Erdogan and Putin Meet Again
Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayip Erdogan today (7 August) in the Russian resort town of Sochi, with the two leaders set to discuss military invasions—both potential and ongoing.
Putin and Erdogan last met less than three weeks ago in the Iranian capital, Tehran. Despite their differences over the war in Ukraine (Ankara is a major arms supplier to Kyiv) their countries have made diplomatic strides.
The most striking has been a deal to resume Ukraine’s grain shipments from its remaining Black Sea ports. The agreement, which was also facilitated by the United Nations, was the first positive step in relations between Russia and Ukraine since the invasion began and has already borne some fruit. The first shipment from Odesa since the war began is on its way to the Lebanese port of Tripoli with 27,000 tons of corn on board.
The two men have good reasons to keep up a good working relationship. For Putin, Erdogan serves as a reliable spoiler on NATO policy as well as a willing customer for Russian gas. For Erdogan, Putin helps showcase Turkey’s independent foreign policy as well as keep the lights on at home: Russia supplies 45 percent of Turkey’s gas, and Russia’s Rosatom is constructing a nuclear plant on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast which is expected to power 10 percent of the country’s domestic energy needs when fully operational.
Today’s talks are expected to continue a topic pursued in Tehran: Turkey’s impending invasion of Syria. In an echo of Moscow’s description of its war in Ukraine, Ankara describes the incursion as a “special military operation.”
Erdogan has stated his desire to establish a 30-kilometer [19-mile] deep “security zone” that extends from the Turkish border into Syrian territory and one that is likely to come dangerously close to Russian, Syrian, (and Iran-backed) forces.
The move is seen as a direct assault on Kurdish militias in the region including the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which make up the majority of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. When Turkey sees YPG, it also sees PKK—the Kurdistan Worker’s Party—a group deemed terrorists by Turkey, the United States, and European Union.