Becoming a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is a prestigious step for any country looking to be included in the global market. But it entails the entrant to abide by certain rules that protect both the seller and the buyer.
Members have to see trade as a mutually beneficial transaction rather than a weapon that can be used against perceived enemies. The Russian Federation went through an arduous process to be admitted into the WTO in 2012, persuading many doubtful countries of its credentials as a trustworthy addition to global commerce.
However, it didn't take too long for Russia, led by President Vladimir Putin, to prove that the outmoded reflexes that dominated the Soviet Union had not receded into history. Moscow almost immediately showed that it was willing to exploit its rich resources to dominate its trade partners or settle diplomatic scores, flouting its ability to ignore the codes of conduct that usually govern bilateral trade.
The first natural gas crisis with Ukraine already signaled in which direction things were headed. In the recent crisis, over the downing of a Russian fighter jet that had violated Turkey's airspace, Moscow instantly chose to exploit the growing trade ties between the two countries.
Russia not only violated the proper norms of diplomatic conduct by violating Turkey's airspace despite repeated warnings, it also deigned it appropriate to throw the accepted rules of commerce out of the window by taking steps including, but not exclusive to, detaining visiting Turkish businessmen, refusing to allow Turkish produce to enter its markets, threatening Turkish investors and banning Russian tourists from holidaying in Turkish resorts. The latest childish outburst from Moscow was to end the relaxed visa agreement between the two countries that aimed to expand trade.
Moscow's trade partners across the world are and should be worried about such behavior.
Its past actions had already forced Europe and Turkey to seek alternative sources of energy in light of its untrustworthiness as a dependable conduit. The recent escalation by Russia will only result in this search to become more urgent.
Every businessperson buying from or selling to Russia needs to search for alternative markets. Turkey, which authorized the Russian state-owned firm Atomstroyexport to build and manage a nuclear plant in Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast, is no longer confident that this crucial project will be completed.
It would be no surprise if this project will be rescinded and given to a firm from the U.S. or another ally.
Russia's blatant use of its resources and know-how as a weapon will alienate its trade partners, eliminate its trustworthiness and consequently impoverish its own people.
Russia's recent actions will not only force Turkey, which had seen it as a trusted friend, to see it in a different light, it will also signal to all concerned that Moscow, which is waging a trade war against all who it perceives as an opponent to the detriment of its own citizens, cannot be a reliable trade partner.