Tsurkan was replaced on Akkuyu’s board with Erdogan’s confidant, former senior advisor, and all around fixer, Hasan Cuneyd Zapsu. Both Zapsu and construction tycoon Cengiz, who we now know attempted to retain consulting services from the former CEO of Akkuyu NPP while trying to become a project partner, are very close to Erdogan. Both men offer Moscow effective channels of access to Turkey’s one-man ruler. More importantly, it is likely that given the sums and contracts at stake, the involvement of Erdogan’s inner circle in energy projects with Russia might create a “virtuous cycle” for Russia’s hybrid warfare strategy.
From increasing Turkey’s energy exposure to Russia to putting Erdogan confidants in their pocket, it seems that in Akkuyu the Kremlin got two for the price of one. And against a backdrop of growing calls in Washington for potential sanctions on Turkey for the procurement of the Russian-built S-400 air defense system, such leverage might be worth more than ever.
Aykan Erdemir is a former member of the Turkish parliament and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where John A. Lechner is an intern.