What did US and Russian intelligence services discuss in Ankara? Overview from Turkey
US and Russian intelligence
At the beginning of the week a meeting was held in Ankara between the heads of the American and Russian intelligence services. Neither side published the details of the meeting, and most international media did not even cover it. According to some experts, the terrorist attack in the center of Istanbul overshadowed this meeting. Conspiracy theorists, however, believe that the tragic event the day before the meeting was not accidental.
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Turkey as bridge between Russia and the West
Russian companies expelled from Europe by tough international sanctions have moved to Turkey. The Russians, left without European cruises, have chosen Turkish Mediterranean resorts for vacations. Putin proposed to Erdogan a natural gas hub near Istanbul for export to Western countries. And the most important detail is that Turkey has assumed the role of an intermediary between the Russia and Ukraine.
Thanks to this unique diplomatic channel, two of the world’s largest grain producers in the world – Ukraine and Russia – met in Istanbul for negotiations on food exports, which have played a huge role in preventing famine in the countries of the “global south”.
Ukrainian fighters from the Azov Battalion, captured in Mariupol, were again released through the mediation of Turkey, and currently live in there without the right to return to their homeland until the end of the war. Thanks to the efforts of Erdogan they were exchanged for captured Russian soldiers.
The first large-scale meeting between Russia and Ukraine after the start of the war took place in Antalya in March, and the Foreign Ministers of the two countries, Kuleba and Lavrov, held talks.
And now, when almost all diplomatic channels between them have broken down, Ankara has become the center of a vital meeting.
Turkey is on the brink of war with Greece. What's happening?
Relations between Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, have become strained to the limit. The nations periodically accuse each other of violating each other’s airspace with military aircraft, and air defense systems are brought into combat position. According to experts from both countries, the reason for the escalation has to do with decisive elections in both Turkey and Greece next summer.
What was discussed in Ankara?
On November 14, with the mediation of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) of Turkey, the head of the CIA, William Burns, and his Russian counterpart, the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) of the Russian Federation, Sergey Naryshkin, met in Ankara.
According to reports received after the meeting, the main topic of these talks was to eliminate the threat of a nuclear conflict.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, answering a question from journalists about this meeting, did not say anything definitive, only noting that the talks were held at the initiative of the United States. According to information from Washington, during a conversation with Naryshkin, Burns raised the issue not only of nuclear weapons, but also tried to secure the release of the Americans imprisoned in Russia.
Also according to American sources, during the negotiations the United States refrained from speaking on behalf of Ukraine and resolving primary issues on the potential outcomes of the war.
In a press release, Fahrettin Altun, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s press liaison officer, said the meeting was one of the Turkish leader’s steps towards peace and Turkey will continue to do so in the future.
A Turkish researcher on Russia and the Central Asian region, Hakan Gunesh, commenting on the meeting, noted that the negotiations between the heads of intelligence services are a continuation of traditional diplomacy. In his opinion, at the moment neither Russia nor the United States have the desire to stop the war. “Russia, which is trying to leave Europe without gas and sending new forces to the front line through the announcement of mobilization, will not start peace negotiations without having some significant result before the end of the coming winter. And such meetings are only of a preventative nature to prevent the threat of a nuclear war,” Gunesh added.
Former Turkish ambassador to France, retired diplomat Uluc Ozulker, noted that the meeting place reflects Turkey’s importance. “The fact that during a meeting with journalists as part of the grain deal talks in Istanbul, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke non-stop for an hour and a half, suggests that for Russia, isolated from the rest of the world, Turkey is of great importance in terms of explaining its positions,” the diplomat said.
According to Ozulker, President Joe Biden, bolstered somewhat by the American midterm elections, achieved meetings with both China and Russia within a week, which indicates that the White House is very serious about the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons.
Terrorist attack in Istanbul and conspiracy theories
One of the main reasons, if not the main reason, for the media’s silence with regard to the meeting, is the terrorist attack in Istanbul the day prior, which claimed the lives of six.
Conspiracy theorists were quick to interpret the event. Among Turks on social media, there is even an idea that the attack was held purposely to distract from the meeting.