TURKISH-RUSSIAN RELATIONS: A NEW ERA





The shooting down of the Russian jet by a Turkish F-16 over the Syrian border in November 2014 was followed by serious economic sanctions on Turkey and launched a blistering war of words between Putin and Erdogan that seemed to irrevocably damage burgeoning ties.The Turkish-Russian crisis came to an end in August 9, 2016 when Erdoğan went to St. Petersburg to meet withhis counterpart Vladimir Putin. Aiming to normalise the damaged relationship, President Erdoğan referred to his counterpart as “My dear friend, Putin”, which captured a lot of attention from the media.The downing of the Russian jet, suprisingly, was not mentioned between the two.According to the statements of both leaders, the meeting had a very wide scope, focusing on political, economic, and cultural levels of the relationship. Both Putin and Erdoğan emphasized that the meeting went quite positive and the main priority now is to transform the relationship back to its pre-crisis condition and expand the economic ties between two countries.Leaders announced that they have agreed on a medium-term deal which is planned to last until 2019. Putin stated that all sanctions on Turkey, in a certain amount of time,will be lifted “step by step”."The return of our tourists to Turkey is on our agenda," Putin said, adding that the two countries were working to restore charter flights from Russia to Turkey.Erdoğan said steps will be taken in "joint investment issues" and other economic ties, adding thata gas project with Russia be made a reality soon.While Putinsaid that they have discussed international matters (specifically Syria) as well, no definitive plans regarding the issuewere mentioned. The two are going to discuss the position of their countries on the troubled region in coming times.Statements of both leaders indicate that the meeting went quite smoothly, and both countries are definitely set to cement their broken ties by focusing ona full-spectrum restoration (mostly economic) of their relationship. While it is widely agreed that both leaders have “emotional” characters, from August 9, 2016, it seems clear that the relationship between them is going to be based on rational strategy and logic.The fact that two countries decided to follow differing political paths with regards to the situation in Syria in the past, and how the recent reparation is going to affect their judgment in the future is another issue that invokes curiosity. It is also certain that the reparation efforts with Russia-combined with the deteriorating relationships with the West after the coup attempt in July 15- is going to raise questions whether Turkey is diving into a major paradigm shift from West towards the East.Ata Mert ALADAĞ