AARON STEIN Russia was long considered enemy number one in Turkey. Through the long Ottoman era Turkey and Russia fought a number of brutal wars. From 1923 until 1991, the Turkish Republic was responsible for guarding Natos southern flank. However, these circumstances changed after the end of the Cold War, when scores of Turkish entrepreneurs, looking for business opportunities in the underdeveloped economies of the Soviet states, flocked east. These investments paid off because in 2008, Russia surpassed Germany as Turkeys largest trading partner, with bilateral trade expected to top $40b by the end of 2010. Russia provides Turkey with 68 per cent of its natural gas and 20pc of its imported oil. Thousands of Russian tourists visit Turkey every year and the two countries recently signed an agreement to waive visa restrictions. Moreover, Turkey recently removed Russia from the Red Book - a national security document that lists Turkeys external security threats. Much of the growth in trade volume is due to Turkeys growing energy imports from Russia. Turkey finds itself at the centre of the energy-rich Middle East and Eurasia region and has made it a priority to establish itself as Europes oil and gas hub. Russia, which is keen on controlling natural gas supply routes to Europe, sees Turkey as a vital strategic choke point and is intent on making a number of diplomatic inroads to ensure that its energy and economic interests are protected. These two complementary goals often serve as the catalyst for other agreements. For example, Russias agreement to build Turkeys first nuclear power reactor is tied up in both countries desire to deepen energy cooperation. Atomstroyexport and Inter RAO have agreed to build four reactors with a total capacity of 4.8 GW for roughly $20b. The scale of this deal is unprecedented, if completed; Turkey will be home to one of the largest reactor complexes in the world, according to an analysis by STRATFOR. Russia does not even have a plant this large in its own country, nor has it announced plans to build a reactor complex on this scale in the near future. In a departure from the norm, Russia has agreed to finance the project, recouping expenses from guaranteed electricity sales for 15 years. Russia will maintain a 51pc ownership stake in the company and will likely sell a 49 percent stake to Aksa, a Turkish energy firm. Turkey will have to rely on Russia for maintenance, uranium fuel and replacement components. In essence, Turkey has agreed to host a Russian built, owned, maintained and operated nuclear power plant on its territory in exchange for guaranteed sales of Russian electricity. Critics of the deal point out that Turkey will be even more reliant on Russia for energy and will not benefit from civilian nuclear technology transfers. Turkey used the reactor negotiations to win concessions from Russia for other energy projects. During the negotiations, an agreement was reached to pump Russian oil from Turkeys Black Sea coast to its Mediterranean coast. Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, the Turkish firm alik Holding and Italys Eni are building the pipeline. The pipeline is intended to ease tanker traffic in the crowded Bosporus strait, the narrow body of water separating Europe and Asia. This is a key component of the Justice and Development Partys (AK Party) energy policy. Geopolitically, Turkey and Russia share a number of overlapping political goals in the countries bordering the Black and Caspian Seas. The Caucuses have traditionally been an area where Turkey and Russia competed for political influence. Turkey supported the independence of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia and extended assistance to the Chechen independence struggle until the Second Chechen War. In turn, Russia was a strong advocate of Kurdish rights and supported the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). However, after the signing of the Eurasia Cooperation Action Plan in December 2001, the two countries agreed to cease their support for separatists in Kurdistan and Chechnya, thus removing a serious source of tension from the relationship. This coincided with the deterioration of US-Russian relations over Ukraine, Georgia and the Bush administrations unilateral abrogation of the anti-ballistic missile treaty. For Turkey, these events coincided with the rapid break down of US-Turkish relations over the invasion of Iraq. At the time Washingtons policies were antithetical to Turkeys regional interests. Turkey, like Russia, has long supported a policy of stability, not democracy promotion, in the Caucuses. Moreover, both countries were united in their opposition to the war in Iraq. This led both countries to oppose the Bush administrations vociferous support of democracy promotion. As evidence of this outlook, Turkey strictly enforced that the terms of the Montreux Convention, allowing only the bare minimum of US Navy supply ships to enter the Black Sea during the Russia-Georgian war. Turkey believes that any regional security architecture should include Russia and that outside powers (i.e., the US) should refrain from meddling in their immediate sphere of influence. Moreover, Ankara recognises Russias role in resolving the regions frozen conflicts, especially between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In the near to medium term it seems likely that Turkey is intent on pursuing a balanced foreign policy that maximises its political self-interest, even in spite of its traditional Western allies. Moscow is intent on limiting Western attempts to circumvent Russian oil and gas pipelines, in order to maintain its geo-political influence in Europe. Conditions certainly seem ripe for both countries to deepen bilateral ties in the near future. From a Turkish political standpoint, deepening cooperation with Moscow fits nicely with Turkeys zero problems foreign policy, while serving a number of Turkeys immediate foreign policy goals. Todays Zaman