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Russia and Turkey: from the alliance of convenience to the strategic partnership

3 September 2023

Shortly before the meeting of the RF President Vladimir Putin and the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Moscow hosted the negotiations of the head of diplomatic services of both countries Sergey Lavrov and Hakan Fidan. According to the RF Foreign Affairs Minister, Moscow welcomes the independent foreign policy of Ankara. For the West this position of Turkey is a serious irritator. Constructive and equal interaction of Russia and Turkey is mutually beneficial in this context, Lavrov emphasized.

The Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies presents herein its view on the Russian-Turkish relations outlook and their possible configuration.

Searching for new ideas and narratives of the cooperation

During the recent two decades, all the policy of Turkey was determined by a charismatic figure of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He is a tough, sometimes aggravating politician of personalist type, who is a personal guarantor of many agreements and compromises. It is important to understand that Erdogan is not pro-Russian or pro-Western, he is exclusively a pro-Turkish politician. For example, the Turkish President is building his current policy to a great extent on continuation of cooperation with Russia, but he often allows the «unfriendly gestures» to enhance the negotiating capacity of Ankara. Another example is a sudden link of the issue of Sweeden accessing NATO with the accession of Turkey to the European Union just on the eve of the NATO summit. [1]

It means that the national interests are a priority for Erdogan, and he does not intend to lose any of his bonuses. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a clear-cut objective to turn Tukey into one of the key powers in the world. According to many analysts, «good relations with Russia are nothing but one of the important resources to implement this objective. However, in the near five years, our two countries are destined to a pragmatic alliance, because Russian investment into Turkish economy are mutually beneficial and strengthen the capabilities of both countries, while Turkey helps Russia in overcoming the sanctions-related pressure». [2]

Life itself prompts Moscow and Ankara to build closer relations. All the efforts of the West to turn Russia and Turkey into rogue states or to exercise external pressure for changing their political leaders turned out to be in vain. Recently, Recep Tayyip Erdogan successfully was re-elected for the new five-year term. Internal political consolidation around the figure of Russian President Vladimir Putin only increased during the time of special military operation. It means that both leaders deserved the support of the overwhelming majority of their citizens. This is the outcome of their decades-long successful activities, the evaluation of their energy and capability to firmly stand for the national interests.

At the same time, Putin and Erdogan both demonstrate a rare skill for negotiating, striking compromises and finding non-standard solutions in the seeming situations of deadlock. Such «leaders diplomacy» is based on mutual trust and deep understanding of the value of the bilateral cooperation. One can say that the Western sanctions turned out to be a catalyst for further rapprochement of our leaders and combining the efforts of our countries in an even closer alliance. [3]

During the recent year and a half, the interconnection between Russia and Turkey has grown many times, and this happened in various spheres from trade and logistics to energy and security. Our partnership has survived the test of time and the stress test in the context of external pressure. The time has come to convert the alliance of convenience between Moscow and Ankara into a robust strategic alliance. We are talking here about combining the efforts for the sake of joint dominance and for the sake of protection against the external enemies. Such an alliance is based on political pragmatism, account of the national and common interests, combining the capabilities for achieving the synergy effect. Within such an alliance each country will maintain its independence, autonomy and cultural identity. Our alliance will be capable of finding solutions to the most challenging and «frozen» conflicts across the entire Eurasia, not only in the FSU area. Simply speaking, Russia and Turkey together will be able to completely change the balance of forces in Eurasia.

Today, Eurasia has turned into the zone of political turbulence. The traditional boundaries are destroyed, many countries disappear and state structures break into pieces under the influence of external forces. Simultaneously, relicts of the old aggressive projects come to the surface from within the oblivion starting from the new Rzeczpospolita (the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 16th 18th centuries) to reincarnation of the British Empire. Our countries Russia and Turkey are right in the heart of  Eurasia and have always played the role of the «bonding element». Together we are responsible for the destiny of our common continent, which again may turn into a battlefield. Across many centuries, Russia and Turkey have been powerful empires poly-ethnic and multi-confessional. And today dozens of the new states having emerged in these territories are still looking at us. The logic of history requires that we fill the political, economic and cultural vacuum at the interface of Europe and Asia preventing the imminent chaos.

Russian stake on Turkey

In the previous centuries Russia and Turkey had too many wars between them. They were often long and destructive, sometimes they ended without any strategic benefits for any side, but more in the interests of others. In the 21st century, the political establishment of both countries could come up with a correct conclusion compromises are better than wars, and we need to stand together in the «grey zone» of overlapping interests. Our recent history contains many examples of our joint efforts of counteracting external pressure. Exactly one hundred years ago, in 1923, Moscow sent weapons, gold and its best commanders (Kliment Voroshilov, Mikhail Frunze and Semen Aralov) to help the young Turkish Republic. Our counties continue to follow the logic of special relations. Thus, Ankara did not support anti-Russian sanctions in 2008 after the conflict with Georgia, in 2014 after the Crimea accession, or in 2022 after the start of the special military operation in Ukraine. Joint action of Russia and Turkey led to remarkable success in Syria, Libya and especially in Southern Caucasus during the Second Karabakh War. Together we turned out to be capable of successful resolving many frozen conflicts, opened opportunities for new transit routes, such as Trans-Caspian and Zangezur corridors.

Russia sees Turkey as an important and reliable strategic partner in the long-term prospective. This is why Moscow decisively supported Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the recent presidential race. And we can be frank, that was not just moral support or the so-called «verbal investment». It is no secret, that today Turkish active foreign policy is limited by domestic economic challenges. Russia provided significant support to its ally in the form of privileged  supplies of grain, energy sources and other natural resources, as well as substantial cash injections. Moscow opened up the huge Russian market and the markets of some FSU countries for direct supplies of Turkish goods, as well as allowed priority operations for some Turkish firms. In return, Ankara helped Russia to overcome the trade blockade along the Western vector and received significant benefits from such joint activities.

Moscows priorities in the Ukrainian conflict contributed to enhancing Ankaras international value as a global actor and that of the Turkish President personally as a unique negotiator.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is one of the very few global politicians who has an opportunity to openly and straightforwardly talk to President Putin. The new five-year term of Erdogan may facilitate the achieved dynamics and bring the Russian-Turkish relations to the high strategic orbit. The launch of Akkuyu, the first nuclear power plant in Turkey in 2023 together with other important Russian projects, such as the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and the single gas-distribution hub, noticeably enhanced the multi-folded partnership of our countries. Now it is time to bring Russian-Turkish cooperation to the new quality level and to execute the binding strategic partnership agreement. This analytical document has the objective to identify the key milestones along the way of closer rapprochement of Russia and Turkey with the framework of the strategic alliance.

Politics and security

First of all, the standing strategic mechanism Russia Turkey needs to be established for regular exchange of opinions on bilateral connections, regional and international issues. The Annual Forum for Russian-Turkish Strategic Cooperation needs to be established to take place alternately in both countries. This Forum will become the platform for discussing the promising areas on interaction between Russia and Turkey, will contribute to enhancing the bilateral relations, diversifying business contacts, promoting interaction between the representatives of government authorities, business community, experts and analysts of the two countries.

A separate cooperation agreement needs to be executed between the Security Councils of Russia and Turkey, which will have regular joint sessions alternately in Ankara and in Moscow. The diplomatic efforts also need coordination by way of establishing special advisory bodies on the main foreign policy vectors in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both countries.

Big efforts are needed to coordinate the activities of the Ministries of Defense, General Staffs and defense industries of our countries. Russia and Turkey both have the strongest and most effective armies on the boundaries of Europe, which undergo advanced modernization and are focused on their internal resources. Russia is ready to provide all the possibilities to its ally for joint operation and manufacturing the innovative aerospace and missile systems, up to creating the 5th generation fighter aircraft based on Su-57 platform. Similar to Russian-Indian project BraMos, the joint venture of Russia and Turkey could be established to manufacture new generation of cruise missiles based on Calber system. Russia is interested in building the site producing Turkish UAVs Bayraktar and high-precision munition for them with 100% localization. The joint Russian-Turkish air defense / missile defense system based on S-400 and S-500 is also a promising project providing for a reliable security umbrella for the entire continental Eurasia.

Regular consultations of the General Staffs of Russia and Turkey, joint military conferences and anti-terrorist drills will allow for generating common responses to numerous external threats. The coordinated activities of Russian and Turkish navies will make the Black Sea our inner basin and will turn the neighboring Mediterranean area into the area of peaceful cooperation. The efforts to coordinate the activities of the intelligence services and security agencies can significantly increase the security in Russia and in Turkey, as well as in the adjacent territories. Moscow is also ready to provide the state-of-the-art technologies in the sphere of «Safe City» required for efficient counteracting terrorism, for investigations against criminal and illegitimate groups. On-line data exchange between law enforcement agencies and secret services, new agreements in the sphere of investigations and extradition of criminals will allow for stabilizing the situation in the domestic policy and for setting up a reliable barrier to terrorism and spies. In general, coordination of foreign policy, defense and intelligence between Moscow and Ankara will create a conceptually new system of collective security in Eurasia.

Foreign policy system

In general, Russia supports the growth of Turkey as a regional super-power, which is emphasized in the new concept of «The Turkish Centennial». Moscow is interested in the progress of Turkey as a strong strategic ally capable of constructive partnership and consideration of mutual interests. We believe this to be the main difference between the foreign policy of Turkey and the collective West countries focused on tough confrontation and one-sided advantages. Russia is sympathetic about gradual empowerment of Ankara, first of all in its traditional Ottoman Empire range with a focus on the Middle East and the Balkans. The South Caucasus and Central Asia remain the zone of mutual interests, where Russia is a political moderator and security provider, while Turkey is implementing its cultural, trade and logistics projects. Joint activities of Moscow and Ankara will contribute to conciliation in Syria and effective resolution of the Kurdish issue.

The project of the unified gas distribution hub in Turkey creates a conceptually new geopolitical situation for the countries of Southern Europe and the Balkans. For decades, these countries were on the fringes of European integration, because the efforts of Brussels had paused their economic development. Now the countries of Southern Europe and the Balkans get reliable access to cheap energy from Russia and Caspian countries (mainly from Azerbaijan), which allows their economies for taking a new quantum leap. The role of Hungary will grow significantly as it will become along with Turkey the energy and political «switchboard» for this high-potential macro-region. Special relations between Budapest and Ankara in Western organizations, first of all -in the EU and NATO are capable of serving the example of the national interests  lobbying for other European countries. In the nearest decade, the region of Southern Europe and the Balkans will be an important activity vector for the Russian-Turkish alliance. Eventually, this macro-region will become a new growing point in Europe as a counterbalance for stagnating countries of Central and Northern Europe.

Currently, there are over 7 mln Turks living in the countries of «Old Europe». They invested their efforts into creating the European «miracle economy», and in exchange they received nothing but discrimination based on their ethnic origin and religion. Such segregation is recorded in the Netherlands, Great Britain, France and especially Germany, where the abridgment of the Turkish minority is of a structural character and is secretly supported by Berlin. Now it's time for Europe to pay the bills in order to assure comfortable life for local Turks. On top of that, the European Union should allocate funds for migration and set-up in its territory for at least half of the total number of Syrian refugees currently placed in Turkey. We believe that a pro-Turkish party «Movement for rights and freedoms» should be established in Turkey to promote the interests of the influential Turkish expat community and the entire European Islamic Ummah in the Bundestag and in the European Parliament. The position of the Vice-Chancellor of Germany for migration and multi-culturalism should be reserved for ethnic Turks. In essence, with the support of Russia Turkey will become of the key powers determining all the European policy.

Economic cooperation

Modern Turkey belongs to top-20 of the world major economies and holds the 11th position in terms of GDP ratio to the purchasing-power parity. The potential of trade and economic relations with Turkey is quite big it is the second largest trading partner for Russia after China. At the St.-Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) Maxim Oreshkin, the aid to the RF President, quite fairly remarked: «we have not implemented even 50% of the potential of our cooperation». [4] At present, the cooperation with Turkey is successfully progressing in the following areas: nuclear power generation, defense industry, joint investment into oil-and-gas industry and metallurgy. In modern environment, comprehensive review of the long-term cooperation between Ankara and Moscow is required with account of geopolitical, economic and human resources issues. We believe that at the very top level, policy should define the new vectors of economic cooperation between Russia and Turkey.

Despite the positive dynamics of Russian-Turkish relations development, there are some important problems requiring political solution at the level of the country leaders. For example, at present Russian export exceeds import from Turkey approximately 7.5 times. According to the Institute of Statistics of Turkey TurkStat, during 9 months of 2022 the trade turnover of our two countries made USD 50.3 bn. The share of Russian export to Turkey was USD 44.6 bn, mainly due to fuel-and-energy products (51.5%), while the share of Turkish import into Russia made only USD 5.7 bn. [5] Russia and Turkey have all the capabilities to achieve the turnover of USD 100 bn by 2024. However, the trade imbalance limits the possibilities of Turkey to use Rubles in trade finance (now settlements in Rubles do not exceed 10% of the turnover). According to the experts, to achieve the balanced transition to national currencies making 100% of the trade turnover, Turkish import into Russia should increase many-fold and ideally reach the parity with Russian export.

In modern conditions, accumulation of the unfriendly countries currencies (USD and EUR) from selling Russian energy sources should be replaced with efficient investment into Turkish assets and buying Turkish goods and services. For example, during the last years of the USSR, about 25% of natural gas imported into Turkey was paid for with construction contracts services. Back then, Turkish contractors demonstrated success in building housing, malls, business centers and hotels. Today the Turkish companies are building the energy infrastructure facilities, airports, stadiums, industrial sites and healthcare centers. Their role in building highways, tunnels and bridges in Russia is still not very big, there is a big growth potential here. Engaging Turkish developers into the state-funded programs of roads infrastructure development and building new Russian cities may significantly contribute to solving the problem of the trade misbalance and will be very useful for the Russian Federation. [6]

Traditional export from Russia to Turkey consists of oil, gas and grain. Nowadays, there are new prospects emerging for expanding the range of Russian export mineral fertilizers, steel, gold, coal, timber and other goods. In exchange, Turkey may supply agricultural, construction and mining machinery, packing equipment, systems for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, elevators, equipment for textiles manufacturing and for healthcare, spare parts for cars. As was mentioned earlier, Turkish companies may be of demand in the infrastructure building and upgrading projects: construction of subway stations, water treatment facilities, waste recycling plants, highways, water mains and distribution networks. Turkish products have good chances of occupying the niches in Russia after some major foreign companies leaving the country clothes, household chemicals, personal hygiene products, cosmetics, construction materials. Subject to the proper political decisions, the economies of our two countries could be mutually complementary forming a huge common economic space resistant to external impacts.

Development opportunities

In the new geopolitical realities, there is a set of new opportunities for the economies of Russia and Turkey. Industrial cooperation, agriculture, import of hi-tec products with high value added, energy for export these are the key areas for cooperation of Russian and Turkish businesses.

Cooperation in the energy sphere is the first priority of our economic partnership. Turkey is the third biggest buyer of Russian crude oil after China and India. In addition, Turkey is the transit corridor for sea shipments via Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits using the tanker fleet carrying Russian oil to South-Eastern Asia. Turkey uses up to 45% of Russian natural gas, is building the Akkuyu nuclear power plant together with the RF and intends to build two more similar nuclear power plants. The start of implementing the gas hub project in Turkey is scheduled for the fall of 2023, it will be turning a new page in Russian-Turkish cooperation in the energy sphere. [7]

The second vector of cooperation is the most important nowadays supplying the sanctioned products under the parallel import schemes. Turkey is an important link between Europe and Russia, this country is very convenient from the standpoint of warehouses and logistics and has great practical experience of transiting the goods prohibited for export from Europe to Iran. The logistics capabilities and strategic location of Turkey make it a very important transportation hub for Russia. According to some experts, the trade turnover in 2023 will reach the level of USD 80 bn, there are also all the opportunities for its multi-fold growth during the next five years of Erdogans presidency. The biggest growth potential is seen in supplying the products of the Turkish engineering industry, which today does not exceed 2% of the overall imports of machinery and equipment into Russia. [8]

The third important vector is industrial cooperation between Russia and Turkey among the small and medium-size businesses (SME). Today, small Turkish businesses received a great chance for bringing their products to the Russian market, the access to which used to be very difficult for them due to big marketing budgets and lobbyism of European groups. Our common task is to quickly substitute the products of Western brands who left Russia by more affordable Turkish analogues.

New opportunities emerge for Russian companies as well. For example, production outsourcing placing orders at Turkish enterprises in accordance with the required output parameters. This will allow for decreasing the load on the production sites inside Russia and use the scarce components, which are not under sanctions in Turkey. It is also possible to manufacture Russian sanctioned components using the equipment purchased from Turkey. In these conditions of sanctions SMEs have a series of noticeable advantages vs the major businesses. As a rule, their activities are not associated with dual-use technologies, more flexible and do not attract such attention of the Western regulators. As we can see, all the levels of economic interaction from global energy to SMEs need to be engaged in our strategic alliance.

Tasks for the future

The strategic alliance of Russia and Turkey is focused on achieving greater economic and political self-sufficiency, both for our two countries and for our allies. From import phase-out and parallel import, we need to switch to industrial cooperation and development of our own technological solutions. This will allow to maintain the stable high level of food, technological and energy autonomy irrespective of geopolitical and other external factors, as well as to survive the global crises will the least possible damages. For example, from one-off  «grain deals» we need to start forming the «food security belt». Russian and Turkey together with the members of the Organization of Turkic States need to create the grain alliance, to organize the supplies of seeds and mineral fertilizers, to assure the manufacturing of the entire range of all the required agricultural machinery, as well as equipment for processing and distribution of food products. This will allow for controlling the social and economic situation in our two countries and across huge territories of Eurasia.

Russia will keep its significant advantages in the advanced technological spheres, such as aerospace, nuclear power generation, defense industry. Our country is ready to share its most innovative developments with Ankara including assistance in launching Turkish cosmonauts and building space launch complexes. To assure technological sovereignty, our countries need to join efforts to accumulate technologies, knowledge, engineers and skilled workforce. The Turkish party is especially focused on the joint projects at the level of the leading universities is such areas as robotics, equipment for mechanical engineering, development of innovative materials with high performance parameters. The Russian party is interested in quick retrofit and assuring access to the new markets. The experience of Turkey in organizing industrial zones and tax-free zones may be instrumental here, such zones may be targeted at the markets of the EU, Central Africa, Middle East and Central Asia.

Close integration in all the spheres of economy should be walking hand in hand with integration in joint political projects. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated earlier that Turkey had the intent to become a full-fledged member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Turkey and Azerbaijan have the possibility of accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), for example, as observer countries. In its turn, Russia should start the process of joining the Organization of Turkic States (OTS), at first also in the status of observer. For that Russia with such huge regions speaking Turkic languages ad Tatarstan and Bashkortostan has even more solid grounds than Hungary. Such multi-faceted integration will allow for Moscow and Ankara to significantly enhance the capabilities of their foreign trade association including in the conditions of the long-term sanctions; to actively interact within the Caspian infrastructural and energy projects; to jointly implement common development projects within the strategic alliance of Russia and Turkey.

1. Erdogan linked the possibility of Sweden accessing NATO with opening the way to the EU for Turkey. INTERFAX.RU, 10.07.2023. https://www.interfax.ru/world/910906

2. The Turkish Centennial: Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the grand-master of the global geopolitics. Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies, 04.06.2023. https://caspian.institute/product/sektor-turcii-kisi/stoletie-turcii-redzhep-tajip-ehrdogan-kak-grossmejster-mirovoj-geopolitiki-38422.shtml

3. The  future of Eurasia is in Russian-Turkic strategic alliance. Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies. https://caspian.institute/product/ciss/rossijsko-tyurkskij-soyuz-kak-budushchee-evrazii-37966.shtml

4. Oreshkin claims Russia and Turkey have great cooperation potential. TASS,16.06.2023. https://tass.ru/ekonomika/18043863

5. Turkey dramatically decreased buying Russian feedstock. RBC, 30.11.2022. https://www.rbc.ru/economics/30/11/2022/638602f99a79472bce60e46f

6. Turkish potential: examples of cooperation with Turkish construction firms in the sphere of highway and transportation infrastructure. Stroitelnaya Gazeta, 15.06.2023. https://stroygaz.ru/publication/biznes/turetskiy-potentsial-primery-sotrudnichestva-s-turetskimi-stroitelnymi-kompaniyami-v-sfere-dorozhno-/

7. Erdogan intends to create a gas hub in Turkey together with Russia. TASS, 29.05.2023. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/17866087

8. Alexander Kostrov: Turkey is the connecting link between Europe Russia. ZHAZHDA business journal, 29.05.2023. https://zhazhda.biz/interviews/aleksandr-kostrov

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Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Reports

Russia and Turkey: from the alliance of convenience to the strategic partnership

3 2023

Shortly before the meeting of the RF President Vladimir Putin and the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Moscow hosted the negotiations of the head of diplomatic services of both countries Sergey Lavrov and Hakan Fidan. According to the RF Foreign Affairs Minister, Moscow welcomes the independent foreign policy of Ankara. For the West this position of Turkey is a serious irritator. Constructive and equal interaction of Russia and Turkey is mutually beneficial in this context, Lavrov emphasized.

The Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies presents herein its view on the Russian-Turkish relations outlook and their possible configuration.

Searching for new ideas and narratives of the cooperation

During the recent two decades, all the policy of Turkey was determined by a charismatic figure of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He is a tough, sometimes aggravating politician of personalist type, who is a personal guarantor of many agreements and compromises. It is important to understand that Erdogan is not pro-Russian or pro-Western, he is exclusively a pro-Turkish politician. For example, the Turkish President is building his current policy to a great extent on continuation of cooperation with Russia, but he often allows the «unfriendly gestures» to enhance the negotiating capacity of Ankara. Another example is a sudden link of the issue of Sweeden accessing NATO with the accession of Turkey to the European Union just on the eve of the NATO summit. [1]

It means that the national interests are a priority for Erdogan, and he does not intend to lose any of his bonuses. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a clear-cut objective to turn Tukey into one of the key powers in the world. According to many analysts, «good relations with Russia are nothing but one of the important resources to implement this objective. However, in the near five years, our two countries are destined to a pragmatic alliance, because Russian investment into Turkish economy are mutually beneficial and strengthen the capabilities of both countries, while Turkey helps Russia in overcoming the sanctions-related pressure». [2]

Life itself prompts Moscow and Ankara to build closer relations. All the efforts of the West to turn Russia and Turkey into rogue states or to exercise external pressure for changing their political leaders turned out to be in vain. Recently, Recep Tayyip Erdogan successfully was re-elected for the new five-year term. Internal political consolidation around the figure of Russian President Vladimir Putin only increased during the time of special military operation. It means that both leaders deserved the support of the overwhelming majority of their citizens. This is the outcome of their decades-long successful activities, the evaluation of their energy and capability to firmly stand for the national interests.

At the same time, Putin and Erdogan both demonstrate a rare skill for negotiating, striking compromises and finding non-standard solutions in the seeming situations of deadlock. Such «leaders diplomacy» is based on mutual trust and deep understanding of the value of the bilateral cooperation. One can say that the Western sanctions turned out to be a catalyst for further rapprochement of our leaders and combining the efforts of our countries in an even closer alliance. [3]

During the recent year and a half, the interconnection between Russia and Turkey has grown many times, and this happened in various spheres from trade and logistics to energy and security. Our partnership has survived the test of time and the stress test in the context of external pressure. The time has come to convert the alliance of convenience between Moscow and Ankara into a robust strategic alliance. We are talking here about combining the efforts for the sake of joint dominance and for the sake of protection against the external enemies. Such an alliance is based on political pragmatism, account of the national and common interests, combining the capabilities for achieving the synergy effect. Within such an alliance each country will maintain its independence, autonomy and cultural identity. Our alliance will be capable of finding solutions to the most challenging and «frozen» conflicts across the entire Eurasia, not only in the FSU area. Simply speaking, Russia and Turkey together will be able to completely change the balance of forces in Eurasia.

Today, Eurasia has turned into the zone of political turbulence. The traditional boundaries are destroyed, many countries disappear and state structures break into pieces under the influence of external forces. Simultaneously, relicts of the old aggressive projects come to the surface from within the oblivion starting from the new Rzeczpospolita (the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 16th 18th centuries) to reincarnation of the British Empire. Our countries Russia and Turkey are right in the heart of  Eurasia and have always played the role of the «bonding element». Together we are responsible for the destiny of our common continent, which again may turn into a battlefield. Across many centuries, Russia and Turkey have been powerful empires poly-ethnic and multi-confessional. And today dozens of the new states having emerged in these territories are still looking at us. The logic of history requires that we fill the political, economic and cultural vacuum at the interface of Europe and Asia preventing the imminent chaos.

Russian stake on Turkey

In the previous centuries Russia and Turkey had too many wars between them. They were often long and destructive, sometimes they ended without any strategic benefits for any side, but more in the interests of others. In the 21st century, the political establishment of both countries could come up with a correct conclusion compromises are better than wars, and we need to stand together in the «grey zone» of overlapping interests. Our recent history contains many examples of our joint efforts of counteracting external pressure. Exactly one hundred years ago, in 1923, Moscow sent weapons, gold and its best commanders (Kliment Voroshilov, Mikhail Frunze and Semen Aralov) to help the young Turkish Republic. Our counties continue to follow the logic of special relations. Thus, Ankara did not support anti-Russian sanctions in 2008 after the conflict with Georgia, in 2014 after the Crimea accession, or in 2022 after the start of the special military operation in Ukraine. Joint action of Russia and Turkey led to remarkable success in Syria, Libya and especially in Southern Caucasus during the Second Karabakh War. Together we turned out to be capable of successful resolving many frozen conflicts, opened opportunities for new transit routes, such as Trans-Caspian and Zangezur corridors.

Russia sees Turkey as an important and reliable strategic partner in the long-term prospective. This is why Moscow decisively supported Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the recent presidential race. And we can be frank, that was not just moral support or the so-called «verbal investment». It is no secret, that today Turkish active foreign policy is limited by domestic economic challenges. Russia provided significant support to its ally in the form of privileged  supplies of grain, energy sources and other natural resources, as well as substantial cash injections. Moscow opened up the huge Russian market and the markets of some FSU countries for direct supplies of Turkish goods, as well as allowed priority operations for some Turkish firms. In return, Ankara helped Russia to overcome the trade blockade along the Western vector and received significant benefits from such joint activities.

Moscows priorities in the Ukrainian conflict contributed to enhancing Ankaras international value as a global actor and that of the Turkish President personally as a unique negotiator.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is one of the very few global politicians who has an opportunity to openly and straightforwardly talk to President Putin. The new five-year term of Erdogan may facilitate the achieved dynamics and bring the Russian-Turkish relations to the high strategic orbit. The launch of Akkuyu, the first nuclear power plant in Turkey in 2023 together with other important Russian projects, such as the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and the single gas-distribution hub, noticeably enhanced the multi-folded partnership of our countries. Now it is time to bring Russian-Turkish cooperation to the new quality level and to execute the binding strategic partnership agreement. This analytical document has the objective to identify the key milestones along the way of closer rapprochement of Russia and Turkey with the framework of the strategic alliance.

Politics and security

First of all, the standing strategic mechanism Russia Turkey needs to be established for regular exchange of opinions on bilateral connections, regional and international issues. The Annual Forum for Russian-Turkish Strategic Cooperation needs to be established to take place alternately in both countries. This Forum will become the platform for discussing the promising areas on interaction between Russia and Turkey, will contribute to enhancing the bilateral relations, diversifying business contacts, promoting interaction between the representatives of government authorities, business community, experts and analysts of the two countries.

A separate cooperation agreement needs to be executed between the Security Councils of Russia and Turkey, which will have regular joint sessions alternately in Ankara and in Moscow. The diplomatic efforts also need coordination by way of establishing special advisory bodies on the main foreign policy vectors in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both countries.

Big efforts are needed to coordinate the activities of the Ministries of Defense, General Staffs and defense industries of our countries. Russia and Turkey both have the strongest and most effective armies on the boundaries of Europe, which undergo advanced modernization and are focused on their internal resources. Russia is ready to provide all the possibilities to its ally for joint operation and manufacturing the innovative aerospace and missile systems, up to creating the 5th generation fighter aircraft based on Su-57 platform. Similar to Russian-Indian project BraMos, the joint venture of Russia and Turkey could be established to manufacture new generation of cruise missiles based on Calber system. Russia is interested in building the site producing Turkish UAVs Bayraktar and high-precision munition for them with 100% localization. The joint Russian-Turkish air defense / missile defense system based on S-400 and S-500 is also a promising project providing for a reliable security umbrella for the entire continental Eurasia.

Regular consultations of the General Staffs of Russia and Turkey, joint military conferences and anti-terrorist drills will allow for generating common responses to numerous external threats. The coordinated activities of Russian and Turkish navies will make the Black Sea our inner basin and will turn the neighboring Mediterranean area into the area of peaceful cooperation. The efforts to coordinate the activities of the intelligence services and security agencies can significantly increase the security in Russia and in Turkey, as well as in the adjacent territories. Moscow is also ready to provide the state-of-the-art technologies in the sphere of «Safe City» required for efficient counteracting terrorism, for investigations against criminal and illegitimate groups. On-line data exchange between law enforcement agencies and secret services, new agreements in the sphere of investigations and extradition of criminals will allow for stabilizing the situation in the domestic policy and for setting up a reliable barrier to terrorism and spies. In general, coordination of foreign policy, defense and intelligence between Moscow and Ankara will create a conceptually new system of collective security in Eurasia.

Foreign policy system

In general, Russia supports the growth of Turkey as a regional super-power, which is emphasized in the new concept of «The Turkish Centennial». Moscow is interested in the progress of Turkey as a strong strategic ally capable of constructive partnership and consideration of mutual interests. We believe this to be the main difference between the foreign policy of Turkey and the collective West countries focused on tough confrontation and one-sided advantages. Russia is sympathetic about gradual empowerment of Ankara, first of all in its traditional Ottoman Empire range with a focus on the Middle East and the Balkans. The South Caucasus and Central Asia remain the zone of mutual interests, where Russia is a political moderator and security provider, while Turkey is implementing its cultural, trade and logistics projects. Joint activities of Moscow and Ankara will contribute to conciliation in Syria and effective resolution of the Kurdish issue.

The project of the unified gas distribution hub in Turkey creates a conceptually new geopolitical situation for the countries of Southern Europe and the Balkans. For decades, these countries were on the fringes of European integration, because the efforts of Brussels had paused their economic development. Now the countries of Southern Europe and the Balkans get reliable access to cheap energy from Russia and Caspian countries (mainly from Azerbaijan), which allows their economies for taking a new quantum leap. The role of Hungary will grow significantly as it will become along with Turkey the energy and political «switchboard» for this high-potential macro-region. Special relations between Budapest and Ankara in Western organizations, first of all -in the EU and NATO are capable of serving the example of the national interests  lobbying for other European countries. In the nearest decade, the region of Southern Europe and the Balkans will be an important activity vector for the Russian-Turkish alliance. Eventually, this macro-region will become a new growing point in Europe as a counterbalance for stagnating countries of Central and Northern Europe.

Currently, there are over 7 mln Turks living in the countries of «Old Europe». They invested their efforts into creating the European «miracle economy», and in exchange they received nothing but discrimination based on their ethnic origin and religion. Such segregation is recorded in the Netherlands, Great Britain, France and especially Germany, where the abridgment of the Turkish minority is of a structural character and is secretly supported by Berlin. Now it's time for Europe to pay the bills in order to assure comfortable life for local Turks. On top of that, the European Union should allocate funds for migration and set-up in its territory for at least half of the total number of Syrian refugees currently placed in Turkey. We believe that a pro-Turkish party «Movement for rights and freedoms» should be established in Turkey to promote the interests of the influential Turkish expat community and the entire European Islamic Ummah in the Bundestag and in the European Parliament. The position of the Vice-Chancellor of Germany for migration and multi-culturalism should be reserved for ethnic Turks. In essence, with the support of Russia Turkey will become of the key powers determining all the European policy.

Economic cooperation

Modern Turkey belongs to top-20 of the world major economies and holds the 11th position in terms of GDP ratio to the purchasing-power parity. The potential of trade and economic relations with Turkey is quite big it is the second largest trading partner for Russia after China. At the St.-Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) Maxim Oreshkin, the aid to the RF President, quite fairly remarked: «we have not implemented even 50% of the potential of our cooperation». [4] At present, the cooperation with Turkey is successfully progressing in the following areas: nuclear power generation, defense industry, joint investment into oil-and-gas industry and metallurgy. In modern environment, comprehensive review of the long-term cooperation between Ankara and Moscow is required with account of geopolitical, economic and human resources issues. We believe that at the very top level, policy should define the new vectors of economic cooperation between Russia and Turkey.

Despite the positive dynamics of Russian-Turkish relations development, there are some important problems requiring political solution at the level of the country leaders. For example, at present Russian export exceeds import from Turkey approximately 7.5 times. According to the Institute of Statistics of Turkey TurkStat, during 9 months of 2022 the trade turnover of our two countries made USD 50.3 bn. The share of Russian export to Turkey was USD 44.6 bn, mainly due to fuel-and-energy products (51.5%), while the share of Turkish import into Russia made only USD 5.7 bn. [5] Russia and Turkey have all the capabilities to achieve the turnover of USD 100 bn by 2024. However, the trade imbalance limits the possibilities of Turkey to use Rubles in trade finance (now settlements in Rubles do not exceed 10% of the turnover). According to the experts, to achieve the balanced transition to national currencies making 100% of the trade turnover, Turkish import into Russia should increase many-fold and ideally reach the parity with Russian export.

In modern conditions, accumulation of the unfriendly countries currencies (USD and EUR) from selling Russian energy sources should be replaced with efficient investment into Turkish assets and buying Turkish goods and services. For example, during the last years of the USSR, about 25% of natural gas imported into Turkey was paid for with construction contracts services. Back then, Turkish contractors demonstrated success in building housing, malls, business centers and hotels. Today the Turkish companies are building the energy infrastructure facilities, airports, stadiums, industrial sites and healthcare centers. Their role in building highways, tunnels and bridges in Russia is still not very big, there is a big growth potential here. Engaging Turkish developers into the state-funded programs of roads infrastructure development and building new Russian cities may significantly contribute to solving the problem of the trade misbalance and will be very useful for the Russian Federation. [6]

Traditional export from Russia to Turkey consists of oil, gas and grain. Nowadays, there are new prospects emerging for expanding the range of Russian export mineral fertilizers, steel, gold, coal, timber and other goods. In exchange, Turkey may supply agricultural, construction and mining machinery, packing equipment, systems for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, elevators, equipment for textiles manufacturing and for healthcare, spare parts for cars. As was mentioned earlier, Turkish companies may be of demand in the infrastructure building and upgrading projects: construction of subway stations, water treatment facilities, waste recycling plants, highways, water mains and distribution networks. Turkish products have good chances of occupying the niches in Russia after some major foreign companies leaving the country clothes, household chemicals, personal hygiene products, cosmetics, construction materials. Subject to the proper political decisions, the economies of our two countries could be mutually complementary forming a huge common economic space resistant to external impacts.

Development opportunities

In the new geopolitical realities, there is a set of new opportunities for the economies of Russia and Turkey. Industrial cooperation, agriculture, import of hi-tec products with high value added, energy for export these are the key areas for cooperation of Russian and Turkish businesses.

Cooperation in the energy sphere is the first priority of our economic partnership. Turkey is the third biggest buyer of Russian crude oil after China and India. In addition, Turkey is the transit corridor for sea shipments via Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits using the tanker fleet carrying Russian oil to South-Eastern Asia. Turkey uses up to 45% of Russian natural gas, is building the Akkuyu nuclear power plant together with the RF and intends to build two more similar nuclear power plants. The start of implementing the gas hub project in Turkey is scheduled for the fall of 2023, it will be turning a new page in Russian-Turkish cooperation in the energy sphere. [7]

The second vector of cooperation is the most important nowadays supplying the sanctioned products under the parallel import schemes. Turkey is an important link between Europe and Russia, this country is very convenient from the standpoint of warehouses and logistics and has great practical experience of transiting the goods prohibited for export from Europe to Iran. The logistics capabilities and strategic location of Turkey make it a very important transportation hub for Russia. According to some experts, the trade turnover in 2023 will reach the level of USD 80 bn, there are also all the opportunities for its multi-fold growth during the next five years of Erdogans presidency. The biggest growth potential is seen in supplying the products of the Turkish engineering industry, which today does not exceed 2% of the overall imports of machinery and equipment into Russia. [8]

The third important vector is industrial cooperation between Russia and Turkey among the small and medium-size businesses (SME). Today, small Turkish businesses received a great chance for bringing their products to the Russian market, the access to which used to be very difficult for them due to big marketing budgets and lobbyism of European groups. Our common task is to quickly substitute the products of Western brands who left Russia by more affordable Turkish analogues.

New opportunities emerge for Russian companies as well. For example, production outsourcing placing orders at Turkish enterprises in accordance with the required output parameters. This will allow for decreasing the load on the production sites inside Russia and use the scarce components, which are not under sanctions in Turkey. It is also possible to manufacture Russian sanctioned components using the equipment purchased from Turkey. In these conditions of sanctions SMEs have a series of noticeable advantages vs the major businesses. As a rule, their activities are not associated with dual-use technologies, more flexible and do not attract such attention of the Western regulators. As we can see, all the levels of economic interaction from global energy to SMEs need to be engaged in our strategic alliance.

Tasks for the future

The strategic alliance of Russia and Turkey is focused on achieving greater economic and political self-sufficiency, both for our two countries and for our allies. From import phase-out and parallel import, we need to switch to industrial cooperation and development of our own technological solutions. This will allow to maintain the stable high level of food, technological and energy autonomy irrespective of geopolitical and other external factors, as well as to survive the global crises will the least possible damages. For example, from one-off  «grain deals» we need to start forming the «food security belt». Russian and Turkey together with the members of the Organization of Turkic States need to create the grain alliance, to organize the supplies of seeds and mineral fertilizers, to assure the manufacturing of the entire range of all the required agricultural machinery, as well as equipment for processing and distribution of food products. This will allow for controlling the social and economic situation in our two countries and across huge territories of Eurasia.

Russia will keep its significant advantages in the advanced technological spheres, such as aerospace, nuclear power generation, defense industry. Our country is ready to share its most innovative developments with Ankara including assistance in launching Turkish cosmonauts and building space launch complexes. To assure technological sovereignty, our countries need to join efforts to accumulate technologies, knowledge, engineers and skilled workforce. The Turkish party is especially focused on the joint projects at the level of the leading universities is such areas as robotics, equipment for mechanical engineering, development of innovative materials with high performance parameters. The Russian party is interested in quick retrofit and assuring access to the new markets. The experience of Turkey in organizing industrial zones and tax-free zones may be instrumental here, such zones may be targeted at the markets of the EU, Central Africa, Middle East and Central Asia.

Close integration in all the spheres of economy should be walking hand in hand with integration in joint political projects. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated earlier that Turkey had the intent to become a full-fledged member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Turkey and Azerbaijan have the possibility of accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), for example, as observer countries. In its turn, Russia should start the process of joining the Organization of Turkic States (OTS), at first also in the status of observer. For that Russia with such huge regions speaking Turkic languages ad Tatarstan and Bashkortostan has even more solid grounds than Hungary. Such multi-faceted integration will allow for Moscow and Ankara to significantly enhance the capabilities of their foreign trade association including in the conditions of the long-term sanctions; to actively interact within the Caspian infrastructural and energy projects; to jointly implement common development projects within the strategic alliance of Russia and Turkey.

1. Erdogan linked the possibility of Sweden accessing NATO with opening the way to the EU for Turkey. INTERFAX.RU, 10.07.2023. https://www.interfax.ru/world/910906

2. The Turkish Centennial: Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the grand-master of the global geopolitics. Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies, 04.06.2023. https://caspian.institute/product/sektor-turcii-kisi/stoletie-turcii-redzhep-tajip-ehrdogan-kak-grossmejster-mirovoj-geopolitiki-38422.shtml

3. The  future of Eurasia is in Russian-Turkic strategic alliance. Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies. https://caspian.institute/product/ciss/rossijsko-tyurkskij-soyuz-kak-budushchee-evrazii-37966.shtml

4. Oreshkin claims Russia and Turkey have great cooperation potential. TASS,16.06.2023. https://tass.ru/ekonomika/18043863

5. Turkey dramatically decreased buying Russian feedstock. RBC, 30.11.2022. https://www.rbc.ru/economics/30/11/2022/638602f99a79472bce60e46f

6. Turkish potential: examples of cooperation with Turkish construction firms in the sphere of highway and transportation infrastructure. Stroitelnaya Gazeta, 15.06.2023. https://stroygaz.ru/publication/biznes/turetskiy-potentsial-primery-sotrudnichestva-s-turetskimi-stroitelnymi-kompaniyami-v-sfere-dorozhno-/

7. Erdogan intends to create a gas hub in Turkey together with Russia. TASS, 29.05.2023. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/17866087

8. Alexander Kostrov: Turkey is the connecting link between Europe Russia. ZHAZHDA business journal, 29.05.2023. https://zhazhda.biz/interviews/aleksandr-kostrov