Putin-Erdogan: «Is love gone, have the roses withered?»

Of course, we understand that in politics, when it comes to relations between leaders of historically hostile countries, it is not appropriate to talk about love. Therefore, we ask you to understand the expression used in the headline as a metaphor.

A metaphor for the fact that in recent years the relationship between Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been characterized by trust and sympathy, which is not typical for such relations. Especially considering the fact that their countries are on different sides of several crucial issues. For example, issues such as Ukraine’s relationship with the key Black Sea region, its NATO membership, its territorial integrity in general, and the future of Crimea in particular.

However, despite these open disagreements on these key issues, Russia and Turkey, as well as Putin and Erdogan, have managed to demonstrate partnership in many areas. This has caused confusion on both sides. It cannot be said that Erdogan’s recent visit to Sochi and his negotiations with Putin on a grain deal completely undermined these specific relations and led to an open conflict between the two leaders. However, it is clear that not only has Erdogan failed to achieve the resumption of the grain deal, but that his overall relationship with Putin has become much less «romantic» (in the political sense, of course) against this backdrop.

Turkish political commentator Fatih Altayli points out that many have noticed that if commentators recently highlighted Erdogan’s announcement of Putin’s visit to Turkey, now, on the contrary, the Turkish leader had to travel to his Russian counterpart. Altayli also notes that Putin is disappointed with Erdogan’s policies, given the latter’s recent drift toward the West. Overall, the emotional context of this meeting was not one of mutual compliments, but of Putin’s irritation, indicating in every possible way that he does not believe in the agreements with Ukraine and the West that Erdogan is trying to achieve. Russian commentators in pro-Kremlin media have also expressed this irritation in less diplomatic terms towards Erdogan and Turkey.

Does this mean that the balance of power has changed and that Putin can act from a position of strength rather than weakness? Certainly not in the objective reality in which, contrary to Putin’s statements about its failure, the Ukrainian counteroffensive, after initial setbacks, is developing quite well and could turn into serious strategic problems for the Russian military and political leadership by the fall-winter period. This could be facilitated by the elimination, one way or another, of Kremlin-backed ultra-patriots like Prigozhin and Strelkov-Girkin, who were not afraid to point out and draw public attention to problems on the front and in the military. Now, however, everything is «fine» for the Russian command at the front, and it seems that this is exactly what they report to Putin, and no one else is able to question it in a way that would have any resonance.

So it can be said that it is not the balance of power that has shifted in Russia’s favor, but its leadership, having eliminated its internal enemies, now convinces itself that it has shifted in its favor. And it believes that it will be able to achieve the desired results from a position of strength.

In this context, Erdogan stated at the end of the meeting that he did not see any prospects for peace, not even on the horizon. Well, let’s hope that after a few months, the collision with harsh reality will force Putin to adopt a different tone towards Erdogan and ask for his help in finding a way out of the impasse into which he has driven himself. It is not certain, however, that the Turkish leader will be willing or able to offer this help.

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