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Putin is unhappy that Erdoan's pro-West turn is harming Russian interests

Putin is unhappy that Erdoan's pro-West turn is harming Russian interests
Putin is unhappy that Erdoan's pro-West turn is harming Russian interests


Bnyamin Tekin

In a rare bilateral meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Moscow on Tuesday.

The meeting marks Putin's first meeting with Fidan since his appointment and came just a week after Putin criticized Turkey for deepening economic ties with Western financial institutions.

“Turkey has focused on obtaining loans, making investments and obtaining subsidies from Western financial institutions. It’s probably not a bad thing,” Putin said at a press conference on June 5, as quoted by Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency. “But if this is linked to the restriction of trade and economic relations with Russia, the Turkish economy will lose more than it gains. I think there is such a threat.

While Fidan met with Russian officials, World Bank President Ajay Banga was in Ankara to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan and Finance Minister Mehmet Imek. They discussed the cooperation framework program between Turkey and the World Bank, which recently doubled its exposure to Turkey to $35 billion.

Amid Western criticism and accusations that Russia is using Turkey to circumvent international sanctions related to the war in Ukraine, the U.S. Treasury has imposed sanctions on dozens of companies based in Turkey since the start of the war. However, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Jeff Flake said the United States achieves better results by working with Turkish authorities to suppress these activities.

Turkey imports more than 44% of its natural gas from Russia, but Western pressure has led to a decline in these imports. Between January and April, Russian exports to Turkey totaled $15 billion, down $2 billion from the same period the previous year, according to data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat). .

Putin acknowledged the decline, attributing it to price adjustments of key export and import products. “I hope we can correct this situation in the near future,” he said.

Turkey has maintained a balance between its NATO allies and Moscow, not joining Western sanctions against Russia while preventing Russian warships from accessing strategic straits and providing munitions and drones to Ukraine.

Putin criticized kyiv for using Turkish drones to target underwater pipelines in the Black Sea that supply gas to Turkey. Ukraine is trying to ram the pipelines carrying gas to Turkey. This is in no way a joke or an exaggeration, Putin said. Please inform our friend President Erdoan of the facts regarding this matter.

Earlier this year, Turkish officials announced that Putin would visit Turkey in February, but that visit did not take place. On Tuesday, Putin indicated his intention to meet Erdoan in person on July 3-4 in Astana, the Kazakh capital, on the sidelines of an international event.

Russian analyst Kerim Has highlighted the unusual nature of the meeting between Putin and Fidan, noting that it is rare for Putin to meet with foreign ministers, indicating important underlying problems. He suggested that economic tensions, particularly related to Turkey's growing economic dependence on Western economic ties, are key factors in strained relations.

Speaking to Turkish Minute, A noted that Putin had expressed concerns over high-tech weapons supplied to Ukraine capable of striking deep into Russian territory, calling them a significant asymmetric warfare threat. He also criticized Turkey for not opposing NATO's growing presence in the Black Sea and for its military cooperation with Ukraine, highlighting the contradictory position Turkey finds itself in.

Further discussed the economic aspects of Türkiye-Russia relations. He stressed that Putin's explanation for the decline in trade, attributing it to price adjustments, was misleading. Instead, Has suggested that the decline in trade was due to various problems stemming from Turkey's partial compliance with Western sanctions against Russia, although it did not have a formal policy in place. This compliance has caused disruptions in bilateral trade, according to Has.

Energy dependence remains a key element of relations between Turkey and Russia. While Turkey relies heavily on Russian natural gas, Putin's strategic delay in his visit to Turkey speaks to deeper unresolved problems. Unpaid debts and the blocking of the gas hub project indicate significant economic frictions, Has emphasizes. This tension is further compounded by Russia's reluctance to allow Turkey to control the prices of the Russian gas it sells to Europe, a stance that reflects Russia's strengthened position over the past two years as which concerns his war in Ukraine.

He also discussed the broader geopolitical implications of Turkey's actions. While Turkey's economic difficulties have forced it to turn more towards the West, Russia believes that its investments in Turkey, intended to circumvent Western sanctions, are threatened. This shift has led to increased pressure on Turkey from the West and Russia, creating a delicate balancing act for Turkey. The tense communication between Putin and Erdoan, with fewer direct interactions, reflects the growing volatility in their bilateral relations.

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