Russia is trying to hide its anxiety about NATO expansion

Russia is trying to hide its anxiety about NATO expansion
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While Russian officials have made some harsh statements, they have also reiterated their commitment to maintaining ties with Turkey. They have emphasized the importance of mutually beneficial cooperation.

By Can Burgaz

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's statements of support for Ukraine's NATO membership during a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on July 7, which he reaffirmed during a meeting with journalists at the Istanbul airport on July 10, as well as the return of former Ukrainian prisoners of war, contrary to the agreement with Moscow, have caused concern in Russia.

Russian President's spokesperson D. Peskov stated that "Moscow is awaiting Ankara's explanations for violating existing agreements." He also emphasized that such a violation reflects poorly on everyone involved.

On July 9, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan made a phone call to his Russian counterpart. The website of the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that Ankara's attention was drawn to the destructiveness of the policy of continuing to supply military equipment to the Kyiv regime. They emphasized that appropriate steps can only lead to negative consequences.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that Russia has not forgotten that Turkey is a member of NATO, adding that "we take each case on its merits and draw conclusions accordingly."

While Russian officials have made some harsh statements, they have also reiterated their commitment to maintaining ties with Turkey. They have emphasized the importance of mutually beneficial cooperation and highlighted the need to implement the gas hub project in Turkey.

Turkologist Yashar Niyazbayev believes that the Russian president's press secretary's statements were not as harsh as they could have been and that the reaction to them could have been more severe. According to the scholar, it is too early to say whether Turkey's policy has changed. Ankara's recent statements have been puzzling to some observers. They appear to contradict the country's friendly relations with Russia. On the other hand, it is not yet clear what was at stake in these statements. Some experts believe that this is an indication of a change in alliances. In contrast, others believe that Zelensky may have asked Erdogan for weapons behind closed doors and that Erdogan offered him a PR campaign in return.

A different tone has characterized Russia's reaction to relations with Turkey, Finland, and Sweden. Moscow downgrades the importance of the recent developments. TASS, a leading Russian state news agency, reported that Sweden's membership in NATO would not change anything. Farinazo Gazal, an expert on geopolitics and military topics and the author of the Brazilian internet resource Arte da Guerra (Art of War), made this observation. TASS emphasized that Gazal believes the Western media will present Stockholm's success in joining NATO as a "Putin defeat." However, Gazal argues that this is only a propaganda victory and that from a practical standpoint, Sweden's membership in NATO will not change the operational situation or the course of hostilities.

Finland and Sweden's NATO membership has been downplayed by Russian experts, who argue that it does not change the situation significantly. Senator Sergei Tsekov of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs echoed this sentiment, saying that "Sweden and Finland are already in NATO in everything but name." However, he acknowledged that the move would force Russia to strengthen its defenses on its western flank.

Military expert Colonel Viktor Litovkin has warned that Finland's membership in NATO will create certain problems for Russia. He said that the re-equipment of the Russian-Finnish border with defense equipment would require huge financial and material resources. He also said that it would be necessary to increase the military presence in the region, which would also require large costs.

It is noteworthy that in 2008, Russia used the prospect of Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO as a justification for its military interventions in those countries. However, in the case of Finland, Russian President's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has said that the situation is different, as Finland has never been anti-Russia, and there are no territorial disputes between the two countries.

However, it is worth noting that Finland lost 10% of its territory, about 40,000 square kilometers, to the Soviet Union during the Winter War of 1939-40. Finland may seek to reclaim these lost territories in the future.