Relations between Turkey and Russia are cozy, prompting worries in the West of a potentially critical rift in the NATO alliance. But Turkey’s president may be engaged in a balancing act, turning to Russia as ties with the United States further deteriorate.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin have met at least 11 times since August 2016, resuming energy and trade deals, after relations hit rock bottom with Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet near Syria’s border in 2015.
Turkey’s pledge to buy a Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system, with deliveries starting next year, has exacerbated the West’s concerns.
Even if Putin and Erdogan find accommodation in Syria, their interests diverge further north in the Black Sea, a theater for conflicts since Russian and Ottoman imperial days.