How will the attempted coup in Turkey affect Moscow-Ankara relations?

Turkish soldiers block Istanbul's iconic Bosporus Bridge on Friday, July 15, 2016.

Turkish soldiers block Istanbul's iconic Bosporus Bridge on Friday, July 15, 2016.

AP
Experts are divided on the significance of the failure to overthrow the Turkish government by members of the country’s armed forces for Russia-Turkey relations.

Late in the evening of July 15, a military coup was attempted in Turkey. In Ankara, rebel faction of the armed forces seized helicopters and carried out several strikes against government buildings, while in Istanbul, the plotters closed off the bridges across the Bosphorus and broke into the offices of leading Turkish media organizations – the TRT TV channel and the Dogan Media Group, which owns the CNN Turk TV channel and the leading opposition newspaper Hurriyet.

As a result of the coup, over 160 people were killed and hundreds injured.

The attempt to seize power was organized by a group of officers from the country's military police and air force, acting chief of General Staff Umit Dundar announced.

Over 2,800 people have been arrested on suspicion of taking part in an attempted coup d'etat.

Moscow's reaction

While the international community condemned the attempt to seize power in Turkey, Moscow was more restrained in its reaction, with no outright condemnation of the coup bid.

Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov expressed concern at the developments in Turkey, saying that Russia was keen to see the events unfolding in Turkey end “in a legitimate way as soon as possible” and hoped that the country would“return to the path of stability, predictability, and law and order.”

Peskov went on to add that Russian President Vladimir Putin had not been in contact with either side of the conflict. At the time of writing, there has still been no reaction from Putin himself.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev urged Ankara to restore the constitutional order as soon as possible.

“What happened shows that there are strong and deep divisions inside Turkish society and the armed forces, which were manifested in these events,” he said.

Bilateral relations unlikely to benefit

In late June, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized to Moscow for the incident with the downed Russian plane that took place on Nov. 24, 2015 and triggered a seven-month-long crisis in bilateral relations.

A process of normalization of relations was launched following the apology: Putin and Erdogan had their first telephone conversation since the November incident, the parties agreed to meet in person in the near future, andrestrictions on travel to Turkey for Russian tourists were lifted.

“In general, the situation should not have a negative effect on Russian-Turkish relations,”saidI lshat Sayetov, a Turkey expert and head of the Center for Contemporary Turkish Studies.

“The country is headed by a leader who has expressed a clear intention to restore relations. However, the overall instability in Turkey – terrorist attacks, semi-coups, polarization of society and so on – is, of course, not to the benefit of the two countries’ relations,” said Sayetov.

“The concentration of all power in the hands of the Turkish president increases the risk of ill-judged decisions, and the Russian authorities will be taking this into account,” he said.

A similar view was voiced by Yury Mavashev, a Middle East and Turkey scholar and expert from the Caucasus Geopolitical Club.

“The seven months of the Russian-Turkish crisis could not but influence the opinions of a certain section of Russian society,” said Mavashev.

“To wit, in the first hours of the coup attempt, some members of the Russian expert community were inclined to take a positive view of what was happening. It was suggested that the coup had deep-lying causes and reflected the pressing issues of Turkish society.

“These estimates show that the Russian public are not yet fully convinced that, given its previous mistakes, the country’s leadership indeed seeks to take relations to the appropriate level,” he said.

A more optimistic view came from Kerim Has, an expert on Eurasian politics at the International Strategic Research Organization independent think-tank in Ankara. In his opinion, these developments will give an impetus to normalizing relations with Moscow.

“The country’s leadership will start to pursue a more independent policy aimed at strengthening security in the country. The downside will be a drop in the number of Russian tourists and a delay inthe lifting of Russia’s economic sanctions,” saidHas.

For his part, Hasan Oktay, a Turkish analyst and head of the Ankara-based Caucasus Strategic Studies Center, predicts that the developments in Turkey will not have a negative effect on relations with Moscow.

“The attempted coup failed. The plotters have been arrested. Democracy has triumphed,” he said.

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