Putin and Erdoğan have met for the second time since the start of the Ukraine war. In Sochi the two heads of state advocated closer trade relations – even if their positions on Syria, Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh are in part diametrically opposed.The press comments on Turkey’s ambition to play a pivotal role.

Today, Europe’s press debates the relationship between Presidents Putin and Erdogan in light of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Here are some opinions from a selection of European publications presented by eurotopics.

More a community of convenience than a great love

Although Putin has stated that the two countries intend to have closer relations in the future this is less friendship than pure pragmatism, Habertürk comments:

“Putin’s statements to Erdoğan, ranging from natural gas supplies to Europe to grain deliveries, point to the beginning of a new era in relations between the two countries. … On the one hand Putin wants to lessen the squeeze from sanctions. On the other, he sees Turkey as a window to the West with which he can maintain a balance at home. But while he is doing that he won’t refrain from threatening Turkey at the same time, as he did with the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant.”

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Nothing possible without Turkey

Ankara is currently playing a central role at the negotiating table, Público explains:

“Turkey is strengthening its diplomatic clout in a configuration that allows it to avoid sanctions against Moscow and sell drones to Kyiv. And it is using its geographical position – which allows it to activate the Montreux Convention and control the Dardanelles and the Bosporus – to achieve a geopolitical victory. … The success of the grain deal coincided with statements by Putin about the impossibility of a victory in the event of a nuclear war, and those by Gerhard Schröder after a meeting with the Russian president, according to whom the success of the grain deal ‘can slowly be developed into a ceasefire’. … Conclusion: Without Erdoğan, there can be no negotiations at the moment.”

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British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 21 April 2024
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British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 21 April 2024

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Turkish president getting ahead of himself

The mediator role between the fronts is not likely to work for Turkey for long, the Süddeutsche Zeitung believes:

“Erdoğan maintains good relations with Kyiv and Moscow, thus making himself indispensable. This irritating seesaw policy can be respected as a clever attempt at independent action by a regional power situated between the fronts: Turkey has to live with Russia and the West. But that’s only how it appears at first glance. Turkey, a regional power, is neither militarily nor politically nor economically a globally active power. The US, the EU and Nato will once again raise the question of Ankara’s reliability. The question is not whether or not Erdoğan will get ahead of himself, but when.”

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