(MENAFN- Asia Times)
As the war in Ukraine grinds on, Turkey is making geopolitical inroads in places long dominated by Russia, such as central asia and the south caucasus . Increasingly, though, Turkey is zeroing in on regions where Moscow should have firm control: inside the Russian Federation itself.
It's no secret that some political forces in Turkey view certain Russian territories as part of the“Turkic World.” In February 2022, the Turkish conservative newspaper Karar listed 10 Russian regions, including Tatarstan, Chuvashia, and Bashkortostan, as“autonomous turkic republics .”
Three months earlier, Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party – the coalition partner of the governing Justice and Development Party – presented a controversial “turkic world” map to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It included southern regions of Russia, such as Kuban and Rostov, and the republics of the North Caucasus, Eastern Siberia, and Crimea, the de jure Ukrainian territory that Moscow annexed in 2014.
But rather than protest, the Kremlin praised the gesture. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he didn't see“anything shameful” in Bahceli's gift to Erdogan, and suggested that Turkey was simply“striving to maintain ties with compatriots .”
These events have opened the door for Turkey's new foreign-policy trajectory.
Bogged down in Ukraine, Russia is unable to protect the interests of its citizens living in Turkey. A growing number of Russians, including those who fled to the country after President Vladimir Putin announced a military call-up last September, have had difficulty obtaining turkish residency . Without papers, Russians are on the move again, leaving turkey behind .
At the same time, Turkish authorities are issuing long-term residence permits to Crimean Tatars, Turkic-speaking Muslims from an area that Ankara views as within its sphere of influence . The message from Ankara is clear: Russians with Turkic roots will be prioritized above all others.
Over the years, Turkey has been developing cultural and economic ties with dagestan , a restive Russian region in the North Caucasus. Turkey has also become a main partner of Tatarstan, a subject of the Russian Federation located in the east-central part of European Russia.
In 2021, Ankara invested us$2.5 billion in tatarstan's economy , outpacing the foreign investment of 79 other countries – including Russia – that year. The funds came after Tatarstan's president, Rustam Minnikhanov, visited Ankara, where he met with Erdogan to discuss ways to deepen the relationship . Agreements were inked on economic cooperation, particularly manufacturing .
Then in May last year, during an international economic summit in the Tatarstan capital Kazan, Turkish and Tatarstan officials pledged to create conditions to support entrepreneurial activities .
To some russian analysts , Moscow views Tatarstan as an economic gateway to the Islamic world, but in political terms, the Kremlin prefers to lean on Chechnya and its leader Ramzan Kadyrov to develop ties with Islamic states.
There are practical reasons for Russia's choice, starting with the Chechen leader's troubled relationship with Turkey. Kadyrov has been connected to a series of murders of chechen dissidents living in Turkey, as well as to claims of espionage on turkish soil .
Moreover, in December 2021, he threatened to erect a statue of Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Abdullah Ocalan – a sworn enemy of the Turkish state – when a park named after former Chechen rebel-leader Dzhokhar Dudayev was inaugurated in turkey's kocaeli province .
That plan was eventually shelved after Putin and Erdogan met in sochi last august . Turkey then moved to establish closer cooperation with the Chechen Republic on various issues, including investment and trade.
Turkey's meddling in Russian affairs was most recently on display last month, when exiled leaders from Ingushetia, a Russian republic in the North Caucasus, gathered in Istanbul to call for independence. The exiled Ingush leaders released a statement in which they emphasized the necessity of“consolidating the Ingush society around the idea of independence, as well as striving to preserve cultural and religious identity.”
The Kremlin again turned a blind eye. Erdogan even went on national television to boast that“all Ankara's requests [from Putin] concerning Tatarstan, Dagestan and other regions are answered.” Even as Ankara seeks to increase its presence in Russian regions where Turkic and Muslim peoples reside, the Kremlin seems intent on preserving its economic and political ties to Turkey at all costs.
Turkey will undoubtedly continue using the Kremlin's weakened position to increase economic, political and cultural ties with Russia's ethnic-based regions. In the long term, if the Ukraine war results in the dissolution of the Russian Federation – as some have predicted – Tatarstan, Dagestan, Sakha, Ingushetia, and possibly even Chechnya may turn to Turkey as its preferred ally.
Russia's debacle in Ukraine has given Turkey significant leverage over Moscow on many aspects of their bilateral relations. As Turkey's foreign policy demonstrates, Putin's decision to go to war is coming home to roost.
This article was provided by syndication bureau , which holds copyright. Follow Nikola Mikovic on Twitter @nikola_mikovic .