The presidents of Turkey and Russia met in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, after months of enmity between their two countries.
Ahead of his trip to Russia, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he’s hoping for a “clean slate” between the two countries, NPR’s Peter Kenyon reports. The meeting between Erdogan and Vladimir Putin comes just a month after a failed coup attempt in Turkey.
“The Syria conflict is expected to be high on the agenda for Erdogan’s meeting with Putin, but it may be that repairing economic ties will be the first tangible result of the visit,” Peter says. “Since Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet last fall, boycotts, sanctions and travel bans have cut deeply into the Turkish economy.”
Erdogan apologized for the incident in June, after months of hot rhetoric. Now he tells Turkish media that he’s looking for new levels of cooperation, both militarily and economically, between Ankara and Moscow.
The meeting is being watched closely by some in the U.S. and Europe, as Peter reported yesterday:
“For decades, Turkey has joined forces with the West, with NATO, with Europe and the United States. It was a front-line NATO state against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
“But now some are wondering if Erdogan’s Russia visit coming at a time of strong anti-American feelings at home should be seen as something more than a symbolic diplomatic foray.”
Moscow’s main strategic goal is to keep NATO forces far from its borders, Russia expert Akin Unver of Istanbul’s Kadir Has University tells Peter. Unver says this means any dispute among NATO members — especially between the U.S. and Turkey — is welcome news to Russia:
“That rift benefits Russia immensely, because if Turkey and the United States and the rest of NATO countries work together really well, it’s bad news for Russia.”