How Far Will Russia and Turkey Go After Renewed Ties?

Erdogan’s new position reflects the view of Turkey’s political elite and voters, as a significant part of Turkish society is in favor of developing ties with Russia.

“I believe that our cooperation will greatly contribute to the resolution of many regional issues,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a meeting with Vladimir Putin on August 9 in Saint Petersburg. The talks lasted around two hours, and as a result, the sides agreed to return to the pre-crisis level of bilateral relations. Veniamin Popov, director of the Center for the Partnership of Civilizations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) talked to about whether the restoration of dialogue could be considered a Russian diplomatic victory.

“I would not say that Russia outplayed Turkey. The point is that the balance of power in the world has changed very rapidly. Turkey realized its mistakes and misjudgments and stepped forward to normalize relations with Russia, understanding that this is what reflects its deeper interests. We should give credit to the Turks, they found the courage, Erdogan apologized and came to Saint Petersburg to talk to Putin about the need to create a platform for the revival of cooperation, and go forward from there,” Popov told in a phone interview.

According to Popov, Erdogan understands what is going on in the West, and that there is little potential for further attempts to accede to the European Union.

“I would like to remind you of the unprecedented statement by former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who said that the Turks сan wait until year 3000 [to join the EU],” Popov added.

Popov also said that he considers the EU-Turkey agreement on refugees as lacking potential. He noted that it will not be carried out because “Turks are forced to changed their legislation, while the Turks are in the first place thinking of reinstating the death penalty to punish coup plotters.”

“Considering the fact that Turkey’s role in the Middle East is colossal and will continue to grow and intensify, I believe that what our diplomacy and our leadership did is a prudent and rational step,” Popov said.

Both Russia and Turkey are interested in a more intensive and extensive cooperation. It is a separate issue that this process will go through several stages because so many ties were destroyed in such a short period of time, according to Popov.

“The Turks incurred great losses. They realize this and understand that this should be remedied. This should be welcomed,” Popov said.

According to Popov, Erdogan’s new position also reflects the view of Turkey’s political elite and voters, as a significant part of Turkish society is in favor of developing ties with Russia.

“Turkey and Russia know each other pretty well. We had 13 wars, this is true. However, we remember that Ataturk was able to win only because of aid from Soviet Russia, and in the 1920s and 30s this was admitted by all. On Taksim Square, there is a Republic Monument, where alongside Ataturk there is a statue of Soviet Ambassador Semyon Aralov, who made a significant contribution to the supply of aid, coordinating weapons shipments and so on,” Popov said.

“A significant part of Turkish society was daunted by Turkey’s actions regarding the Russian plane. Even its direct supporters didn’t understand why relations with Russia, which were improving, had to be damaged,” he added.

According to Popov, the lesson learned by Turkey will act as a vaccine when it comes to further development of friendly, neighborly ties.
“Turkey will act rather consistently, also considering, of course, its own interests in economic cooperation with Russia,” Popov said.

Another stumbling block dividing Russia and Turkey for a long time has been the Syrian crisis. However, according to Popov, the Turkish military is going through difficult times after the coup attempt, and Syria is no longer a key focus.

“Right now, overthrowing Assad is far from a chief goal for Turkey. There are other, more important tasks. The army has to be reformed and renewed so that it would preserve its strength and, more importantly, would not attempt a second coup,” Popov said.

He added that it should be expected that Turkey will review its policy toward Syria.

“There have to be consultations and a serious dialogue, which can lead to a political solution of the Syrian crisis, because there is still no military solution,” he concluded.
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