an off-duty police officer in Ankara. The other officers neutralized the assailant. After the event, Russian President Vladimir Putin defined the attack as a sabotage attempt to deteriorate ties with Turkey. [Source]
Trilateral Talks On the Syrian Conflict, 20 December 2016
Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Russia, and Iran met in Moscow to discuss solutions to the Syrian conflict. They decided to start ceasefire talks between the Syrian government and the opposition. The meetings had been seen as a gateway to the Astana process, which was held one day after the assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrey G. Karlov. [Source]
Astana Process, 23 January 2017
Turkey, Russia, and Iran met at Astana regarding the Syria conflict. They decided to act together to strengthen the political process rather than military interventions to provide solutions in the region. [Source]
Rapprochement, 3 May 2017
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his counterpart Vladimir Putin met in Sochi and discussed many issues spanning from the Syria conflict to bolstering trade relations. Both leaders reached a consensus on seeking a political solution for the Syrian civil war. After the meeting, Putin said that “The recovery process in Russian-Turkish ties is complete.” [Source]
S-400 Deal Announced, 27 September 2017
TurkishPresident Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Turkey sent the down payment to Moscow for the purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems. [Source]
Turkish Stream Project Deal Finalized, 11 October 2017
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his counterpart President Vladimir Putin met in Istanbul for the 23rd Energy Summit, where both countries’ energy ministers reached an agreement on implementing the Turkish Stream project. The Turkish Stream pipeline is expected to send 30 billion cubic meters of gas a year under the Black Sea to Turkey. [Source]
S-400 Deal Finalized, 27 December 2017
Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industries signed an agreement to purchase S-400 anti-ballistic missile systems’ batteries. The Head of the Russian state conglomerate Rostec said the cost of the S-400 system was 2.5 billion dollars. [Source]
Guarantors of the Astana Process, 13 June 2018
Officials from Turkey, Iran, and Russia met with the United Nations (UN) to form a constitutional committee for Syria in Geneva. Previously, the same countries discussed within the highest level for forming a political resolution for Syria as the guarantor countries for the Astana process. [Source]
Tehran Summit, 7 September 2018
The presidents of Turkey, Russia, and Iran met at the Tehran Summit to find a political resolution for Syria even though they disagreed on the ceasefire decision. The statement signed by the leaders declared further cooperation in the Syria conflict in line with the Astana format. [Source]
Operation Peace Spring, 9 – 17 October 2019
The Turkish Armed Forces conducted a cross-border operation named Operation Peace Spring into Northern Syria against Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Army. [Source]
Turkish Stream Deal Finalized, 8 January 2020
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his counterpart President Vladimir Putin officially launched the Turk Stream pipeline to transport Russian natural gas to Southern Europe. Turk Stream was constructed with a 31.5 billion cubic meter capacity with two lines.[Source]
Idlib Airstrike, 27 February 2020
The Russian Air Force and Syrian Air Force conducted airstrikes against a Turkish army convoy in Balyun, Idlib Governorate. According to the Turkish Presidency, the airstrike resulted in thirty-four Turkish soldier casualties. [Source]
Idlib Ceasefire, 5 March 2020
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached an agreement to end the fighting in northwest Syria. They signed a protocol that led to a ceasefire that started on March 6th. The protocol sets up a six-kilometer security corridor in the north and south where the M4 motorway is located, acting as a bridge between Aleppo and Latakia. The agreement also enables joint patrols along the M4 motorway. [Source]
 Lautenschlager, Jennifer, Steve Shellman, and Michael Ward. 2015. “ICEWS Event Aggregations.” Harvard Dataverse V3.
 Notable events are captured by multiple news agencies leading to repetitions in the dataset.
 There are fifteen cabinets in our timeframe. The terms of these cabinets are as follows: the 52th Cabinet of Turkey, October 30th, 1995, to March 6th, 1996; the 53th Cabinet of Turkey, March 6th, 1996, to June 28th, 1996; the 54th Cabinet of Turkey, June 28th, 1996, to June 30th, 1997; the 55th Cabinet of Turkey, June 30th, 1997, to January 11th, 1999; the 56th Cabinet of Turkey, January 11th, 1999, to May 28th, 1999; the 57th Cabinet of Turkey, May 28th, 1999, to November 18th, 2002; the 58th Cabinet of Turkey, November 19th, 2002, to March 12th, 2003; the 59th Cabinet of Turkey, March 14th, 2003, to August 29th, 2007; the 60th Cabinet of Turkey, August 29th, 2007, to July 6th, 2011; the 61th Cabinet of Turkey, July 6th, 2011, to August 29th, 2014; the 62th Cabinet of Turkey, August 29th, 2014, to August 28th, 2015; the 63th Cabinet of Turkey, August 28th, 2015, to November 24th, 2015; the 64th Cabinet of Turkey, November 24th, 2015, to May 24th, 2016; the 65th Cabinet of Turkey, May 24th, 2016, to July 9th, 2018; the 66th Cabinet of Turkey, July 10th, 2018, to ongoing.
- This article has been published in cooperation with Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
Fotoğraf: Michael Parulava