Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ♥ Vladimir Putin.
Turkey will defy pressure from the West and continue to strengthen political and economic ties with Moscow despite its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the country’s president has insisted a week before he faces voters in a tense runoff election.
“Russia and Turkey need each other in every field possible,” Erdoğan told CNN in an interview aired Friday, emphasizing his own “special relationship” with Russian President Putin is deepening.
“The West is not leading a very balanced approach — you need a balanced approach toward a country such as Russia,” Erdoğan said. “We are not at a point where we would impose sanctions on Russia like the West has done.”
Despite the country’s membership of NATO, Ankara has stepped up its economic ties with Moscow since the start of the war, increasing imports of cheap Russian oil embargoed by other European countries.
While supplying Ukraine with humanitarian assistance and its domestically made Bayraktar attack drones, Turkey has positioned itself as a neutral party in the conflict, playing host to a series of talks between the two sides.
Erdoğan has also played up his role as a broker in the recently renewed Black Sea grain deal that has allowed supplies from Ukraine’s blockaded ports to reach the global market. In a speech Wednesday, he trumpeted the success of the agreement, describing Putin as a “dear friend.”
The Russia issue has come to the fore of Turkey’s presidential elections after Erdoğan’s liberal democratic challenger, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, last week accused Moscow of having a hand in conspiracies and deep fakes designed to turn voters against him.
As neither candidate received the majority required to win the election outright last Sunday, the two will face off once again next weekend. However, with Erdoğan having attracted more than 49 percent of the vote, Kılıçdaroğlu faces an uphill battle to turn the tables on the two-decade incumbent.
In his interview with CNN, Erdoğan hinted that he is unlikely to change his foreign policy stance if he wins a new term, saying that his opposition to Sweden’s NATO membership application would continue.
“We’re not ready for Sweden right now,” he claimed, “because a NATO country should have a strong stance when it comes to fighting terrorism.”
Ankara has repeatedly accused Stockholm of turning a blind eye to members of outlawed Kurdish groups living in exile in the country, demanding Stockholm extradite dozens of “terrorists” back to Turkey as part of an agreement on its accession to the transatlantic military alliance.