While jihadists have lost in Syria, the war is not over. It is saddening to see the Syrian army, which is fighting the remaining jihadists, as being referred to as “the regime forces.”

In September 2018, an agreement was signed in Sochi which set a deadline to disarm and remove the jihadists. Back then, this was something Turkey was committed to, though it did not uphold its pledge. As a result, the Syrian army began to clean up the jihadists in Idlib.

The Turkish government does not want peace in its neighbor. What it wants is construction. On the other hand, the US recently condemned attacks from Russia and Iran whilst emphasizing its support to Turkey.

The Russian Embassy in Ankara responded to this with an image from the state-owned Anatolian News Agency (AA), on the US’ provision of weapons to the Kurds.

Arms trade

The US’ and Russia’s messages to Turkey actually conceal a huge arms trade. What really matters for them is the sale of weapons to Turkey.

In the past 10 years, Turkey bought 8.2 billion dollars worth of armament. When you add the 2.5 billion dollars worth for the S-400 system, the figure is 10.7 billion dollars. Some 35.24 percent of imports were from the US while 23.24 percent of them came from Russia. 

In other words, regardless of the US’ and Russia’s messages, they are involved in a 6-billion-dollar arm trade and compete against each other.

Energy trade 

Beyond the arms trade, the US and Russia and involved in an even greater energy trade.

Russia is selling a nuclear power plant to Turkey but as it did not properly build the foundations of the plant, Moscow brought a possible disaster threat to country. The concrete base of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant failed twice. That was on Turkish territory, in the Mediterranean province of Mersin.  

Russia is also Turkey’s largest supplier of gas. In 2018, it sold 23.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Ankara. In addition, Russia sells coal to Turkey. In 2017, it sold the country 14.4 million tons of coal. That is, one in every three buckets of coal in Turkey came from Russia. And one should not omit oil imports. In 2018, in every four barrels Turkey bought one came from Russia, thus making it the biggest supplier beyond Iran and Iraq. 

On that account, Russia’s motives with Turkey are quite clear. Yet this does not apply to the US. Because while Russia sells Turkey nuclear plants, coal and oil, the US buys its own domestically consumed oil from the region. In 2018, the US imported 575 million barrels of oil from a total of 3.6 billion barrels from the Gulf countries, predominantly from Saudi Arabia and Iraq. When one considers that Turkey’s 2018 oil import amounted to 21 million barrels, one understands the situation a little better.

True motive

Russia has many reasons to side with Turkey. In the past ten years, for each 10 Turkish Liras Turkey spent on arms, 2.5 liras went to Russia. One third of the coal Turkey imported as well as one fourth of the oil and half of the natural gas as well as an entire nuclear power plant have been bought from Russia.

Likewise, the US has many reasons to side with Turkey. In the past ten years, for each 10 Turkish Liras Turkey spent on arms, 3.5 liras went to the US. But the US’ main interest lies not in selling arms and oil. The US has bought 25 to 30 times the oil Turkey is importing annually, from the Middle East. This oil is bought from oil companies that partner with the US and which is sold to the American people.

While Russia needs to sell its energy to Turkey, the US must stay within the Middle East to get its oil. That is why they are both seeking Turkey on their side.

Love thy neighbor 

A Turkish saying goes, “Don’t buy a house, buy a neighbor.” This is a splendid saying which often serves as a mantra in the Middle East.

At the moment, Turkey is paying for the Syrian war with its loved ones and economy. But it is only by achieving peace with its neighbors that it can attain a win-win situation.