Turkey and Russia are capitalising on a perilous world in which nations have no fixed allies or enemies

Longstanding alliances have given away to fragmented and provisional partnerships based on raw interests, writes Borzou Daragahi

Sunday 03 October 2021 14:43
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<p>Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian president Vladimir Putin attend the opening ceremony of the Turkstream Gas Pipeline Project in January 2020</p>

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian president Vladimir Putin attend the opening ceremony of the Turkstream Gas Pipeline Project in January 2020

It seemed like the end of the road for relations between Nato allies Turkey and the United States. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described ties between Washington and Ankara as the worst ever under his 18 years as Turkey’s leader. “The current trajectory does not bode well,” he said at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York last month, after he failed to secure a meeting with Biden. “The point we have reached in our relations with the United States is not good.”

Within days he was in the Russian resort city of Sochi, meeting for nearly three hours with president Vladimir Putin to talk trade, nuclear energy deals, space exploration and weapons sales, including more Turkish purchases of the Russian-made S-400 defence systems that have rankled Washington and provoked sanctions. The events suggested that Turkey was moving deeper and deeper into Russian orbit.

But not so fast. For, even as Erdogan was cosying up to Putin, Turkey was putting the final touches on a groundbreaking deal with Kiev to build its coveted Bayraktar TB2 attack drone on Ukrainian soil for Ukrainian forces to use against Russian-backed separatist forces. It was a provocation of the Kremlin even the west had not dared, and it came after Ankara agreed to sell 24 of the drones – which have proven devastatingly effective against Russian-backed forces in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus – to Poland, despite the objections of the EU and Nato.

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