Turkey’s Choice: Russian Meat and Russian Yandex

In the Cold War years, the US and Europe were Turkey’s “global navigation” for integration with NATO and European institutions. This time, it is the Russian Yandex, which will probably be the new “navigation.”

The meeting between Turkish President Erdogan and Russian President Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS meeting in Johannesburg became a “hit” when they talked about a possible visit of President Putin to Turkey where he will be served with “Russian meat” at a restaurant. President Erdogan suggested that this should be realized as soon as possible. Indeed, the Turkish-Russian relations gained another momentum at the BRICS meeting in South Africa where Turkey represented the Organisation of Islamic Conference as its term chair. During the news conference, Erdogan said that the Turkish-Russian relations are so good at the moment that “some envy our relationship,” meaning the USA and the EU indirectly.

What Putin knows is that Turkey is “forced to go to the hands of Russia” as never ever before since World War II. It is up to President Putin to encounter this proposal. Turkey made a move like in chess, and now it is up to chess master Putin what move he will do.

Turkey’s interest in joining BRICS is certainly there but the Turkish economy today is not as good as it was in 2013 and this is a problem, as some economists indicate. Turkey’s economy needs a recovery period and in the last 3 years Turkey has not reached the expected growth rates due to the domestic developments and global crisis. Turkey’s “soft landing strategy” to become a member of BRICS remains an aspiration but for this Turkey should undertake new economic measures and increase the production in order to become attractive for BRICS.

Turkey’s new change to presidential system is expected to bring more economic and political stability and it will be seen how Turkey improves. Another question is of course whether the BRICS would accept “aspiring countries” for membership. Any possible membership in BRICS would strengthen Turkey’s international positions. In case of membership, the Turkey-Russia relations would also reach a new level in the regional and global context. Turkey is an economic and global asset for Russia’s new increasingly strong stance in international relations. One of the important points in the US-Russia relations is how to deal with Turkey. Turkey’s geo-economic, geostrategic and geopolitical position is more and more important for Russia and the relations between the two countries and two presidents are getting even closer.

Putin’s perception of Turkey plays an important role here. Russian support can facilitate Turkey’s membership in both BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. In the coming years, Russia will probably replace Europe as the “classical advocate of Turkey” in international politics. Then, there is no European leader who keeps “the hand of Turkey” but rather there are many European leaders who are even afraid to be seen in the same picture with the Turkish president. Take the example of Putin-Erdogan meeting in Johannesburg. Both leaders were relaxed, made jokes and happy for the next encounter while with any European leader the meeting of Erdogan is full of tension and grim faces. The last relaxed meeting of Erdogan was with the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder where they laughed, made jokes and were full of hope of Turkish membership in the EU. Today, interestingly, the only European leader who gives Erdogan equal treatment is President Putin.

The chemistry between Putin and Erdogan and between Turkey and Russia will lead to a new quality of relations in the future. It depends on Putin how he will show Erdogan the “way” amid the regional and global developments. In the Cold War years, the US and Europe were Turkey’s “global navigation” for integration with NATO and European institutions. This time, it is the Russian Yandex, which will probably be the new “navigation.” It remains to be seen if it leads to the right destination. After all, it is not the “navigation instrument” but the driver who does the driving. Erdogan seems determined to use Yandex this time. Putin should only offer “acceptable prices” for this. Then, “some other will further envy” this cooperation. For sure!

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.