Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ankara’s Backing of Crimean Tatars Seen Leading to Harder Russian Line Against Turkey

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 30 – Moscow officials are furious that Turkey is showing support for the Crimean Tatars -- especially given that most Western governments have shifted their focus to ensuring a continuation of the ceasefire in the Donbas and are not raising the issue of Russia’s illegal annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula as often as they did earlier.

            Andrey Klimov, deputy chairman of the Federation Council, says that in his view, “Ankara’s support for extremist groups of Crimean Tatars in Ukraine is an attempt to annoy Moscow in retaliation for the trade restrictions” Russia imposed on Turkey after the shooting down of a Russian plane on the Turkish-Syrian border (

            Ankara has been involved with the Crimean Tatars even when the peninsula was still part of Ukraine, he says. But now Turkey has stepped up its activities. “Apparently,” Klimov says, “President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fancies himself a successor to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire.”

            “But,” he continues, “Russia has the strength and means to curb these neo-Ottoman ambitions.”  Moreover, he says, Moscow has friends in Turkish political circles it believes it can count on. “I know many politicians in Erdogan’s inner circle who don’t like his anti-Rsusian provocations.”

If these continue, Klimov says, “Turkey’s ruling class will split,” and “the boomerang Erdogan has shown will certainly come back” – an implicit warning that Moscow may seek to destabilize Ankara and an indication of how sensitive the Russian leadership remains about Crimea and the Crimean Tatar activists who keep reminding the world about what has happened.

Vladimir Zharikhin, the deputy director of Moscow’s Institute for CIS Countries, says that no one should make much of Crimean Tatar claims that they are getting military uniforms from Ankara or other aid.  Most of the items “are easily available from any retailer selling fishing gear,” he suggests.

The Moscow analyst takes the same hard line on Turkish-Crimean Tatar links.  “In fact,” he says, “Islyamov and Chubarov are agents on the payroll of the Turkish intelligence service. But both are generals without an army. The Tatars who live in Ukrainian territory next to Crimea need no extremists,” but “these two will keep trying to foment unrest with Ankara’s support.”

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