Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian military jet along the Syrian border on on November 24, 2015. Since than the flames go up and up between two countries with argo rhetoric and harsh criticisms and on-air allegations. With this incidence, the longest period of peaceful and cooperative relations between two nations in the last three centuries has come to an end. What I argue is that this result is what the realpolitik dictates since from a strategic point of view Russia and Turkey cannot be strategic partner, let alone create a Russian-Turkish axis, but destined to be friendenemies, which is worst than real and clear enemy. These countries are opposed each other in ever sense, their differences are real, fundamental and even existential as their very national interests clash almost every where. Over the last decades, they were both virtually living a fair tale, a false dream that was expected to last sooner or later.
Russia was the arch enemy of the Ottoman Empire for at least three hundred years, they fought at least hundreds of wars in which most devastating defeats suffered. Almost all East European and Balkan states that won their independency from Ottoman did this thanks to Russian support of secessionists. The history of Russian Turkish relations until 1919 when Bolshevik Revolution was staged was nothing else but a three hundreds years long uninterrupted enmity and bitter conflicts. When Russia was weaken as a result of the revolutions at home, Turkey was reborn from Ottoman ashes. At this circumstances, then, they experienced fifteen years long friendship between (1921-1936). The sooner they became powerful and standing on their foot again, the reality of the ground push them to stand at the different edge of the strategic and ideological competitions. Russian threats was the single greatest incentive for Turkey to do what ever it takes to become a NATO member.
Over the last decades, almost in every issues that matters most in strategic term, except trade and investment, these two countries have continuously opposed each other. The two countries’ differences in Syria, in Ukraine, in Black Sea, in Eastern Europe, in Central Asia are fundamental and existential, which in popular discourse has come to mean irreconcilable. Do not forget, Russia was and still is the greatest danger to the peace of Europe as well as to Turkey, as an aggressive, expansionist, revisionist state in the international system. Russian wars in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria (Turkey’s immediate neighborhoods) posse existential threats to Turkey. It is far beyond several thousands trade over vegetables, and fruits. Make no mistake by assuming mutual dependency in trade and energy would make Turkish less anxious about Putin’s bellicose foreign policy. Turkey’s long standing wish for becoming an energy hub by bringing Azeri, Turkmen, Israeli, Qatari, or Iranian gas into European market, or becoming regional power by extending its influence deep into Middle East through Syria, where Russian only Mediterranean naval base is located are all existential threats to Russia far beyond several thousands tourists or a deal on nuclear power plant construction. In this sense, what was happening between Turkey and Russia since 2002 was an anomaly if it is not nothing else. Turkey and Russia cannot be friend if, at least, one of them is not weak. They are destined to be foe in strength. As Christopher J. Fettweis notes “enemies do not evolve!” Lets stop being naive about the essence of Russian-Turkish relationship.