The Turkish politician Erdogan promotes a “particular relationship” with Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday.
Agency Anadolu | Agency Anadolu | Getty Images
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan referred to his country’s “special relationship” with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in an interview with CNN aired on Friday.
“We are not at a point where we would impose sanctions on Russia like the West has done. We are not bound by Western sanctions,” Erdogan told the network. “We are a strong state and have a positive relationship with Russia.”
“Russia and Turkey need each other in every possible area,” Erdogan said.
He added that the United Nations-Turkey-brokered Black Sea Grain Corridor Initiative, in which he played a key role in unlocking key Ukrainian grain exports that have been blocked by the Russian invasion, “is possible because of our special relationship with President Putin.” was”.
“The West is not taking a very balanced approach. You need a balanced approach to a country like Russia, which would have been a much happier approach,” he said.
Turkey’s powerful leader’s closeness to Putin, despite his membership in NATO, has made many Western leaders and diplomats nervous.
The comments came ahead of Turkey’s presidential runoff, the second round of a highly explosive and tense race to be played on May 28, as neither Erdogan nor his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu got more than 50% of the vote in the first round.
Leading by a few points in the first vote, Erdogan leans toward his image of a strong nationalist leader opposed to Western domination despite Turkey’s membership in NATO. Kilicdaroglu, meanwhile, has promised to strengthen Turkey’s ties with the West and NATO. Turkey is home to the alliance’s second largest military after the United States and is home to 50 American tactical nuclear warheads.
Erdogan has played a mediating role between Ukraine and Russia since the beginning of the war, sending aid and weapons to Ukraine and arranging prisoner exchanges, but also significantly expanding its trade relations with Russia.
His decision not to heed Western calls for sanctions on Russia has served Turkey’s economy well so far; According to Turkey’s Statistics Institute, its trade with Russia doubled from $34.73 billion in 2021 to $68.19 billion in 2022. Russian tourists and expatriates, including billionaire oligarchs who managed to escape sanctions, flocked into the country as their travel options have been severely restricted.
In early 2023, Putin waived the cost of Russian gas exports to Turkey, a move widely viewed as an attempt to improve Erdogan’s election chances.
Turkey’s imports from Russia almost doubled last year to $58.85 billion, pushing Russia ahead of China as Turkey’s most important trading partner. Turkey is now the destination for 7% of Russian exports, up from 2% in 2021.
Erdogan has also been accused of obstructing NATO expansion by refusing to approve the membership of Sweden, which applied to join the alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine.
The addition of a new country to the alliance requires the unanimous approval of its existing members. Turkey accepted Finland’s membership in March after lengthy negotiations, but has been reticent about Sweden because Ankara believes Stockholm supports terrorist groups that have harmed Turkey. Whether Erdogan will back down to Sweden if he wins the May 28 election is an open question.