Turkey had played an important role as mediator between Ukraine and Russia during the war, prior to the recent enormous earthquake.
It is important to understand the impact that Turkish elections could have on its involvement in the war. To help do this we arranged an interview with an Italian journalist, a specialist in Turkish politics, Marta Ottaviani. Ms Ottavani has, for some time, analyzed the life, career and political ambitions of Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. She also recently published a book on Russian propaganda: “Brigate Russe. La guerra occulta del Cremlino fra hacker e troll” [Russian Brigades. The Kremlin's occult war between hackers and trolls].
How do the general elections in Turkey affect the dynamics of the war in Ukraine? How could Turkey's position change, depending on the electoral outcome?
My personal opinion is that it Turkey’s position on the war in Ukraine will not much change. President Erdogan is extremely opportunistic in managing his foreign policy. He knows very well that he cannot turn his back on Ukraine. Kyiv is a strategic trading partner. Ukraine is a very important country that overlooks the Black Sea, which will have to be rebuilt after the war, and this represents a great opportunity. On the other hand, an alliance of interests is in place with Russia that is difficult to unhinge. What I expect is Turkey will continue with this double track, as long as the Turkish people allow it.
How important were Turkey's foreign policy and its diplomatic goals of last year during the electoral campaign?
Many analysts declared that foreign policy did not play a role in the electoral campaign and that it was an election based on the economy. I agree. However, I must point out that, among Erdogan's electorate, his great activism in international politics has had an important impact on national pride. This is especially true in terms of its relationship with the West. The narrative that Turkey can make it on its own, and doesn’t need the West, is becoming more and more popular domestically …
What are the main characteristics of the challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu and how does he differ most from Erdogan in foreign policy?
Kilicdaroglu has a long experience as a bureaucrat, and I think he personally understands the directions Turkey should take. Unfortunately, several factors do not make him credible. He has no experience in foreign policy, and I'm not just talking about the great international chessboard. When he met foreign investors, he didn't convince them. If he wins, which is unlikely, I believe that part of the international system created by Erdogan over 20 years could collapse.
What would be the most convenient scenario for Turkey’s national interests in the event of an end of the conflict on the opposite side of the Black Sea? Ukraine recovering much of its occupied territories or Russia retaining control of the Sea of Azov and Crimea?
With sanctions still in place, I fear that it is very convenient for Turkey that the Sea of Azov and Crimea remain under Russian control. Let us not forget that Russia manages to get around some sanctions precisely because the transit of goods through Turkey. Moreover, Crimea in the hands of Moscow is also a weapon in the hands of Erdogan, who can thus put pressure on Putin regarding the condition of the Crimean Tatars, of whom he feels a sort of moral protector.
There is already talk of interference by Russian intelligence in the Turkish elections, but also of pre-agreements between Erdogan and Putin relating to some electoral promises. What are the biggest clues or evidences to this influence?
The CHP, the main opposition party, has denounced the spread of fake videos, some easily recognizable, others made using deep fake technology. Hashtags that wanted Erdogan's victory have become a trend topic on twitter and many accounts of Turkish opposition figures in various capacities have been targeted by trolls.
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