The Course of Turkey-Russia Relations in the Regional Perspective
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan came into power, in Turkey, in 2002. The avowed foreign policy goals of the new Turkish government were to have “zero problems with neighbours”, aiming at minimizing political conflicts with the immediate neighbours and regional actors, and a drive toward economic progress. Syria, which had been considered as the poster child of Turkey’s zero-problem strategy, remained the focus of this policy until the end of the decade. Their mutual relations were driven and upheld mainly by economic incentives and kept intact via active diplomacy. However, when the Arab Spring in the region reached Syria and Turkey’s efforts to curtail the bubbling violence in the country failed, Ankara’s relations with Damascus came under immense stress, and in 2011, Turkey officially cut ties with Syria.
The war within Syria, which continues to this day and has gone on longer than anyone had initially anticipated, also attracted foreign actors and players, which prolonged the conflict. By 2014-2015, the Islamic State became active in Syria and Iraq. In due course, Iran’s nuclear deal with the six world powers and its reemergence as an active regional player has had an impact on the regional security structure of the Middle East. These developments had strategic consequences for the region. The formation of alliances with regional actors and the presence of numerous non-state groups combating inside Syria, some acting as states’ proxies, drew in the world powers. Thus, the Syrian conflict, which started out as a civil war limited to its domestic boundaries, became an international conflict.