Moscow was the first to announce Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with President Tayyip Erdoğan in Astana on October 13. Then followed Ankara; Erdoğan was to co-chair the strategy cooperation talks between Turkey and Kazakhstan with the President of Kazakhstan Kasym Tokayev and to attend the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia on October 12-13 in Astana. Putin and Erdoğan were going to meet there.
Are there any other two leaders in the world who meet so often? Erdogan-Putin talks have recently taken the form of “regular monthly” meetings. I am not saying it to criticize; I wish the President of Turkey would meet with other world leaders as often as he does with the Russian leader. But the frequency of these talks is really remarkable:
July 19, Tehran: During the trilateral Syria summit with Iran.
August 5, Sochi: Following the grain agreement with Ukraine.
September 16, Samarkand: within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Summit.
October 13, Astana: During the conference.
Since the start of the Ukraine War, Turkey’s President has been the only NATO country leader to meet with Russia’s President on a regular basis. This is an important geopolitical advantage; Despite its risks, it currently has a place in world politics.
A bridge between Putin and the West?
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Ukraine will be the main subject of the discussion. Then, upon the question about the possibility of Turkey organizing talks between Russia and the West, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “Erdogan will have an opportunity to put proposals to Putin in Astana”.
President Erdogan has always focused on bringing Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski together in Turkey. Putin, on the other hand, said that he always wanted to discuss this issue with US President Joe Biden, whom he saw behind Ukraine. That was a serious difference in their approach.
Biden announced yesterday that he has no intention of meeting with Putin at this stage. Moreover, even if there will be a meeting, Putin seems to want the four regions annexed from Ukraine, in addition to Crimea, to be acknowledged and recognized as Russian territory, as a condition of peace.
As a matter of fact, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Russia’s annexation referendum and declaration of mobilization “made the situation even more difficult”.
This was followed by the sabotage of Ukrainian forces on a strategic bridge connecting Russia’s annexed Crimea on October 8, followed by Russia’s raining of missiles on Kyiv. After the Erdogan-Putin phone call on October 7, Moscow planned the Astana meeting following the developments.
The US Senate’s F-16 condition on Turkey
Shortly after Erdoğan and Putin’s meeting in Astana was announced, news came from the other side of the world, from the US. The US Senate’s conditions in the NDAA, which stipulated to block the approval of the F-16 sales to Turkey unless Ankara agrees not to use it against Greece and a terrorism condition for the NATO bid of Finland and Sweden, were removed from the 2023 text. In any case, it was an attempt against Turkey’s sovereign rights, which no Turkish government could accept, and which had an air of propaganda from the start.
Although this development did not mean that the USA would approve the sale, it meant the removal of an important obstacle, especially the regression of the lobbies of Greece and Armenia in the Congress before the November 8 elections. In addition to the behind-the-scenes diplomatic and political initiatives and negotiations, there are two more variables that may have a role in this. First is Erdogan’s statement on October 5 that “if the USA does not approve, we will buy the fighter jets from somewhere else”. The second is the fact that Turkey is currently the only NATO member that regularly speaks with Russia at the highest level.
The American-Saudi conflict and the 2023 election
At the same time, the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia deteriorated. Even though the US and EU have put in place sanctions to limit Russia’s oil income, Washington is upset that the Saudis are trying to raise oil prices through OPEC.
It’s not clear if this issue will be brought up at Erdogan’s monthly meeting with Putin, but if this news is taken seriously, it could put Turkey at the forefront of international politics.
Of course, it should not be forgotten that the two sources of foreign investment that Erdogan expects for the 2023 election are Russia and Saudi Arabia.
It is useful to look at the Astana meeting from this perspective.