Russia-Turkey Relations Confront Syrian Strains

Russia-Turkey relations are probably the best they have ever been. The two countries have developed extensive economic exchanges based on a robust energy trade and strong harmony in their security interests regarding Afghanistan, the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Black Sea regions. Turkey is one of Russia’s largest economic partners with expanding reciprocal trade and investment based on an energy partnership that continues to grow. Russian analysts identify Turkey as a rising power with a dynamic economy and newly flexible foreign policy that shares with Russia the experience of being physically part of Europe but practically treated as a peripheral country not suitable for membership in core European clubs. Russia and Turkey are able to “compartmentalize” their differences over Syria in order to preserve the overall stability of their relationship. Notwithstanding the strain over Syria and Turkey’s support for NATO’s missile defense programs, Ankara recently agreed to allow construction of the South Stream pipeline. Moscow’s support for Turkey becoming a formal dialogue partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization this summer reflects the Russian view that increasing Ankara’s role in Central Asia could yield positive benefits in terms of helping stabilize the region as NATO military forces withdraw from Afghanistan.

Authors: Richard Weitz