Turkey and Russia: Friend or Foe?

Turkey and Russia are the collaborating competitors. They support opposing parties in Syria, Libya, the Caucasus and the Balkans.

However, Turkey has deeper economic binds with Russia than with the US. Hence, Moscow and Ankara are mindful to not allow any international conflicts to risk trade.

US-Turkey Tensions

After US President Joe Biden refused to a one-on-one meeting with his Turkish partner on (UNGA agenda. A frustrated Tayyip Erdogan told Turkish columnists in an interview that he had managed to work well with the previous presidents, however not with Biden.

A day after, on September 24, Erdogan criticized Biden for the second time saying that he and Biden failed to bridge their difference during his visit to New York and the new discussions with the US president had proved disappointing.

Turkey and Russian Alliance

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said after a day after meeting with President Vladimir Putin that Turkey is considering more joint deals with Russia in the defense business, including fighter planes and submarines.

The Turkish president also said that Turkey expected to purchase a second batch of S-400 missile defense system from Russia. Following Erdogan’s statement, the US Senate Panel on foreign relations cautioned that any new buys by Turkey would mean new sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), intended to deter foes from threatening activities.

The awkward alliance between Turkey and Russia

Turkey has purchased Russian missile defence systems and could purchase more equipment from Moscow. It imports Russian gas, hosts millions of Russian tourists. But, it has deployed troops in north Syria to push back Russian-supported Syrian government forces, and the two nations backed rival sides in the conflicts in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey and Russia energy ties

Russia has accounted for around 50% of gas imports to Turkey, which is intensely import-dependent for its energy needs, after slipping to 33% last year when a fundamental pipeline was under repair for four months.

Russian nuclear conglomerate, Rosatom, is building an atomic plant at Akkuyu in southern Turkey, which Putin has said will begin working in 2023.

Turkey’s exports to Russia are chiefly agricultural items, machinery, land vehicles and textiles. With everything taken into account, around 80% of bilateral trade volume is in favor of Russia.

Striking difference over Ukraine

Ankara and Moscow have pole-apart interests over Ukraine, which is related to a conflict with Russia over the annexation of Crimea. Turkey was among the first countries to voice support for the Crimea, which was started before the end of last year as a part of Ukraine’s strategy to clear Crimea of Russian forces.

Also read: Crimea water crisis opens a new chapter in the Russia-Ukraine conflict

The sour relationship between Turkey and Russia

The attack on a Turkish patrol in Idlib, killing two Turkish officers and injuring three, came at a critical time. The 24th November episode, when Turkey destroyed a Russian SU-24 military aircraft in Syria. It was a clear understanding of how things could turn extremely harsh between the two nations. Russia stopped nearly everything from Turkish organizations on its domains, to Russians visiting Turkey. Turkish military exercises in Syria were also effected. Russia enforced its position in Syria with refined military equipment including air defence systems. It took a great deal of exertion to fix the strained relations.

President Erdoğan and Putin are liked by many, as carbon copy in their method of dealing with overall political issues. They may not be best of friends. But, they have set up a sort of working relationship, based on mutual interest and benefit. This relationship plays a significant and surprisingly important part in the present-day situation of Turkey-Russia relations.

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