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On August 9, 2016, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Russia and met with his counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to discuss restoring the relations between the two countries. RIAC Director General Andrey Kortunov comments on the current situation in bilateral relations and the challenges they face.

On August 9, 2016, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Russia and met with his counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to discuss restoring the relations between the two countries. RIAC Director General Andrey Kortunov comments on the current situation in bilateral relations and the challenges they face.

What are the prospects of Turkey-Russia relations?

First of all, I think that there were complications in the relations between the two countries long before the Russian aircraft was grounded by Turks. The two countries had dissident views on very serious international problems. Of course, the dialogue can be restored, and this is what we see happening right now. Still, both Russia and Turkey will require a lot of political will, a lot of patience, a lot of flexibility, if they really want to reconcile the differences that they have.

For instance, neither Russia nor Turkey is interested in the disintegration of the Syrian state and I think that both sides are concerned about a potential political and strategic vacuum in this country that might spread further across the Middle East. So, I think that if they do believe that this challenge is compelling enough to put aside some tactical disagreements, they may come up with a formula that will serve both Moscow and Ankara.

Both Erdogan and Putin are disappointed with their relations with the West, for different reasons.

What unites Russia and Turkey?

First of all, both Erdogan and Putin are disappointed with their relations with the West, for different reasons. Although Russia and Turkey have different vís-a-vís stories with the European Union, most are convinced that both countries feel they are not treated properly, that they are not respected enough by their Western counterparts. This is something that definitely unites Russia and Turkey. Also, both states are Eurasian countries, and they have ambiguous identities. Both claim they are European countries but at the same time they’re more than just European, they have the Asian dimension as well.



If the West shuts its door in front of Putin and Erdogan, they can look for other alternatives.

What message does this meeting send to the West?

I think that both leaders would like to make a case that the West is not the only game in town, that they have other options, and that if the West shuts its door in front of Putin and Erdogan, they can look for other alternatives.

Do you think Russia can dislodge Turkey as a NATO member?

In Russia there are no allusions about Turkey’s membership in NATO. I don’t think anyone here in Moscow believes that Turkey might leave NATO. But at the same time, everybody knows that Turkey is a very special NATO member. For example, during the Iraqi War back in 2003, Turkey denied the international coalition access to its airspace. It didn’t allow the United States and the United Kingdom to use its military infrastructure to invade Iraq. Likewise, during the recent migration crisis, Turkey, at least for some time, was very hesitant to let NATO do patrolling in its territorial waters. So, I think that Moscow understands that Turkey is a NATO member but it might have very special views on issues of importance compared to other NATO members. This is something that Russia keeps in mind.

Trump is a loose cannon and he might play both ways. He might do something to change relations for the better but he can also deepen the crisis.

The American Republican Candidate Donald Trump has made positive remarks about Erdogan and Putin. Do you see a possibility of the relationships between Russia, Turkey, and the USA improving if Trump is elected?

I think that it is possible. I think Trump is capable of unorthodox decisions and he might turn the page and start a new chapter with both Moscow and Ankara. However, I would not count on that because Trump is a loose cannon and he might play both ways. He might do something to change relations for the better but he can also deepen the crisis. I think this is the danger with politicians who do have a lot of experience in international relations and who might be guided by their emotions, by their egos, and by their personal perceptions.

Originally published by Nieuwsuur.

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