Another game of cards under the table, with West as Russia’s doormat, has been played in recent days between two contrasting actors: the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, in its confrontation with the West and NATO. That didn’t stop it from sealing an unprecedented deal with Turkey, a NATO member state., its main enemy, to unlock 26 thousand tons of corn. This is no anecdote and a significant diplomatic breakthrough for Erdogan.
The agreement was signed in Istanbul last week with mediation from Turkey and the United Nations, and allows Ukraine to gain access to its ships in the Black Sea under the protection of Turkish warships. For the first time since the start of the Russian offensive, Ukraine was able to take a shipment of grain from the port of Odessa. The agreement is expected to bring the total to 24 million tonnes of grain exported to other ports. These are the ports of Tchornomorsk and Iuzne.
When the Rajoni ship departed the port of Odessa, it was, in fact, the first progress in a conflict that had not seen even the most distant sign of resolution. Putin has never succumbed to any demand, pressure or approval. He has been a master of the game which he himself armed and activated when he wanted to or when the West broke the code of minimum understanding. Despite being a member of NATO, Moscow considers Turkey a “trusted” negotiator.
Evidence of the confidence that the West lost in Moscow, Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Vladimir Putin this Friday in Sotchi (a Russian city on the Black Sea coast) to talk about “Ukraine and Syria.” This is the second meeting between the two men in the last month. At the same time that Putin and Erdogan shook hands in Sochi, other grain ships sailed this Friday from Ukrainian ports under Turkish protection.
Erdogan, Putin’s sole negotiator
Neither China, nor the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, nor French President Emmanuel Macron are Vladimir Putin’s negotiators, but Turkey is the head of state. The handshake between the two leaders can be compared to the phase of disunity that Russia and the West go through.
Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin haven’t spoken on the phone for two months and this Friday the Kremlin acknowledged that communication with France “is not necessary because, first of all, France is an unfriendly state if you look at the actions that France takes in our country.” doing against.” Until May 28, the French head of state was the Western president, who maintained more frequent telephone contact with Putin, at least officially.
This earned Macron criticism and ridicule because, before and during the war, his meetings and talks with Putin failed to stop the war or negotiate humanitarian corridors or other solutions. Relations between the two presidents deteriorated in July after French television broadcast confidential excerpts of talks between Macron and Putin. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov even said that this is a “violation of diplomatic etiquette, which does not provide for unilateral leaking of recordings.” That nine-minute conversation took place before the Russian offensive.
Then the cruelest and most accurate image of the lack of communication between the Russians and Westerners was spread: when Macron visited Putin in Moscow on 7 February, the Russian president asked him to a continent (six meters) up against a table. received from the end. , Actually, they made fun of him and told with the same image who was the owner of that time.
Mediator between Kyiv and Moscow
Until this second intervention by the Turkish President, no one changed the line drawn by Putin. Turkey is the mediator between Kyiv and Moscow and has managed to make the Russians and Ukrainians sit around a table with the aim of reaching a ceasefire and establishing humanitarian corridors. That effort was not successful, but the next one ensured Turkey’s role on the export of Ukrainian grain and shipping corridors to the Black Sea.
The issue of grain was capital not only for the Ukrainian economy, but also for world inflation. Before the February 24 invasion, Ukraine supplied 10 percent of the world market’s wheat, 16 percent of its corn and nearly half of its sunflower oil. With Russian ships stationed in the Black Sea, Kyiv filled the sea with sea mines for fear of invasion, and Russia blocked its ports.
Erdogan’s opportunism lifted the blockade and disabled Turkey as the country, which may have been the central actor in negotiating an agreement to end the war or suspend it. Russia supplies Turkey with 45 percent of its gas needs, and passes through Turkey through the Turkstream gas pipeline, which also delivers gas to Europe (for now).
The Russian-Turkish understanding is above all the differences between the two countries, which are serious. In Syria, Russia supports President Bachar al-Assad and Erdogan’s opposition. In addition, for several weeks Erdogan has been threatening to launch a military operation in Syria to dislodge Kurdish forces controlling border cities between Syria and Turkey. Ankara’s planned military operation aims to establish a 30-kilometer security zone.
However, it is impossible to carry out this without Russian support. Putin opposed any Turkish military intervention in Syria. But according to Turkish and Western media, its strategic needs could change its position. Moscow will agree to military intervention if Turkey sells it the highly effective Bayraktar-TB2 combat drone, the same one it has already supplied to Ukraine.
This Friday, in Sochi, Putin told Erdogan: “Thanks to your direct participation and the mediation of the UN Secretary-General, the problem of Ukrainian grain supply from the Black Sea ports has been solved. I want to thank you.” Ankara’s next goal is to achieve a ceasefire. It is very likely that Putin will grant that privilege to Erdogan and, with it, further humiliate a West that lacked rationality, modesty, strategy and diplomatic intelligence.