The meeting between two of the worlds most outspoken statesmen, was, as always, related to the issue of energy.
What happened during Putin and Erdogan’s meeting?Currently, Turkey is Russia’s second-largest European importer of natural gas, after Germany – this, and the importance of Turkey to Russia, has only grown over the last year given the political tensions between Russia and the EU over the tension in Ukraine resulting in sanctions for Russia, meaning the nation has to look further afield for energy business – enter Turkey.
The meeting in Ankara saw Putin and Erdogan sign a protocol on further energy co-operation between the two power countries. The two nations are confident that by 2020 they can reach an astounding $100 billion in annual bilateral trade.
Another outcome from the meeting was the indication from the Russian leader that Russia would be abandoning plans for a gas pipeline into Europe via Bulgaria, and will instead, look towards Turkey to establish a gas hub in Southern Europe in the future.
The significance of this outcome is set to have a large impact on overall investment in Turkey as a gateway between the East and the West – a country with close ties to Europe, and a working relationship with Russia, Turkey only stands to gain from the current strains between Europe and Russia, and the impact of that on the Turkish economy will only lead to more investment in the future.
Erdogan and Putin: the differencesAlthough they have a working relationship, on the face of it, the differences between Putin and Erdogan could not be any bigger when it comes to foreign policy with the rest of the world.
Putin is well known as a prominent defender and supporter of troubled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, also backing Egypt’s new president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi – while Erdogan has been outspoken against both men, even going as far to call el-Sissi a tyrant and calling for further involvement in Syria.
When Russia annexed Crimea earlier this year, Erdogan was one of the first to protest on behalf of Crimean Tatars – people with Turkic history who have come under hardship and troubled times since Russia took over.
So, the question has to be asked: if Putin and Erdogan are so different on the face of it, how are they able to forge such a relationship together?
Erdogan and Putin: the similaritiesIf you delve a little deeper into both men, you will see that actually, it could be claimed that in some cases both men are cut from the same cloth – with these underlying differences rarely turning into public challenges, and perhaps a mutual respect between one another that can only benefit both countries.
One similarity that cannot be denied is both men’s pursuit to consolidate power in their respective countries. Earlier this year, Erdogan triumphed in Presidential elections to move position from Turkish Prime Minister to President, a move that is seen by many as the first step to change the Turkish constitution and further secure his rule over Turkey. Putin, in perhaps more controversial circumstances, secured a third term as President in 2012 – crushing his opposition and in the process, arresting many dissidents, even going as far to get a law passed which banned certain forms of protest in Russia.
Both men are also men of strong faith – Putin is a devout Russian nationalist and follower of the Russian Orthodox Church, while Erdogan is a man proud of his Muslim faith, which has been influential in his rule over the years. Their strong beliefs and ideas have seen both men take influence from the glories of the past, with Erdogan embracing the memory of the Ottoman Empire, building vast real estate in Istanbul along the Bosporus in homage to Turkey’s past. While Putin dreams of earlier Tsarist and Soviet rulers, calling the return of Crimea to Russia a vindication for Russian blood spilled in the peninsula throughout the 19th century.
So, with both men having seemingly more in common than meets the eye, we have seen a striking relationship build up between Turkey and Russia. You have to strong leaders with two very different mindsets and plans of action. The working relationship between Putin and Erdogan can only benefit Turkey in the long run as these differences are put to one side when it comes to business between the two nations – with Russia and Turkey managed to compartmentalise their relations, and Turkey taking advantage of the unique position to galvanise business between both Russia, and Europe.
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