Ukraine, Russia Among 70 Nations Aiding Turkey After Quake

Men search for people among the debris in a destroyed building in Adana, Turkey, on Monday.

CAIRO — The 7.8 magnitude earthquake and multiple aftershocks that struck southern Turkey on Monday occurred at a time when the country has been increasing its presence as a mediator in the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. While 70 countries, including Japan, have started providing emergency assistance to Turkey by dispatching rescue teams, standing out are the swift responses of Ukraine and Russia, in addition to the United States and China.

“We were among the first to express readiness to help,” Ukrainian Ambassador to Turkey Vasyl Bodnar said on TV on Monday. “Currently, we are communicating regarding how we can assist.”

Bodnar also announced that his embassy had set up operating headquarters to gather information and oversee the activities of his country’s rescue teams.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted on social media, “I expressed condolences over the horrific tragedy that befell the people.”

Ankara has kept good relations with Moscow while also being close to Kyiv. Turkey contributed to the resumption of maritime transport of Ukrainian grain and the Turkish maker provided Ukraine with Bayraktar TB2 aerial drones at no charge.

Russia also moved quickly to provide support. Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone on Monday, expressing Moscow’s readiness to immediately provide necessary support.

According to Russian media, the Kremlin prepared three government airplanes on Monday to send rescue teams to Turkey and Syria. Early Tuesday, about 100 rescue workers from Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry arrived in Turkey.

In a statement, the Russian presidential office said that Erdogan “warmly thanked” Putin for “such a prompt and sincere response.”

NATO allies’ assistance

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Turkey is part of NATO, which counts the United States and much of western Europe as members.

U.S. President Joe Biden told Erdogan about U.S. assistance to Turkey during a teleconference. A White House statement on Monday said Biden “reaffirmed the readiness of the United States to provide any and all needed assistance to our NATO ally Turkey.”

The U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.K. Foreign Office announced on Monday they would each dispatch disaster response teams, experts in search and rescue operations, and disaster relief dogs. Sweden, whose relations with Turkey had deteriorated over Stockholm’s bid to join NATO, announced its intention to implement support measures as the current holder of the European Union presidency.

In recent years, U.S.-Turkey relations had chilled after Turkey introduced the Russian S-400 air defense system. However, Washington has been working to improve relations with Ankara following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Behind the announcements of support from NATO members facing off against Russia largely lies the alliance’s expectations that Erdogan will play a major role as a go-between.

Beijing has been heavily emphasizing its relations with Ankara, as the Turkey is a regional power participating in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

On Tuesday, China Central Television reported that the Beijing has decided to provide emergency aid worth 40 million yuan (about ¥780 million) to Turkey, including sending a medical team and relief supplies.