Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan had yet another one of their seemingly endless series of telephone conversations today, discussing the state of their bilateral relations and the conflict in Syria.
This conversation comes shortly after Putin’s meeting with Erdogan in Sochi, his brief encounter with him at the One Belt, One Road conference in Beijing, and Erdogan’s recent disastrous visit to Washington.
It also comes shortly after a further Russian – Turkish spat about the export of Russian wheat to Turkey and the import of Turkish vegetables by Russia.
Notwithstanding this spat the Kremlin’s account of the telephone conversation was unusually detailed, suggesting a cordial and successful call
The two leaders exchanged greetings on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Treaty on the Principles of Relations Between the Republic of Turkey and the Russian Federation, dated May 25, 1992. Vladimir Putin also wished Recep Tayyip Erdogan success in connection with his election as Chairman of the Justice and Development Party of Turkey.
The mutual commitment was reiterated on furthering the strategic partnership of the two countries. In this context, the two leaders also touched upon the progress made in implementing the agreements on reciprocal lifting of restriction in trade and the economy and the large-scale joint energy projects: the construction of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant and the TurkStream pipeline.
When discussing the Syria crisis, the importance of prompt agreement on the practical aspects of the Memorandum on De-escalation Zones in the Syrian Arab Republic was underscored. This would make it possible to enhance the ceasefire regime, and increase the effectiveness of the intra-Syrian talks in the Geneva and Astana formats. It was agreed to step up the coordination of efforts on these issues at different levels.
The presidents of Russia and Turkey agreed to continue regular personal contacts.
(bold italics added)
The single most important words in this summary are the ones I have highlighted, which refer – to my knowledge for the first time ever – to the existence of a ‘strategic partnership’ between Turkey and Russia.
The expression ‘strategic partnership’ is one commonly used by Russia to describe a relationship with another country which has become especially close. Most famously it is used as a euphemism for ‘alliance’ in describing the relationship between Russia and China.
Turkey is not yet an ally of Russia’s, and in this case the words ‘strategic partnership’ must be taken to mean significantly less than that. Nonetheless it is a significant choice of words to describe the relationship between Russia and Turkey, a country which is still a member of NATO. Suffice to say that I know of no other member state of NATO whose relations with Russia are described by the Kremlin in that way.
I recently wrote that the West’s boorish treatment of President Erdogan seemed almost calculated to drive him and Turkey away from the West and into Russia’s arms. Here we see more evidence of that.