Amid Tensions With U.S., Erdogan Praises Ties With Russia

MOSCOW — Relations between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Biden administration could also be frayed, however on Wednesday the Turkish chief made abundantly clear his entry to an alternate associate for commerce and army offers: President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

At a three-hour assembly within the Black Sea resort metropolis of Sochi, Russia — the primary for the 2 presidents in additional than a yr — Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan mentioned weapons offers, commerce and a nuclear reactor Russia is constructing in Turkey.

Turkey and Russia have been each associates on power and arms offers and enemies in a number of Center Jap wars. By means of mercenaries and proxies, the international locations are on reverse sides within the wars in Syria and Libya, whereas each Turkish and Russian troops are serving as peacekeepers within the battle in Nagorno-Karabakh.

A lot of Mr. Erdogan’s diplomacy with Russia is interpreted as a bargaining place, threatening the USA by cozying as much as Mr. Putin however creating distance when he’s looking for one thing from Washington.

In an interview with editors of The New York Occasions final week on the sidelines of the annual assembly of the United Nations, Mr. Erdogan rejected recommendations that he had undermined NATO, the first Western army alliance, by buying a classy Russian missile system. These S-400 missiles, arms consultants say, are designed to shoot down NATO plane.

“We purchase our personal weapons,” Mr. Erdogan mentioned, asserting that each the NATO secretary basic, Jens Stoltenberg, and President Donald J. Trump had reaffirmed Turkey’s proper to decide on arms suppliers. Had the Individuals bought Turkey a Patriot missile protection system, Mr. Erdogan mentioned, he “wouldn’t have had to purchase S-400s.”

Requested if Turkey’s actions had been definitely worth the frictions brought on with the USA, Mr. Erdogan appeared unapologetic. “I believe it was value it,” he mentioned. “We are able to strengthen our protection as we please.”

Mr. Erdogan additionally mentioned the U.S.-Turkish relationship remained basically vital. “Turkey has lengthy U.S. ties,” he mentioned. “This might be bolstered and must be protected.”

On Wednesday, the Turkish chief used the assembly with Mr. Putin as a platform for praising the army offers with Russia. The cooperation has gone far sufficient, he mentioned with Mr. Putin by his facet, that “there isn’t a path again on this sphere.”

The deal for the S-400 set off alarms in Washington, which subsequently canceled Turkey’s buy of subsequent era F-35 warplanes in 2019 and the next yr imposed financial and journey sanctions. However, Mr. Erdogan has bolstered his intention to buy a second batch of the S-400s.

Highlighting the fallout with the USA, not the geopolitical standoffs, appeared to take priority Wednesday for each leaders. Within the public portion of their assembly Mr. Putin, whose overarching overseas coverage objective is to undermine NATO and the European Union, solely briefly talked about “cooperation” within the three conflicts the place Turkey and Russia are on opposing sides.

Mr. Erdogan usually explains the connection with Russia as vital for a regional energy corresponding to Turkey and has questioned why the USA ought to dictate Turkey’s bilateral relationships. Russia is constructing Turkey’s first nuclear energy station and opened a fuel pipeline to Turkey underneath the Black Sea.

At Wednesday’s assembly, Mr. Putin praised each power offers and mentioned the alignment with Russia was insulating Turkey from excessive fuel costs in Europe. “Now, after we see considerably troublesome, turbulent processes on the European fuel market, Turkey feels completely assured and steady,” Mr. Putin mentioned.

Regardless of Mr. Putin’s remarks, pure fuel costs have soared on world markets, not simply in Europe, and it isn’t clear that any preparations with Russia will give Mr. Erdogan the aid he was looking for and badly wants.

The assembly got here amid indicators that Syria and Russia are making ready a brand new offensive towards Turkish-backed rebels in Idlib, the final rebel-held area of Syria, after an 18-month truce. And in Libya, Turkey deployed lots of of troopers and Syrian militants to prop up the Authorities of Nationwide Accord whereas a Russian mercenary group, Wagner, backed the opposing facet led by Common Khalifa Haftar.

Forward of Wednesday’s assembly Mr. Erdogan harassed that peace in Syria was of the best significance among the many points between them, emphasizing that he needed to debate not solely the quick state of affairs in Idlib, but additionally to discover a strategy to finish the warfare total.

Almost 4 million persons are dwelling within the remaining rebel-held a part of Idlib and Mr. Erdogan is especially involved to forestall an offensive that will ship a wave of displaced Syrians towards the border. Turkey is already host to 4 million refugees, the vast majority of them Syrians, and the favored temper, amid an financial downturn with excessive unemployment and inflation has turned towards them.

However Mr. Putin, in his public feedback not less than, handed rapidly over these points. “On the worldwide area we cooperate pretty efficiently, and I imply in Syria and our coordinated place on Libya,” he mentioned.

Since a harmful conflict in 2015 when Turkey shot down a Russian airplane on its southern border with Syria, Mr. Erdogan has rigorously cultivated a relationship with Mr. Putin, assembly him in individual usually a number of instances a yr, regardless of the expense for his longstanding alliance with NATO and the USA.

Aykan Erdemir, director of the Turkey Program on the Basis for Protection of Democracies in Washington and a former opposition member of Turkey’s Parliament, mentioned Mr. Erdogan’s plans to purchase extra S-400 missiles needs to be a “wake-up name” for the Biden administration.

“The Turkish president will proceed to play a spoiler position inside NATO and supply Putin additional alternatives to undermine the trans-Atlantic alliance and its values,” he mentioned in emailed feedback. He added that Turkey’s supply to play a task in Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal was aimed additionally at making a dependence that would scale back any pushback from Washington.

However Mr. Erdogan was touring to Sochi along with his “weakest hand” but within the pair’s 19-year relationship, Kerim Has, a lecturer in Turkish-Russian relations at Moscow College, wrote in a private weblog.

Not solely is he determined to forestall the offensive in Idlib, however he additionally badly wants a good deal to buy pure fuel from Russia as world costs are spiking, Mr. Has wrote.

“Erdogan might have to purchase the second a part of S-400s for the sake of his ‘private survival,’” he mentioned.

When the assembly ended with no briefing for journalists, Mr. Has concluded that Mr. Erdogan was leaving empty-handed. “In my view, Erdogan didn’t get what he anticipated,” he wrote on Twitter.

Whereas Mr. Erdogan has been looking for to restore relations with the USA and the European Union, he acknowledged just lately a coolness from President Biden.

“In my 19-year-long life as a ruler as prime minister and president, the purpose we arrived in our relationships with the U.S. shouldn’t be good,” he advised the Turkish information media in a briefing. “I’ve labored properly with Bush junior, with Mr. Obama, with Mr. Trump, however I can’t say we’ve begin with Mr. Biden.”

Andrew E. Kramer reported from Moscow and Carlotta Gall from Istanbul. Rick Gladstone contributed reporting.

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