September 5, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8259

Russian Expert Avatkov: Putin's Ice Cream For Erdogan, A Metaphor Of Russia-Turkey Relations

September 5, 2019
Russia, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8259

Commenting on the recent visit by Turkish President Recep Erdogan to Russia,[1] Russian expert Vladimir Avatkov, director of the Center of the Oriental Studies and a lecturer at Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO University), said that the relations between Russia and Turkey are still characterized by many "ifs" and "buts".

According to Avatkov, Erdogan's visit best embodied the oriental metaphor for Russian-Turkish relations. "Against the backdrop of the situation in Northern Syria and the risk of interstate confrontation, Erdogan, as a 'genuine oriental man', was quite emotional. Thus, upon his arrival at MAKS [the International Aviation and Space Salon], Vladimir Putin fed him with Russian ice cream in order to call him down and talked about the possibilities for expanding cooperation and showed, in every possible way, that Moscow, unlike Washington, is ready to do a lot, but ... it desires reciprocity," Avatkov wrote.

Avatkov concluded that Russia is prepared to go further in deepening relations with Turkey, despite its "accumulated discontent" with Ankara. "The time for big changes is coming, for now - there are too many 'ifs' and 'buts', however, this is the road that has to be walked through and risks cannot be avoided," Avatkov asserted.

Below is Avatkov's article:[2]

Vladimir Avatkov (Source:



Vladimir Putin Fed Erdogan With Russian Ice Cream In Order To Calm Him Down 

"On August 27, a planned-emergency (or however you would like to interpret it) an emergency planned visit by Turkish president Erdogan to Moscow took place. To be more precise, he went to Zhukovsky, in Moscow's suburbs. The road to Moscow itself is currently not open [for Erdogan], so it's better to be 101 kilometers far from there, yet it's never too late to improve things, since even a stalled car can sooner or later break free of the mud.

"In this case there are so many opportunities and possibilities [that it would be a pity] to lose them at the next bend them so easily. [In fact] both countries have been through that already, not long ago, after a Russian combat plane was downed in the skies over Syria. [Now] some lessons have been learnt, there is a good rapprochement, and there are prospects, and in case of any difficulties, suburban Moscow ice cream will come to the rescue.

"The visit was the epitome of the oriental metaphor for Russian-Turkish relations. Against the backdrop of the complicating situation in Northern Syria and the risk of interstate clash, Erdogan, as a genuine 'man of the orient, was highly emotional. Thus, upon his arrival to MAKS [the International Aviation and Space Salon], Vladimir Putin fed his Turkish colleague with Russian ice cream in order to calm him down and talked about the possibilities for expanding cooperation and showed, in every possible way, that Moscow, unlike Washington, is ready to do a lot, but ... it desires reciprocity.

"It's hard to say whether this [attitude] succeeded in thawing the ice of Erdogan's feelings but, on a couple of occasions, Erdogan called the Russian President 'a dear friend' and only once explicitly hinted at the possible consequences in case of a further advance by Syrian government troops, saying that if necessary, the Turks would do what is necessary.

"A confrontation between states is the last thing that all the players (probably, except for Washington) would want in Syria. The Russian-Turkish-Iranian alliance is the new durable basis for a regional security system, an example of cooperation on the basis of mutual respect for the interests of the parties. The details vary, but, as you know, the devil lies in them. Iran and the Damascus government do not like the Turkish presence in Syria; Israel does not like Tehran's presence there; Turkey does not like Kurdish groups, the Americans are meddling , and [also] Russia is standing in the way. Moscow is tired of waiting for Ankara to start a more active work in the de-escalation zone. Sooner or later, this entire conflict cocktail will 'go off'.

"In the meantime, the ice cream and the previously cited favorable prospects have calmed down the Turkish leader, however, at a press conference Erdogan blamed the Syrian government for everything [including] carrying out the 'bombing of civilians' and 'hindering' the implementation of existing agreements. At the same time, most likely, the Turkish leader nevertheless understood that not only he had concerns about migration flows, but that Moscow was also concerned about the possibility of their growth (tourism after all ...) and their movement towards the Caucasus.

"Moreover, the Turkish President could not fail to understand that certain groups, often loyal to Ankara, are threatening the security of Russian facilities in Syria. In general, it would be better if expressed all of this to each other to their faces, in order to avoid jet-tomato situations [the retaliatory boycott of Turkish tomatoes following the downing of the Russian plane] which are beneficial only to the Anglo-Saxon world.

"Obviously, security issues were the key elements in the current talks between Putin and Erdogan. Against the backdrop of the deteriorating relations with the United States and the dynamic development of its own defense industry support program, Turkey is becoming increasingly interested in cooperating with Moscow.

"Possible air contracts on the Su-35, and MIG-38, and even the Su-57, were discussed at the air show. Moreover, the Russian side has made it clear that it is ready for joint productions with the Republic of Turkey, something that, for example, the United States [always] refused and imposed sanctions on its partner. Furthermore, it was possible to reach an agreement between Russia and Turkey on sending the first (not by seniority, but from the point of view of history) Turk into space. Cooperation in space and in other promising areas is the key for a durable future Russian – Turkish dialogue.

"Against the backdrop of the upcoming holiday - the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, both leaders noted positive dynamics in the economic sphere (25.5 billion dollars of trade turnover with the goal of reaching 100 billion) and the development of large energy projects (the Akkuyu nuclear power plant and the Turkish Stream gas pipeline). It seems that economic prospects will prevail over emotional and ideological constructs, but we have already been through this.

There Are Too Many 'Ifs' And 'Buts' In Russia-Turkey Relations, However, This Is The Road That Has To Be Walked Through And Risks Cannot Be Avoided

"Economy without politics, security and the humanitarian factor is worth zilch, [it's] gold that can turn into tin in a second. And here some extremely difficult questions arise: they concern the Syrian Turks, the Turks of the post-Soviet area, the expansion of Turkish lobbyism, and the aggressiveness of the Turkish foreign policy focused on the long-term. All of this is difficult to measure, it is matter that requires detailed work, debugging, without which, in fact, it's impossible to move forward. But there are few real projects – exploratory and practical - on this topic. So coincidentally, on the day of the Turkish leader's visit to Russia, one of them was opened up, [it was called] 'Russia and Turkey. Dialogue through youth.'

"Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan spoke about the importance of cultural interaction between the two countries and even stated that the public was involved in the preparations for the celebration of the centenary of the diplomatic relations (I wonder what this 'public' is and by which mechanisms it is connected to [the celebrations]?). In other words, there is an understanding on the need for joint work at different levels and this has already begun to be discussed at every turn. There remains the problem of concrete actions and of mechanisms for their implementation, [this problem] – apparently – is not visible enough from above, but it is tangible already at the middle level and, more so, at the bottom level.

"Russia and Turkey understand each other very well, but a 'translation' is still needed and a correct translation is needed. Otherwise, a fine tuning cannot be carried out, and, without it, this relationship is predetermined to step into dangerous traps.

"The entire current visit resembled the picture of restraining a hot-blooded oriental friend – restraint via prospects, offers and ideas. Vladimir Putin even talked emphatically, at the end of his speech, about 'Turkish-Russian' relations. It is unlikely that this was a slip of the tongue, it is hardly possible to suspect the Russian authorities of being pro-Turkey, which means that this was another metaphor: the ball is on their side [of the court], we are open and ready to go further, although we have stored-up discontent.

"The time for big changes is coming, for now - there are too many 'ifs' and 'buts', however, this is the road that has to be walked through and risks cannot be avoided. Everyone understands all this both in Moscow and in Ankara, which means that there will be a long phase of deepening cooperation in the security sphere and an urgent 'emergency planned' adjustment in the humanitarian sphere. This, of course, will be closely monitored by 'overseas friends' who will do everything to ensure that setbacks will take place [to this process].

"But we know how to please a potential adversary, more precisely [we know how] 'to please'."


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