Turkey's diplomatic posture in recent days is intriguing, not only deliberately weakening its balanced position in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, beginning to move closer to the Ukrainian side, but also seems to begin to repair relations with the West and promote its foreign policy to the west.

This judgment comes from Turkey's two recent performances. First, on July 7, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky brought back five commanders of the "Azov battalion" under Turkish protection after his visit to Turkey. This obviously violates Turkey's previous prisoner exchange agreement with Russia, not only does not conform to Turkey's long-term neutral role in external propaganda, but also violates Turkey's basic positioning as a mediator in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. In the mediation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Turkey's proudest diplomatic achievement is the successful mediation of the signing and several extensions of the Black Sea grain agreement between Russia and Ukraine, which has greatly alleviated the food difficulties of many Arab and African countries, greatly improved Turkey's reputation in the Middle East and North Africa, and helped Erdogan win the election again.

However, since entering July, Russia has repeatedly and explicitly refused to extend the Black Sea grain agreement again, insisting that all ships covered by the agreement can only leave the Black Sea before the expiration of the agreement on July 7. This undoubtedly weakens Turkey's role as a mediator. Therefore, Turkey's "release gift" to Zelensky, who visited Turkey, is more like Turkey's gesture to Russia, suggesting that "since Russia does not accept Turkey's mediation of the Black Sea grain agreement, the Russian-Ukrainian prisoner exchange agreement previously signed by Turkey as an intermediary can also be abandoned."

Another sign of Turkey's westward swing in foreign policy was that at the July 7 NATO summit in Vilnius, Turkey finally gave Sweden the green light to join NATO, even though the burning of the Quran had occurred in Sweden not long ago. It is clear that Turkey's choice to make overtures to the West at this time is conducive to its pursuit of more interests. In fact, after Turkey relaxed its "accession" to Sweden, the White House said that it would negotiate with Congress to continue to sell F-12 fighters to Turkey. Not only that, Turkey's position on Ukraine's "accession" has also undergone a big reversal, and Erdogan publicly stated during the Vilnius summit that Ukraine "should become a member of NATO." However, he also called on those countries with dual membership of NATO and the EU to open the way for Turkey to join the EU. The president of the European Council immediately said that the EU will promote closer cooperation with Turkey.

Turkey's attempt to soften its stance toward the West in exchange for the opportunity to join the EU is obviously impractical, but as a NATO member, Turkey's shift is itself symbolic – a gesture of unity within NATO on Ukraine-related issues is crucial for Ukraine at a time when Ukraine's counteroffensive is thwarted.

There are three main factors that prompted Turkey to make changes: first, short-term demands, which are a response to Russia's refusal to extend the Black Sea grain agreement, hoping to pressure it and make compromises; Second, the choice of the situation, Zelensky's visit to Turkey and the NATO summit provided an opportunity for Turkey to improve relations with the West; Third, long-term considerations, the "long-term" war between Russia and Ukraine and Turkey's revival of its economy urgently need Western support.

If Erdogan had previously tried to incite nationalism and show a tough stance toward the West in order to win re-election, it is his top priority to revive his country's economy and fulfill his election promises. Inflation in Turkey has remained high in recent years, peaking at more than 2022% in 85 and is now approaching 40%. To reverse this, since June this year, Erdogan has begun to adjust his previous unconventional economic policies with sustained interest rate cuts to combat currency depreciation and high inflation. On June 6, Turkey's central bank raised the country's benchmark interest rate by 6 basis points, from 22.650% to 8%. This is the first time Turkey has raised this key rate since the beginning of 5. Western media interpreted this as the beginning of Turkey's economic policy "returning to rationality".

In addition, Erdogan has also sought to make a breakthrough in attracting foreign investment. According to 2022 data from Turkey's central bank, nearly <>% of the FDI attracted by Turkey comes from Europe, and the top two investment are the United Kingdom and the United States, so Turkey has no reason or ability to continue its tough foreign policy towards the West.

Whether it is the release of the commander of the "Azov battalion" in response to Russia's refusal to extend the Black Sea grain agreement, or Sweden's "accession" in exchange for F-16 fighters and Turkey's new leverage to "join the European Union", these diplomatic "small moves" are just another example of Turkey's pragmatic and opportunistic foreign policy. Ultimately, the key motivation for Turkey's foreign policy to swing westward is the maximization of Turkey's own interests.

Although there are obvious signs of Turkey "decreasing" Russia and "increasing" Ukraine and the Western bloc, it is still too early to conclude that Turkey will take sides in this protracted conflict and abandon its previous balancing position. Turkey's tourism industry relies heavily on tourists from Russia, with more than 1,2 Russians visiting Turkey in January-February this year, accounting for 50% of all foreign tourists received by Turkey; In May, Russia allowed Turkey to defer paying its $13 billion gas bill to ease pressure on Turkey's currency reserves; Turkey's first nuclear power plant, the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, will also be put into operation this year... All this determines that Turkey will not completely "turn its face" with Russia. Ankara's foreign policymakers, each with a sophisticated interest calculator in their hands, are precisely "quantified" on all variables, and their pragmatic and opportunistic nature is on full display in this foreign policy shift.

(The author is an assistant researcher at the Institute of Mediterranean Rim, Zhejiang University of Foreign Chinese)

Contributing Writer Yang Fuxin Source: China Youth Daily