It’s been announced that Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan will go to St. Petersburg to hold a personal meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin this Tuesday. According to Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, it will be the first personal meeting of the two leaders since November 2015 that will focus on the restoration of bilateral relations between Russia and Turkey that deteriorated rapidly after the downing of Russia’s Su-24 over Syria. It’s been reported that the two presidents will be holding talks with businessmen and may even discuss the compensation that Turkey will pay for the destruction of the Russian military aircraft.
Last time Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met was in November 2015 at the G20 summit in the Turkish city of Antalya. Less than two weeks later the Turkish Air Force brought down a Russian bomber over Syria, which resulted in the diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries being frozen.
The importance of this meeting for Turkey is being stressed by the fact that Erdogan is going to leave Turkey to take this trip, in spite of the extremely complicated domestic situation that his country faces. This shows that Ankara is truly interested in the restoration of multi-dimensional partnership with Russia. It’s no wonder that the Foreign Policy would note that the St. Petersburg meeting is more than just another summit – it is the opening ceremony for a broader Turkish tilt toward Moscow. And it’s perfectly logical since Erdogan’s internal policies are making Ankara gravitate towards Moscow with an increasing speed.
Its been noted that for the past two weeks a steady parade of Turkish ministers have flown to Moscow to lay the groundwork – confirmation that the Turkish-Russian relationship, on ice for the past eight months, is headed for a summer thaw. The aftermath of the recent failed military coup, that was prepared by the CIA in a bid to put an end to Erdogan’s political career and, quite possibly, his life has pushed Turkey away from the West and toward Russia From the outset of the coup Putin offered his support for Erdogan, in contrast to Secretary of State John Kerry’s initial equivocations. Predictably, that contrast has only grown sharper over the past two weeks: while Russia has raised no objections to Erdogan’s attempt to locate Gulen’s supporters in the key government institutions, the West has regularly criticized his crackdowns, with Kerry even threatening Turkey’s membership in NATO.
The Week would note that while going forward, we should expect both countries to cooperate even more, while Turkey, a NATO member, will distance itself further from the West. In turn, L’Hebdo, the prominent Swiss media source, rests assured that the West has every reason to fear Putin’s meeting with Erdogan, while NATO states are riddled with anxiety, since there’s little doubt that the meeting of the two presidents will mark the final reconciliation step between Moscow and Ankara. The newspaper notes that Turkey is a pivotal NATO member that occupies a strategic position on the crossroads between the West, the Arab world, the Caucasus and Russia. The 315 thousand men strong Turkish army is the second largest in the alliance, and even if it seems disoriented today, Turkish government would gradually restore its control over this force.
In terms of economy and trade balance, Turkey is much closer to Russia than it is to the United States, the newspaper notes, while the turnover between Moscow and Ankara has already reached 35 billion dollars, it is believed that this number will reach 100 billion dollars by 2020. The European Union is not much of a partner for Ankara too, since the former is riddled with ideological conflicts, security challenges, economic stagnation, and the notorious Brexit. The idea that Erdogan can reintroduce death penalty, should Turkish people demand it, wouldn’t have quite the same effect on Moscow than it would have on the EU, notes L’Hebdo.
The French Liberation provides a much tougher analysis on the upcoming meeting in St. Petersburg, since its analysts are convinced that the rapprochement between Putin and Erdogan is a true catastrophe and that Europe has never been weaker in face of this duo.
Recently anti-American sentiments have been on the rise in Turkey due to the claims that Washington was behind the failed military coup in Turkey and the reluctance of American authorities to extradite the self exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, which is believed to be the mastermind behind the anti-government operation in Ankara. It is reported that anti-American rallies are spreading rapidly across the country. Protesters have even reached the Incirlik base, which is not simply NATO’s strongest foothold in the Mediterranean, but is also the place where the US stores its nuclear warheads.
Moreover, Ankara has recently changed its rhetorics on the downing of Russia’s aircraft over Syria in November. According to the new version, Washington took part in the downing of Su-24, that was organized with the help of the Gulen movement. We are being told that one of the Turkish pilots involved has shown his true face when he agreed to bomb Ankara on the night of July 16.
However, the loss of Turkey as a NATO outpost in the Mediterranean is hardly an acceptable development for both the EU and the US. For this reason Turkey has recently been visited by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph F. Dunford, which hasn’t lost all hopes to make friends with Ankara yet again.
But we must not forget that Ankara’s abrupt turn towards Russia occurred when Turkey recognized that it was being prepared for the “future US president and her wars.” Turkey was the last state that was to be brought down by US intelligence services in order to collapse the whole region. It is not surprising that the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak Daily is convinced that “Ankara has grabbed America by the throat … and now it tightens the grip. “
The upcoming talks of the Russian and Turkish leaders will be held in the situation when politics has overcome economics. If Turkey shows its desire to change its stance on Syria and the fight against terrorism, Russia will cooperate with it, there can be no doubt about it. And if Ankara takes a more adequate negotiation position, we can await the creation of a geopolitical alliance.
So the White House and the West has every reason to be afraid of the upcoming meeting between Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin.
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”