Window of opportunity in Ukrainian-Turkish relations

Strategic vision of cooperation priorities instead of the reactive approach to bilateral relations

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Until recently, the “strategic partnership” between Ukraine and Turkey existed primarily as an attribute of diplomatic rhetoric rather than a meaningful format of bilateral relations. Despite active political dialogue and deepening economic ties between Ukraine and Turkey, the foreign policy moves of both states lacked foresight and systematicity in many areas of cooperation.

“Ukrainian Prsim” expert Maryna Vorotnyuk  for the Institute of World Policy.

Whatch also short video on the Crimean Tatar issue in Ukrainian-Turkish relations


On top of that, Ukraine’s foreign policy narrative clearly had bipolar orientation (where to go, East or West?). The South remained a blank spot on the Ukrainian diplomatic map; any references on the possibilities of bilateral cooperation with Turkey were sporadic and declarative.

Finally, the biggest obstacle to a strategic rapprochement between Ukraine and Turkey was that the latter belonged to the camp indirectly supporting Russia in order to maintain a high level of cooperation with it.

The dramatic change in the geopolitical situation in the region in 2014 led to a revision of Ukraine’s policies towards Turkey.

Turkey moved to the top of Ukraine’s foreign policy priorities following the loss of Crimea, the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and the aggravation of the security situation in the Black Sea region in general.

Furthermore, the deterioration of Turkey’s relations with the majority of Middle East countries and its confrontation with Russia compelled Ankara to restore connections with its neighbors and Western countries. A rapprochement with Ukraine is one of the components of Ankara’s return to its pro-European course.


As of today, Ukraine’s interests regarding Turkey are in the following areas:
  • Security, including security in the Black Sea region, and Turkey’s possible participation in establishing of the de-occupation mechanism for Crimea (the Geneva plus format);
  • Economic, in the context of attracting financial aid for the stabilization and restoration of Ukraine, as well as strengthening trade relations with Turkey;
  • Energy, including obtaining Turkey’s permission for passage of tankers with liquefied natural gas (LNG) through the Bosphorus-, and the construction of an LNG terminal (following negotiations) and interconnectors;
  • Humanitarian, such as cooperation regarding internally displaced persons, in particularthe Crimean Tatars; establishing ties between the Crimean Tatar minority in Ukraine and the Crimean Tatar diaspora in Turkey in order to advocate Ukraine’s interests in Turkey.

On its part, due to a crisis in its relations with Russia, Turkey included topics that had been considered too sensitive until recently, such as energy and military technical cooperation, in its dialogue with Ukraine. Political dialogue on important security and economic issues has intensified; a series of summits have been held; negotiations on the FTA have resumed, etc.

Therefore, today there are reasons to believe that, given effective Ukrainian diplomacy,

Ukraine has a certain window of opportunity that could raise Ukrainian-Turkish relations to a new level.

Above all, it is about developing a strategic vision of cooperation priorities instead of the reactive approach to bilateral relations, which is characteristic of Ukraine’s foreign policy. However, the revision of relations with official Ankara should be based not only on the current tensions between Turkey and Russia, but also on an understanding of all the benefits of a strategic partnership with Turkey.