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Putin and Erdogan are starting the strategic rapprochement of Russia and Turkey

photo: lapatilla.com
5 August 2022
Yuri SolozobovYuri Solozobov

Yuri Solozobov

Candidate of Science, Physics and Mathematics, Regional Programs Director of CISS

Moscow Ankara: from grain deal to nuclear deal

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, will have negotiations with Vladimir Putin, the President of the RF, on August 5 in Sochi. According to the Turkish sources, the one-day visit of Erdogan will be a policy-heavy one. The Kremlin representatives, in their turn, name the following themes as the key priorities: «regional issues and bilateral relations», «trade and economic ties and the progress of joint strategic projects in the energy sphere». [1] The interest to the summit in Sochi is stirred up by the recent grain deal, successfully implemented through the key mediation of Turkey and President Erdogan personally. Let us remind here, that on July 22 in Istanbul the agreement between Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and the UN was signed titled the «Initiative on the Safe Transportation of Grain and Foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports» also called the «Black Sea Grain Initiative».

Then, in Dolmabahe Palace two documents on establishing the safe corridor in the Black Sea for transporting Ukrainian grain were signed. One was signed by Antnio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Sergei Shoigu, the RF Defense Minister, and Hulusi Akar, the Defense Minister of Turkey; the second by Guterres, Akar and Alexander Kubrakov, the Infrastructure Minister of Ukraine. The Secretary-General of the UN especially thanked Turkey for facilitating this initiative, as well as the authorities of Russia and Ukraine for them agreeing to sign the documents.

Most of the analysts both in the West and in the East emphasized that the neutral position of Turkey in the Ukrainian conflict played the major role in achieving the success of the negotiations. Firstly, Ankara was decisively acting as independent intermediary trusted by all the parties; secondly, it helped other countries previously supporting only one party to change their position. Thirdly, the successful resolution of the grain issue opened up new opportunities for normalizing the relations in other spheres. President Erdogan himself stated that «executing the agreement five months after the start of the military action gives hope for termination of all the wars».

In the opinion of most of the experts, not only Turkey as the mediator or Ukraine as a party to the deal benefited from this agreement on grain transportation, but Russia as the beneficiary. For example, Moscow received the guarantees of the Western sanctions not to cover the important sphere the supplies of Russian agricultural products and fertilizers. Why is it so important? Based on the data provided by The National Interest, the sanctions-related costs for Russia turned out to be much lower than the West expected. [2] Russian Ruble demonstrated enviable stability achieving the values of 2015 vs. Euro. High commodity prices and the ability of Moscow to export oil, gas, grain and gold in spite of sanctions underpin such success. Istanbul grain agreements became an important precedent in easing off the sanctions-related Western garotte on Russias neck.

The observers notice that immediately after execution of the grain deal the message appeared about a more important agreement between Russia and Turkey in the nuclear sphere. Rosatom state corporation transferred about EUR 5 bn to the Turkish cinstruction company AKKUYU NÜKLEER ANONIM ŞIRKETI. Three similar tranches are expected, they will allow to finish the construction of the second block of Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey. [3] One of the Turkish officials called that «the goodwill gesture on behalf of President Putin». It means that the relations between Moscow and Ankara are developing impetuously. Now they cover not just bilateral trade and situational response, but also such strategically important and sensitive areas as nuclear energy, arms and security.

Effectively, today the concept of the strategic Russian-Turkic alliance as the key factor of building a new, more sustainable world order in the Eurasian continent suggested by the Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies is being implemented into practice. [4] Let us track the strategic rapprochement of Russia and Turkey in specific areas economy, geopolitics and security.

«Economic blitzkrieg» crashed upon the Bosporus

After the start of the conflict in Ukraine, the «collective West» increased the sanctions pressure on Russia in an unprecedented way. Russian assets of hundreds of billions of dollars were frozen, the key Russian banks were cut off the SWIFT system, many Western brands and companies left our country. For example, the European Union alone already adopted seven packages of sanction measures, coal and oil embargo being among them. On one hand, such sanctions pressure spilled over into problems for the USA and Europe themselves bringing about the dramatic upsurge in food and gasoline prices. On the other hand, Russia faced real problems with financial and trade transactions, as well as with supplies of numerous important components and many common products. We may be pretty straightforward saying that Turkey provided pretty meaningful economic support to the Russian Federation at the most difficult moment.

The «economic blitzkrieg» strategy against Russia did not work according to the expectations of the West. Many Western analysts acknowledged that, as well as some influential media such as the above-mentioned The National Interest. The reason is in Moscow finding quickly the opportunities for selling its export commodities: e.g., selling oil to India and China instead of the European Union. Russia was also successful in opening the supplies channels for the necessary components via the «parallel imports» schemes. To do that, Russia was actively using the buffer countries of both the «near abroad» and the «far abroad», and first of all Turkey as the key partner. Figuratively speaking, the waves of Western economic sanctions broke up at the Bosporus.

Today, Turkey has turned into an important transportation and trading hub connecting Russia with other countries. For example, Turkish export to the RF grew drastically after transportation and logistical sanctions were imposed, and this is confirmed by the statistics. [5] Only in June 2022, the supplies grew 1.5 times versus May and made almost USD 800 mln. The profile of the Turkish export to Russia is obviously changing: the share of non-food supplies is growing. The possibility of receiving equipment and components via Third Countries, like Turkey and Iran, is making the Western sanctions insipid and softens them, like already happened with respect to the aviation spare parts. [6]

According to the UN database on commerce and trade (Comtrade), the Turkish export of electrical machines and equipment, ground transport vehicles and their components, plastics and items thereof increased significantly. It is quite probable, that «parallel imports» schemes are being implemented on a mass scale already via the well-established Turkish channels. In its turn, Russia is ready to perform as the major supplier of grain and leguminous crops for Turkey, according to Sergey Levin, Deputy RF Ministry for Agriculture. He announced that in the current season the share of Russian wheat in the Turkish import constituted three fourths, barley more than half, corn over 40%. In the near future Turkey and Iran may become the main operators for the Russian grain export via the de-facto regional seas the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. This will allow for significant decrease of Russian grain transportation costs and mitigation of sanctions-related risks.

Experts emphasize that Turkey is very active in taking over the export niches vacated after the Western companies leave, and the current sales turnover growth is nowhere near the limit. [7] Another factor contributing to this is the Turkish companies becoming the owners of a number of commercial chains and manufacturing sites in Russia after a big number of Western companies left. It is no secret that Turkey used to manufacture a broad variety of consumer goods for Western countries at much lower prices. In view of this the Turkish party proposes to resume the ferry connection between Novorossiysk and Samsun to facilitate the transportation. If we judge by the current statistics of the Turkish export to the RF, we can expect to achieve the level of approximately USD 10 bn. This will allow Turkey to occupy the fourth position in the list of major suppliers to the Russian market.

At the meeting in Sochi, President Erdogan plans to discuss with Vladimir Putin the proposal to reject settlements in US Dollars and payment for imported commodities including energy from Russia in local currency the Turkish lira. [8] At the same time, liras may be used for buying imported products and services from Turkish suppliers. In its turn, Ruble also shall become a part of commercial settlements between the two countries. The problem here is in the disproportion of our trade: Russian export to Turkey accounts for RUB 26.5 bn (mainly energy), and the supplies from Turkey account only for RUB 6.5 bn. Experts see the way out in giving the access to Russian government procurement for Turkish companies: for example, in housing and road construction, including the domestic tourism facilities. Such activity should result in further rapprochement of our national economies and payment systems, as well as gradual exit from the unfriendly countries currencies zone.

The factors of strategic rapprochement of Russia and Turkey

Some Russian media openly call Turkey the allied country focused on positive dialogue and cooperation with Russia. Many analysts believe that Presidents Erdogan and Putin are very much alike, for example, in their strong-willed political style. Indeed, our leaders succeeded in establishing working relations based on mutual interests and benefits. These trustworthy contacts of the top figures play an important role in organizing the ties between Turkey and Russia. However, we should not believe that Turkey assists Russia altruistically or because of its fervent love to Russian nation and its President. We should be realistic: Ankaras policy is always very well thought-out exclusively in their own national interests. Our countries still have a long way to go from geopolitical balancing to a robust strategic partnership.

The pace of developing and deepening the Turkish-Russian relations after the 2016 events (military campaign in Syria and a coup dtat attempt in Turkey) provide all the grounds for such optimism. There are three major factors of quick rapprochement of our relations: frustration with the policy of the «collective West», comprehending own country as a regional super-power, the strive for becoming an influential global actor. Turkeys frustration with the West has two components tactical and geopolitical. In the sphere of tactical policy, we can name the following several reasons: Europeans opposition to Turkeys accession to the European Union, Western criticism of personal power of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and of the conservative twist in the Turkish domestic policy after 2016. In the geopolitical and strategic sphere those factors are: understanding the decay of the Western unity by Ankara, the growing role of certain Asian countries in the global economy, and the imminence of the new multi-polar world order. This means that Ankara will continue to strive for the autonomy of its foreign policy and in the security sphere.

Until recently, Turkey was an example of successful balancing between Russia and the West. It may sound paradoxical, but Ankara simultaneously was a critic and a beneficiary of the West-centered international order. The essence of such multi-vector policy was in venturous going up the ante of geopolitical rhetoric and rarely found capability of Erdogan to quit just in time for capturing the political benefit or economic profit. The most recent example is the Turkish attempt to use the NATO accession bids from Finland and Sweden for obtaining certain military and political dividend. Speaking in Sombarts terms, on the issue of NATO expansion President Putin always acts like a «warrior», and President Erdogan like a «merchant».

However, this recent episode of trade-off evidently decreased the level of trust between Turkey and many NATO members, deepened the mutual disappointment of Ankara and the West. What is the reason? Today, the modern world is undergoing a geopolitical split a slow, but already a hard-core one. The West openly names the Rest its enemies and calls for the uncompromising struggle with them; however, so far this struggle is limited to the economic war. In such situation, all of the recent attempts to be multi-vector oriented and to keep a foot in many camps become counterproductive. Russian special military operation in Ukraine resulted in evident growth of pressure of the West on the Turkish balancing policy, providing one more convincing reason for further strategic rapprochement of Moscow and Ankara.

The «red lines» issue is the turning point in the strategy of geopolitical revisionism currently implemented by all the anti-Western countries. There are important topics and key principles for them that cannot be ignored without losing the face and the political identity. For China the issue of Taiwan is such a trigger, for Russia it is Donbass, and for Turkey the islands in the Aegean Sea and the East Mediterranean continental shelf.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan continuously criticized the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923, based on which the current borders of the Republic of Turkey were delineated. Several times he claimed that «Turkey will play the role in changing the march of history and restructuring the region from scratch». Recently this firm aspiration of Ankara to «strengthen its position in regional and global issues» was confirmed in the special statement of Erdogan. [9] There are all the grounds to believe that the next year (2023) may become groundbreaking in the history of Turkey and of Russian-Turkish relations. The political proclivities of Russia may come to be in the Turkish side, just like in early 1920s.

From geopolitical balancing to strategic alliance

The forthcoming summit in Sochi may formalize a brand-new characteristic of Russian-Turkish cooperation the transition to the strategic alliance level. At the early stage of our cooperation, the functional bilateral relations prevailed. They assumed promotion of economic, energy-related and political ties, but did not cover the strategic spheres of geopolitical and defense industry cooperation. After 2016, the stage of mutual geopolitical balancing between Moscow and Ankara started. It included some limited strategic partnership, meaningful military procurement (e.g., Turkey purchased Russian S-400 air defense system) and joint geopolitical participation in the limited conflicts zones, such as Syria, Libya and Karabakh. The strategic alliance stage will mean full-scale comprehensive cooperation in all the spheres including geopolitics, economics and defense.

To switch to the strategic alliance level, Russia and Turkey needed to resolve two long-existing problems in the security sphere. Firstly, historically the Black Sea always has been the «gravity center» for the Russian-Turkish rivalry. From the standpoint of the «collective West», any reinforcement of Russia in the Black Sea region from the events in Georgia to accidence of the Crimea and special military operation in Ukraine means a change of the regional balance in favor of Russia. Allegedly, this is a direct threat to Turkish security and automatically will push Ankara  into the arms of NATO.

The way out of this seemingly a dead-end situation was found in coordination of the activities of the Russian and Turkish fleets and turning the Black Sea into the «regional sea» of Russia and Turkey, as it was proposed earlier in CISS concepts. Organization of the «grain convoys» and their military escorts, establishment of the united coordination center in Istanbul all of that are the «first portent» in practical implementation of the new Russian-Turkic alliance strategy.

The second sticking point was the post-Soviet area in direct neighborhood of both Russia and Turkey. Direct Russian dominance put bounds to Ankaras maneuver in its traditional region of influence from the Black Sea to the Balkans and from South Caucasus to Central Asia. The solution was found in joint political action of the RF and Turkey resulting in the success in South Caucasus that surprised the entire world at the finishing stage of the Second Karabakh War. Moscow and Ankara together started to resolve the previously frozen conflicts, to open up the opportunities for new transit routes including the strategically important Zangezur corridor. [10] The success of the «Karabakh Pactum» makes it a standard model for de-blocking of other problematic points in the post-Soviet area with participation of Russia and Turkey.

It is quite possible, that these trust-based relations of Putin and Erdogan will be instrumental in such sensitive sphere as weapons supplies and defense industry cooperation. Recently, Turkey has undertaken a series of steps to purchase Western military equipment (e.g., fighter aircrafts F-16 and F-35), but faced serious restrictions. Russia is capable of becoming a new strategic partner for Turkey both is supplying military equipment and in joint manufacturing of weapons. The Western analysts viewed the fact of Turkey purchasing Russian distant range air-defense missile systems S-400 as a sign of Ankaras new geopolitical identity based on opposing the West, and not just like an ordinary military and technical deal. 

At the recent tri-lateral meeting in Teheran in the course of the discussion on weapons standardization and cooperation in military technologies this important topic got its follow-up. Right after Teheran, Erdogan himself proposed Russia cooperation in manufacturing UAVs Bayraktar TB2. According to the Turkish sources, at the meeting in Sochi President Erdogan plans to discuss this sensitive topic with Vladimir Putin. In exchange he intends to ask for supplies of Russian cruising missiles Calibre, which made a good showing in all the recent operations of the RF Armed Forces in Syria and Ukraine. Military analysts believe that such modern weapons will drastically improve the capabilities of the Turkish Army and Navy turning them into the «menace for Europe» as they used to be called in the times of the Ottoman Empire. Until now, Russia avoided exporting the most state-of-the-art weapons and transferring the advanced missile technologies to its foreign partners. However, Moscow can make an exception for its strategic allies for the sake of joint defense tasks.

In essence, there are no more difficult topic or unresolvable issues between Russia and Turkey. All of that once again confirms the valuable political features of the Presidents Putin and Erdogan. Our leaders both have geopolitical foresight, the ability to find agreements and ways out of the seemingly inextricable crises. The topics proposed for the Sochi meeting cover a broad spectrum of strategic issues from economy in general and energy sector in particular to politics and security. The strategic alliance of Russia and Turkey very soon may become a new geopolitical reality. All visible barriers on this way were eliminated, and now its establishment solely depends on the political will of the two leaders Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

1. Erdogan and Putin are planning a meeting in Sochi for August 5. Interfax, 26.07.2022. https://www.interfax.ru/world/853912

2. Sanctions Are Hurting the West More Than Russia. The National Interest, 24.07.2022. https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/sanctions-are-hurting-west-more-russia-203784

3. Rosatom Inks Deal With Russian Builder at Turkish Nuclear Plant. Bloomberg Markets, 30.07.2022. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-07-30/rosatom-inks-deal-with-russian-builder-at-turkish-nuclear-plant

4. The Future for the Eurasia the Russian-Turkic strategic alliance. Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies. https://caspian.institute/product/ciss/rossijsko-tyurkskij-soyuz-kak-budushchee-evrazii-37966.shtml

5. Foreign Trade Statistics. TURKSTAT, June 2022. https://data.tuik.gov.tr/Bulten/Index?p=Foreign-Trade-Statistics-June-2022-45541&dil=2

6. EU will allow Russian airlines to buy spare parts for planes and to get maintenance services. Neftegaz.Ru, 21.07.2022. https://neftegaz.ru/news/aviatehnika/744414-es-razreshit-rossiyskim-aviakompaniyam-zakupat-zapchasti-dlya-samolyetov-i-provodit-tekhobsluzhivani/

7. Turkey becomes one of the beneficiaries of the confrontation between Russia and the West. MK, 27.07.2022. https://www.mk.ru/economics/2022/07/27/turciya-stala-odnim-iz-glavnykh-beneficiarov-konfrontacii-rossii-i-zapada.html

8. Turkey Looks to Ditch Dollar in Payments for Russian Energy. Bloomberg Markets, 19.07.2022. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-07-19/turkey-looks-to-ditch-dollar-in-payments-for-russian-energy

9. Turkey continues to strengthen its positions in regional and global agenda, the Turkish leader says. Anadolu Agency, 24.07.2022. https://www.aa.com.tr/ru/%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0/%D1%8D%D1%80%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BD-%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%BD%D0%BE-%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%83%D1%88%D0%B0%D0%B5%D1%82-%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B6%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B7%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%BD%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE-%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%80%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE-%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B0-/2644600

10.  Ministry of Foreign Relations: Zangezur corridor will contribute to the expansion of international transport connections. MEDIA.Az, 02.08.2022. https://media.az/politics/1067870738/mid-zangezurskiy-koridor-posluzhit-rasshireniyu-mezhdunarodnyh-transportnyh-svyazey/

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Publications

Putin and Erdogan are starting the strategic rapprochement of Russia and Turkey

photo: lapatilla.com
5 2022
Yuri Solozobov

Yuri Solozobov

Candidate of Science, Physics and Mathematics, Regional Programs Director of CISS

Moscow Ankara: from grain deal to nuclear deal

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, will have negotiations with Vladimir Putin, the President of the RF, on August 5 in Sochi. According to the Turkish sources, the one-day visit of Erdogan will be a policy-heavy one. The Kremlin representatives, in their turn, name the following themes as the key priorities: «regional issues and bilateral relations», «trade and economic ties and the progress of joint strategic projects in the energy sphere». [1] The interest to the summit in Sochi is stirred up by the recent grain deal, successfully implemented through the key mediation of Turkey and President Erdogan personally. Let us remind here, that on July 22 in Istanbul the agreement between Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and the UN was signed titled the «Initiative on the Safe Transportation of Grain and Foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports» also called the «Black Sea Grain Initiative».

Then, in Dolmabahe Palace two documents on establishing the safe corridor in the Black Sea for transporting Ukrainian grain were signed. One was signed by Antnio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Sergei Shoigu, the RF Defense Minister, and Hulusi Akar, the Defense Minister of Turkey; the second by Guterres, Akar and Alexander Kubrakov, the Infrastructure Minister of Ukraine. The Secretary-General of the UN especially thanked Turkey for facilitating this initiative, as well as the authorities of Russia and Ukraine for them agreeing to sign the documents.

Most of the analysts both in the West and in the East emphasized that the neutral position of Turkey in the Ukrainian conflict played the major role in achieving the success of the negotiations. Firstly, Ankara was decisively acting as independent intermediary trusted by all the parties; secondly, it helped other countries previously supporting only one party to change their position. Thirdly, the successful resolution of the grain issue opened up new opportunities for normalizing the relations in other spheres. President Erdogan himself stated that «executing the agreement five months after the start of the military action gives hope for termination of all the wars».

In the opinion of most of the experts, not only Turkey as the mediator or Ukraine as a party to the deal benefited from this agreement on grain transportation, but Russia as the beneficiary. For example, Moscow received the guarantees of the Western sanctions not to cover the important sphere the supplies of Russian agricultural products and fertilizers. Why is it so important? Based on the data provided by The National Interest, the sanctions-related costs for Russia turned out to be much lower than the West expected. [2] Russian Ruble demonstrated enviable stability achieving the values of 2015 vs. Euro. High commodity prices and the ability of Moscow to export oil, gas, grain and gold in spite of sanctions underpin such success. Istanbul grain agreements became an important precedent in easing off the sanctions-related Western garotte on Russias neck.

The observers notice that immediately after execution of the grain deal the message appeared about a more important agreement between Russia and Turkey in the nuclear sphere. Rosatom state corporation transferred about EUR 5 bn to the Turkish cinstruction company AKKUYU NÜKLEER ANONIM ŞIRKETI. Three similar tranches are expected, they will allow to finish the construction of the second block of Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey. [3] One of the Turkish officials called that «the goodwill gesture on behalf of President Putin». It means that the relations between Moscow and Ankara are developing impetuously. Now they cover not just bilateral trade and situational response, but also such strategically important and sensitive areas as nuclear energy, arms and security.

Effectively, today the concept of the strategic Russian-Turkic alliance as the key factor of building a new, more sustainable world order in the Eurasian continent suggested by the Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies is being implemented into practice. [4] Let us track the strategic rapprochement of Russia and Turkey in specific areas economy, geopolitics and security.

«Economic blitzkrieg» crashed upon the Bosporus

After the start of the conflict in Ukraine, the «collective West» increased the sanctions pressure on Russia in an unprecedented way. Russian assets of hundreds of billions of dollars were frozen, the key Russian banks were cut off the SWIFT system, many Western brands and companies left our country. For example, the European Union alone already adopted seven packages of sanction measures, coal and oil embargo being among them. On one hand, such sanctions pressure spilled over into problems for the USA and Europe themselves bringing about the dramatic upsurge in food and gasoline prices. On the other hand, Russia faced real problems with financial and trade transactions, as well as with supplies of numerous important components and many common products. We may be pretty straightforward saying that Turkey provided pretty meaningful economic support to the Russian Federation at the most difficult moment.

The «economic blitzkrieg» strategy against Russia did not work according to the expectations of the West. Many Western analysts acknowledged that, as well as some influential media such as the above-mentioned The National Interest. The reason is in Moscow finding quickly the opportunities for selling its export commodities: e.g., selling oil to India and China instead of the European Union. Russia was also successful in opening the supplies channels for the necessary components via the «parallel imports» schemes. To do that, Russia was actively using the buffer countries of both the «near abroad» and the «far abroad», and first of all Turkey as the key partner. Figuratively speaking, the waves of Western economic sanctions broke up at the Bosporus.

Today, Turkey has turned into an important transportation and trading hub connecting Russia with other countries. For example, Turkish export to the RF grew drastically after transportation and logistical sanctions were imposed, and this is confirmed by the statistics. [5] Only in June 2022, the supplies grew 1.5 times versus May and made almost USD 800 mln. The profile of the Turkish export to Russia is obviously changing: the share of non-food supplies is growing. The possibility of receiving equipment and components via Third Countries, like Turkey and Iran, is making the Western sanctions insipid and softens them, like already happened with respect to the aviation spare parts. [6]

According to the UN database on commerce and trade (Comtrade), the Turkish export of electrical machines and equipment, ground transport vehicles and their components, plastics and items thereof increased significantly. It is quite probable, that «parallel imports» schemes are being implemented on a mass scale already via the well-established Turkish channels. In its turn, Russia is ready to perform as the major supplier of grain and leguminous crops for Turkey, according to Sergey Levin, Deputy RF Ministry for Agriculture. He announced that in the current season the share of Russian wheat in the Turkish import constituted three fourths, barley more than half, corn over 40%. In the near future Turkey and Iran may become the main operators for the Russian grain export via the de-facto regional seas the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. This will allow for significant decrease of Russian grain transportation costs and mitigation of sanctions-related risks.

Experts emphasize that Turkey is very active in taking over the export niches vacated after the Western companies leave, and the current sales turnover growth is nowhere near the limit. [7] Another factor contributing to this is the Turkish companies becoming the owners of a number of commercial chains and manufacturing sites in Russia after a big number of Western companies left. It is no secret that Turkey used to manufacture a broad variety of consumer goods for Western countries at much lower prices. In view of this the Turkish party proposes to resume the ferry connection between Novorossiysk and Samsun to facilitate the transportation. If we judge by the current statistics of the Turkish export to the RF, we can expect to achieve the level of approximately USD 10 bn. This will allow Turkey to occupy the fourth position in the list of major suppliers to the Russian market.

At the meeting in Sochi, President Erdogan plans to discuss with Vladimir Putin the proposal to reject settlements in US Dollars and payment for imported commodities including energy from Russia in local currency the Turkish lira. [8] At the same time, liras may be used for buying imported products and services from Turkish suppliers. In its turn, Ruble also shall become a part of commercial settlements between the two countries. The problem here is in the disproportion of our trade: Russian export to Turkey accounts for RUB 26.5 bn (mainly energy), and the supplies from Turkey account only for RUB 6.5 bn. Experts see the way out in giving the access to Russian government procurement for Turkish companies: for example, in housing and road construction, including the domestic tourism facilities. Such activity should result in further rapprochement of our national economies and payment systems, as well as gradual exit from the unfriendly countries currencies zone.

The factors of strategic rapprochement of Russia and Turkey

Some Russian media openly call Turkey the allied country focused on positive dialogue and cooperation with Russia. Many analysts believe that Presidents Erdogan and Putin are very much alike, for example, in their strong-willed political style. Indeed, our leaders succeeded in establishing working relations based on mutual interests and benefits. These trustworthy contacts of the top figures play an important role in organizing the ties between Turkey and Russia. However, we should not believe that Turkey assists Russia altruistically or because of its fervent love to Russian nation and its President. We should be realistic: Ankaras policy is always very well thought-out exclusively in their own national interests. Our countries still have a long way to go from geopolitical balancing to a robust strategic partnership.

The pace of developing and deepening the Turkish-Russian relations after the 2016 events (military campaign in Syria and a coup dtat attempt in Turkey) provide all the grounds for such optimism. There are three major factors of quick rapprochement of our relations: frustration with the policy of the «collective West», comprehending own country as a regional super-power, the strive for becoming an influential global actor. Turkeys frustration with the West has two components tactical and geopolitical. In the sphere of tactical policy, we can name the following several reasons: Europeans opposition to Turkeys accession to the European Union, Western criticism of personal power of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and of the conservative twist in the Turkish domestic policy after 2016. In the geopolitical and strategic sphere those factors are: understanding the decay of the Western unity by Ankara, the growing role of certain Asian countries in the global economy, and the imminence of the new multi-polar world order. This means that Ankara will continue to strive for the autonomy of its foreign policy and in the security sphere.

Until recently, Turkey was an example of successful balancing between Russia and the West. It may sound paradoxical, but Ankara simultaneously was a critic and a beneficiary of the West-centered international order. The essence of such multi-vector policy was in venturous going up the ante of geopolitical rhetoric and rarely found capability of Erdogan to quit just in time for capturing the political benefit or economic profit. The most recent example is the Turkish attempt to use the NATO accession bids from Finland and Sweden for obtaining certain military and political dividend. Speaking in Sombarts terms, on the issue of NATO expansion President Putin always acts like a «warrior», and President Erdogan like a «merchant».

However, this recent episode of trade-off evidently decreased the level of trust between Turkey and many NATO members, deepened the mutual disappointment of Ankara and the West. What is the reason? Today, the modern world is undergoing a geopolitical split a slow, but already a hard-core one. The West openly names the Rest its enemies and calls for the uncompromising struggle with them; however, so far this struggle is limited to the economic war. In such situation, all of the recent attempts to be multi-vector oriented and to keep a foot in many camps become counterproductive. Russian special military operation in Ukraine resulted in evident growth of pressure of the West on the Turkish balancing policy, providing one more convincing reason for further strategic rapprochement of Moscow and Ankara.

The «red lines» issue is the turning point in the strategy of geopolitical revisionism currently implemented by all the anti-Western countries. There are important topics and key principles for them that cannot be ignored without losing the face and the political identity. For China the issue of Taiwan is such a trigger, for Russia it is Donbass, and for Turkey the islands in the Aegean Sea and the East Mediterranean continental shelf.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan continuously criticized the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923, based on which the current borders of the Republic of Turkey were delineated. Several times he claimed that «Turkey will play the role in changing the march of history and restructuring the region from scratch». Recently this firm aspiration of Ankara to «strengthen its position in regional and global issues» was confirmed in the special statement of Erdogan. [9] There are all the grounds to believe that the next year (2023) may become groundbreaking in the history of Turkey and of Russian-Turkish relations. The political proclivities of Russia may come to be in the Turkish side, just like in early 1920s.

From geopolitical balancing to strategic alliance

The forthcoming summit in Sochi may formalize a brand-new characteristic of Russian-Turkish cooperation the transition to the strategic alliance level. At the early stage of our cooperation, the functional bilateral relations prevailed. They assumed promotion of economic, energy-related and political ties, but did not cover the strategic spheres of geopolitical and defense industry cooperation. After 2016, the stage of mutual geopolitical balancing between Moscow and Ankara started. It included some limited strategic partnership, meaningful military procurement (e.g., Turkey purchased Russian S-400 air defense system) and joint geopolitical participation in the limited conflicts zones, such as Syria, Libya and Karabakh. The strategic alliance stage will mean full-scale comprehensive cooperation in all the spheres including geopolitics, economics and defense.

To switch to the strategic alliance level, Russia and Turkey needed to resolve two long-existing problems in the security sphere. Firstly, historically the Black Sea always has been the «gravity center» for the Russian-Turkish rivalry. From the standpoint of the «collective West», any reinforcement of Russia in the Black Sea region from the events in Georgia to accidence of the Crimea and special military operation in Ukraine means a change of the regional balance in favor of Russia. Allegedly, this is a direct threat to Turkish security and automatically will push Ankara  into the arms of NATO.

The way out of this seemingly a dead-end situation was found in coordination of the activities of the Russian and Turkish fleets and turning the Black Sea into the «regional sea» of Russia and Turkey, as it was proposed earlier in CISS concepts. Organization of the «grain convoys» and their military escorts, establishment of the united coordination center in Istanbul all of that are the «first portent» in practical implementation of the new Russian-Turkic alliance strategy.

The second sticking point was the post-Soviet area in direct neighborhood of both Russia and Turkey. Direct Russian dominance put bounds to Ankaras maneuver in its traditional region of influence from the Black Sea to the Balkans and from South Caucasus to Central Asia. The solution was found in joint political action of the RF and Turkey resulting in the success in South Caucasus that surprised the entire world at the finishing stage of the Second Karabakh War. Moscow and Ankara together started to resolve the previously frozen conflicts, to open up the opportunities for new transit routes including the strategically important Zangezur corridor. [10] The success of the «Karabakh Pactum» makes it a standard model for de-blocking of other problematic points in the post-Soviet area with participation of Russia and Turkey.

It is quite possible, that these trust-based relations of Putin and Erdogan will be instrumental in such sensitive sphere as weapons supplies and defense industry cooperation. Recently, Turkey has undertaken a series of steps to purchase Western military equipment (e.g., fighter aircrafts F-16 and F-35), but faced serious restrictions. Russia is capable of becoming a new strategic partner for Turkey both is supplying military equipment and in joint manufacturing of weapons. The Western analysts viewed the fact of Turkey purchasing Russian distant range air-defense missile systems S-400 as a sign of Ankaras new geopolitical identity based on opposing the West, and not just like an ordinary military and technical deal. 

At the recent tri-lateral meeting in Teheran in the course of the discussion on weapons standardization and cooperation in military technologies this important topic got its follow-up. Right after Teheran, Erdogan himself proposed Russia cooperation in manufacturing UAVs Bayraktar TB2. According to the Turkish sources, at the meeting in Sochi President Erdogan plans to discuss this sensitive topic with Vladimir Putin. In exchange he intends to ask for supplies of Russian cruising missiles Calibre, which made a good showing in all the recent operations of the RF Armed Forces in Syria and Ukraine. Military analysts believe that such modern weapons will drastically improve the capabilities of the Turkish Army and Navy turning them into the «menace for Europe» as they used to be called in the times of the Ottoman Empire. Until now, Russia avoided exporting the most state-of-the-art weapons and transferring the advanced missile technologies to its foreign partners. However, Moscow can make an exception for its strategic allies for the sake of joint defense tasks.

In essence, there are no more difficult topic or unresolvable issues between Russia and Turkey. All of that once again confirms the valuable political features of the Presidents Putin and Erdogan. Our leaders both have geopolitical foresight, the ability to find agreements and ways out of the seemingly inextricable crises. The topics proposed for the Sochi meeting cover a broad spectrum of strategic issues from economy in general and energy sector in particular to politics and security. The strategic alliance of Russia and Turkey very soon may become a new geopolitical reality. All visible barriers on this way were eliminated, and now its establishment solely depends on the political will of the two leaders Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

1. Erdogan and Putin are planning a meeting in Sochi for August 5. Interfax, 26.07.2022. https://www.interfax.ru/world/853912

2. Sanctions Are Hurting the West More Than Russia. The National Interest, 24.07.2022. https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/sanctions-are-hurting-west-more-russia-203784

3. Rosatom Inks Deal With Russian Builder at Turkish Nuclear Plant. Bloomberg Markets, 30.07.2022. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-07-30/rosatom-inks-deal-with-russian-builder-at-turkish-nuclear-plant

4. The Future for the Eurasia the Russian-Turkic strategic alliance. Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies. https://caspian.institute/product/ciss/rossijsko-tyurkskij-soyuz-kak-budushchee-evrazii-37966.shtml

5. Foreign Trade Statistics. TURKSTAT, June 2022. https://data.tuik.gov.tr/Bulten/Index?p=Foreign-Trade-Statistics-June-2022-45541&dil=2

6. EU will allow Russian airlines to buy spare parts for planes and to get maintenance services. Neftegaz.Ru, 21.07.2022. https://neftegaz.ru/news/aviatehnika/744414-es-razreshit-rossiyskim-aviakompaniyam-zakupat-zapchasti-dlya-samolyetov-i-provodit-tekhobsluzhivani/

7. Turkey becomes one of the beneficiaries of the confrontation between Russia and the West. MK, 27.07.2022. https://www.mk.ru/economics/2022/07/27/turciya-stala-odnim-iz-glavnykh-beneficiarov-konfrontacii-rossii-i-zapada.html

8. Turkey Looks to Ditch Dollar in Payments for Russian Energy. Bloomberg Markets, 19.07.2022. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-07-19/turkey-looks-to-ditch-dollar-in-payments-for-russian-energy

9. Turkey continues to strengthen its positions in regional and global agenda, the Turkish leader says. Anadolu Agency, 24.07.2022. https://www.aa.com.tr/ru/%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0/%D1%8D%D1%80%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BD-%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%BD%D0%BE-%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%83%D1%88%D0%B0%D0%B5%D1%82-%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B6%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B7%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%BD%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE-%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%80%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE-%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B0-/2644600

10.  Ministry of Foreign Relations: Zangezur corridor will contribute to the expansion of international transport connections. MEDIA.Az, 02.08.2022. https://media.az/politics/1067870738/mid-zangezurskiy-koridor-posluzhit-rasshireniyu-mezhdunarodnyh-transportnyh-svyazey/