News & Politics

Putin Isn't Finished With Turkey Just Yet: Sees 'No Prospect' of Improving Ties

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during arrivals for the G-20 summit at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. The threat of missiles over the Mediterranean is weighing on world leaders meeting on the shores of the Baltic this week, and eclipsing economic battles that usually dominate when the G-20 world economies meet. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t finished with Turkey just yet. Although he has already damaged the Turkish economy by boycotting Turkish vegetables and fruits, and by arresting Turkish workers in Russia, he seems to be planning to do even more. That’s at least what he implied during his annual news conference held earlier today:

“It is hard for us to reach agreement with the current Turkish leadership, if at all possible,” Putin said during his annual news conference. Putin said the downing of the Russian warplane was “an act of enmity” and he did not understand why Turkey did it. “What have they achieved? Maybe, they thought that we would run away from there (Syria)? But Russia is not such a country.”

When Turkey shot down a Russian bomber in November, the Turks undoubtedly assumed NATO would have their back. Although the military alliance between large parts of Europe and the United States has formally done so, its response was “lukewarm” at best. As a result, Putin believes he’s free to take whatever steps he deems necessary to punish Turkey and increase Russia’s regional power at the same time.

For instance, Russia has started to surround Turkey with a military presence in the Middle East not seen since the days of the Soviet Union. Turkey can no longer treat northern Syria as its backyard. Whenever it wants to act to protect both its national interests and Syria’s Turkmen population, Turkey has to make sure it does so in a way that’s non-threatening to Russia.

That’s reason for concern for Ankara, but what’s worse is that Putin could very well decide to cut off Russia’s supply of natural gas to Turkey. If that happens, the Turkish economy will eventually collapse. If Erdoğan hoped that the worst would be over by now and that Putin would try to make amends, the Russian president’s statements today will disappoint him. Putin clearly has more punishment in store for Turkey — none of it good.