Do tomatoes dictate Turkey’s policy on Russia?

“There’s never a dull moment in Turkey”: A cliché sentence I have heard so often from a newcomer to Turkey. Indeed, it’s a cliché, but it also reflects the truth.

Not only does Turkey itself keep entering tectonic turbulences, but it sits in a region that is in constant turbulence. Today, where should we focus? The crises in Syria and Iraq in the east and south? The crisis in Ukraine in the north? (We are, by the way, deeply grateful to Greece for keeping its crisis limited to the economy.)

Currently, the Russia/Ukraine crisis appears not to look too high on Turkey’s agenda. As the press largely follows the priorities of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, this is obviously a reflection of the low profile approach the government has endorsed on the issue. This low profile approach seems to surprise some of Turkey’s Western allies, to the point of asking, “Does Turkey not feel part of NATO?”

This is not the first time that Turkey’s views have diverged from that of the majority in NATO. But the question requires another answer, which should start with a “before and after the AKP.”

Turkey’s public and a majority of its state establishment have always been wary of European institutions. That Turkey is suspicious of anything foreign is not new. Public opinion polls conducted in Turkey repeatedly show how Turks remain parochial, while the state tries to keep up with globalization.

Yet there is a difference as far as the old and new establishment is concerned. The old establishment was also suspicious of NATO, but was also more pragmatic in understanding its importance as an asset to Turkey’s foreign and security policy. Their views reflected...

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