BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
In the Ukraine crisis, which brought the West and Russia face to face, the needle turned from conflict to diplomacy. Although the possibility of conflict has not completely disappeared, the shuttle diplomacy conducted by French President Macron, first with Russian Leader Putin and then with Ukrainian President Zelensky, seems to have decreased it. Once Russia’s “goals have been achieved” with the West, it will be time to soften the crisis.
The solution seems to be built on the Minsk accord, which was passed in 2014. Even US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, “The Minsk Agreement gives the Donbass a special status. I believe that is appropriate and Ukrainians will be able to move forward in this regard.
So, what is the real reason behind why the crisis in Ukraine in the last few months, which brought the West and Russia to the brink of conflict, has evolved into diplomacy? Who wins?
There were a few key outcomes:
THE U.S. SUCCESSFULLY REVIVED NATO
The U.S. successfully revived NATO over the Ukraine crisis. The slogan that US President Biden used when he took office – “the US is back” – was implemented in Ukraine. Washington’s allies in Europe were aligned, so to speak.
American soldiers settled in Eastern Europe with no issue – they were almost met at the gates. Given the US’s resolution crisis with Turkey before the Iraq operation, the importance of Washington’s easy settlement in Eastern European countries cannot be understated.
PUTIN STRENGTHENED HIS POSITION
Prior to Ukraine, the US gave off the impression that it had focused all of its attention on China and had designated the Beijing administration as its official enemy. Putin’s Russia, on the other hand, was treated as a “regional power” rather than a “global power.”
Thanks to the Ukraine crisis, Putin succeeded in making the United States, and then all of NATO, answer to him. He also managed to reveal the disintegration within the Western alliance without firing a single shot.
Thanks to the Ukraine crisis, an alternative Eastern security architecture was presented to the traditional Western security architecture led by NATO. What happened in Kazakhstan with the intervention of the Collective Security Treaty Organization led by Russia allowed Putin to “deal with” his “backyard” without much effort.
Thanks to the events in Kazakhstan, which took place simultaneously with the Ukraine crisis, Putin emerged stronger against China as both a leader fighting the West and the “sole ruler of Central Asia.” Thus, Putin had the chance to sit at the Russia-China cooperation table, which was established during his visit to Beijing within the framework of the Olympic Games, as an “equal partner” to China’s enormous power.
THE VOICES OF EUROPEANS ARE HEARD AGAIN
The Ukraine crisis also made large countries in Europe stand up and become more visible in the international arena again.
Despite great pressure from the US, the new Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, was able to resist sanctioning of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which bring natural gas from Russia to his country. The chancellor told Biden during a visit to the White House that his country would only close the pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine. Reading this backwards, we can say that the pipeline will stay open as long as Russia does not invade Ukraine.
Germany’s visibility also increased when Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, from the Greens wing of the coalition government, visited the Donbass region, which is the center of the Ukraine crisis.
The gain made by France, the other big country from the EU, was the prestige that President Macron gained in the lead up to French elections. His “shuttle diplomacy,” first visiting Russia and then Ukraine, increased Macron’s visibility in the international arena.
AK PARTY TURNED TO FACE THE WEST
It is indisputable that the Ukraine crisis first progressed towards a hot conflict and then moved onto the path of diplomacy, which had a serious impact on Turkey.
The AK Party government in Turkey, which became a “rebel” within NATO by purchasing the S-400 from Russia, and which was officially subject to American sanctions, turned its face to the West, especially to NATO, during this crisis. President Erdogan’s visit to Ukraine last week should be read from this perspective.
It is clear that the time that Putin gave Macron to meet was not given to Erdogan, who has been talking about “mediation” between Russia and Ukraine for about two months. Despite Ankara’s insistence, it seemed that Turkey had an open invitation to visit Putin in Russia.
A return to the “Normandy format,” where Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine are at the table for a solution in Ukraine, is a development that will leave Ankara out – contrary to its best efforts.
In short: it would not be wrong to say that the AKP’s efforts to break onto the international scene through Ukraine are in vain, for now.