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Turkish pragmatism at Sochi Olympics

Turkey puts aside Caucasus issue in relations with Russia in participating in the Sochi Winter Olympics.

In the old days, Turkish-Russian relations were determined by Russia's desire to have access to the Mediterranean — involving the use of Turkey’s straits as an exit route from the Black Sea — and the struggle for influence in the Caucasus. But times have changed priorities. The main parameters of the relationship nowadays are Russian tourists traveling to the Mediterranean, energy power lines and construction contracts in Russia. The struggle for influence in the Caucasus has declined. Although Turkey to an extent still maintains its competition with Russia over Georgia and Azerbaijan, for the sake of economic relations it has removed the northern Caucasus from its list of priorities.

The construction of the Blue Stream pipeline that started in 1997 overtook Turkey’s deep interest in the northern Caucasus after backing the Chechens in the 1994-96 Chechen-Russian war. In the second Chechen-Russian war that flared up in 2000, Turkey was no longer on the side of the Chechens. The Russian-Georgian war that erupted in 2008 over southern Ossetia compelled Turkey to readjust its foreign policy in the southern Caucasus. Turkey had angered the Russians for supporting and emboldening the Georgian army alongside the United States, its NATO ally.

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