Keep(ing) calm and carry(ing) on business? Turkey-Russia relations, as seen from Turkey, By Lerna Yanık
Currently, the Russian Federation and Turkey have an annual trade volume of $33 billion, Russia supplies almost two-thirds of Turkey’s natural gas, there is a sizeable Turkish expat community in Russia and Turkey is a top destination for Russian tourists.
Turkey is without question one of Russia’s privileged partners. We have very good relations and they are developing well. It is enough to say that 4 million Russian tourists visited Turkey last year. This is an impressive figure. --Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation2
The above remarks made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in November 2014 used to sum up the current state of affairs between Turkey and the Russian Federation -- until recently. The volume of trade between the two countries has been around $30 to 33 billion per year for the last three years; the Russian Federation supplies almost two-thirds of Turkey’s natural gas purchases; there is a sizeable Turkish expat community in Russia; and Turkey has become one of the top destinations for Russian tourists. What is more, most observers concur that Putin’s and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s leadership style -- “loud, proud and impossible to ignore,” as one Guardian op-ed3 succinctly put it -- is also one of the factors that bind Turkey and Russia. Yet this does not mean that the two countries agree on every issue. Leaving aside Putin’s remarks about the Armenian genocide, made during Putin’s visit to Yerevan in April 2015, which disconcerted Turkish statesmen, recently, the most important disagreement between Turkey and Russia has been about how to handle the wars in Ukraine and Syria. Regarding the war in Ukraine, Turkey generally displayed a diplomatic stance over the pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but has recently started to voice its concern regarding the rights of Crimean Tatars.
However, it appears the disagreement over Syria will be more difficult to handle: Turkey is adamant that no future for Syria involves President Bashar al-Assad, while Russia refuses to consider such an option. Both countries had managed not to air their disagreement over the future of Syria publicly, but with Russia increasing its military presence in this country, it is becoming more and more difficult for Ankara and Moscow to hide their disagreement on this matter.
Until recently, these sore points in the realm of foreign policy seemed less likely to spillover into core matters in the realm of economics. With the recent