Thursday

24th Aug 2017

Opinion

A marriage of convenience

Relations between Turkey and the European Union have become increasingly tense in the aftermath of July's failed coup against Erdogan.

Hence, when Russian president Vladimir Putin welcomed his Turkish counterpart in St. Petersburg this week, Western observers intently followed the meeting, fearing the two leaders’ first meeting in nearly a year could lead to a dangerous partnership of anti-Western autocrats.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Turkey and Russia's moves to renew relationships still leave many issues unresolved (Photo: Government of the Russian Federation)

Yet, the emergence of such a partnership is highly unlikely.

Relations between both countries are fraught, anti-EU and anti-Western sentiments cannot unite them in any meaningful or threatening way. One just needs to revisit their opposing stances on Syria to understand their intractable differences.

Last November, Turkey shot down a Russian airplane on the Turkish-Syrian border for violating Turkish airspace. In retaliation, Russia imposed sanctions on Turkey, hitting the country's economy hard.

The sanctions were lifted a month ago, following a half-hearted apology from Erdogan and an apparent rapprochement between the two countries.

The tensions that led to the downing of the Russian jet remain, Moscow and Ankara have positioned themselves on opposite sides of the region’s crucial geopolitical question: the future of Syria.

In the conflict that has become more blood stained since its start in 2011, Russia has consistently backed the Assad regime, going so far as to support it through direct military action.

Turkey, on the other hand, would prefer to see Assad deposed, even supporting not-so-moderate rebels to achieve that. Some claim that the Russian bombing of Turkish-backed rebels was the actual reason for downing the jet.

Moscow has also pledged its political support to the Kurdish PYD party in Northern Syria, seen to be the Syrian version of the banned Kurdish-Turkish PKK party, and has been declared a terrorist organisation and enemy of the state by Ankara.

The recent news that Russia is supplying ammunition and technical support to the PYD makes tensions between the two even more pronounced.

Turkey and Russia - differences too great

This makes their cooperation only a marriage of convenience. They have neither a history of partnership nor real reasons to seek closer ties. They are mainly driven by a lack of other, perhaps more natural, allies.

Russia continues to be isolated from the EU and China has been reluctant to work with Moscow in Central Asia.

Putin’s own brainchild, the Eurasian Union, still lags behind expectations both in terms of political influence and economic rewards.

Turkey, despite being less isolated, is moving in a similar direction. Angered by European calls to uphold democracy and respect human rights after the failed coup, Erdogan announced that the West was on the side of the putschists and threatened to denounce the refugee deal.

While Turkey still enjoys the benevolence of the European Union - partly because it is needed to safeguard European borders - Erdogan is harming relations and his own credibility even further.

The West has nothing to fear from Erdogan’s meeting with Putin. Both countries are strictly following their strategic national interests, which sometimes clash heavily - as can be seen in Syria.

Their recent meeting is little more than a symbolic attempt at showing defiant strength to the West. It is a superficial friendship, nothing significant will come from it.

The West should refrain from overestimating the partnership or reacting to it - in the end there is little to worry about.

Leopold Traugott is a Young Voices Advocate and the director of Campus Europe.

Ankara and Kremlin in charm offensive

Turkey's president Erdogan met with his Russian counterpart Putin in St. Petersburg. The first visit for Erdogan since last month's military coup.

Managing migration: a European responsibility

"The EU now needs to bring its weight to bear, to ensure non-EU countries cooperate on taking back their nationals arriving as economic migrants", writes migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Macron goes east to test appetite for EU integration

The next few months will be decisive in selecting who stays in the core of the EU and who stays behind, writes Tomas Prouza, a former state secretary for European Affairs of the Czech Republic.

EU needs lasting solution to refugee crisis

If we continue with the failed approach of the last two years then this could become a systemic crisis that threatens the EU itself, writes Gianni Pittella.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The return of the chlorinated chicken

Britain has only just started on the path towards a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, but you can already see the same all-too-familiar disagreements.

Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis

If you were to judge events purely on the US media's headlines, you would be forgiven for wondering if the Polish government had anything to do with its recent controversial judicial reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Germany asks EU to strengthen foreign takeover rules
  2. Poll shows tight race in Norway's upcoming elections
  3. Macron slams EU posted workers rules
  4. Air Berlin insolvency talks begin amid 'stitch-up' accusation
  5. EU calls on Serbia and Macedonia to remain calm
  6. Schulz wants US to remove nuclear weapons from Germany
  7. Ukraine and Russia to announce another ceasefire
  8. EU to investigate Monsanto-Bayer merger

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference