The talks between the Russian and Turkish presidents in Sochi on May 3 showed that relations with Moscow play a very important role for the development of the Turkish Republic and can be vital for the further strengthening of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authority. Vladimir Avatkov, expert of the Valdai Discussion Club, associate professor at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, director of the Center for Oriental Studies, International Relations and Public Diplomacy, said this in an interview to valdaiclub.com.
Importance of relations with Russia for Turkey
After the referendum in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to Russia with a new set of credentials, which is very important in the context of making all the necessary joint decisions.
Moreover, for Erdogan, who has difficult relations with the European Union and the West as a whole, relations with Moscow play a very important role and can be vitally sufficient in terms of [strengthening] his own power and the development of the Republic of Turkey. Not to mention the influence that Turkey can play abroad and whether, in many respects, the supra-regional level is related to the success of the "Russia-Iran" talks on Syria.
Trade and economic relations between Turkey and Russia
As to trade relations, Russia cannot abruptly remove all existing restrictions that were imposed as retaliatory measures after the Turkish Republic took an unfriendly step towards Russia by shooting down a military aircraft.
In the near future Erdogan will have a difficult conversation with Trump. It is obvious that Turkey is trying to play on the balance of interests of Russia and the United States, offering its services to both the Russian and American sides. In this regard, Russia took a restrained position towards Turkey – Moscow will develop large mutually beneficial economic projects, primarily based on its own interests. If Turkey continues to move away from a strictly pro-Western policy and will move toward Russia, these restrictions will be gradually lifted.
S-400 air defense systems
Turkey should show its determination in terms of a departure from a purely pro-Western policy. One of such steps could be the purchase of Russian S-400 systems. However, while this issue is moving rather hard, because Turkey is a NATO country, and it has the second largest army in NATO. And the supply of Russian missile systems to the NATO country can be unambiguously perceived by Washington negatively.
It is also possible to organize joint Russian-Turkish production, which would be mutually beneficial from both economic and a political point of view. However, Turkey shows certain indecision in this direction – but it is important for it in terms of its own security, the country's defense capabilities.
Turkish strategy in Syria
Turkey from the very beginning of conflict in Syria stated that it is necessary to create a security zone and a no-fly zone over the territory of Syria, it advocated the creation of a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria. This is understandable, because it has a long border with Syria.
Turkey is not interested in further escalation; it is interested in peace and stability in Syria. But at the same time, it is important for Turkey that the present Syrian leadership (in particular, Assad) quit.
Turkey has made too many bets on this and now continues to insist on its well-known position. From the very beginning of the conflict, Erdogan said that Syria is an internal affair of Turkey. So, the Republic of Turkey takes what is happening in Syria to the heart and tries to influence the neighboring country, even by force (Turkish troops are in Syria in order to establish a more loyal authority suitable to Ankara). This clearly fits into the offensive policy of Turkey.
Another issue is that today Turkey realizes that it does not have enough resources to implement offensive policy, so Ankara will be more talkative about any medium solutions that would benefit many parties.