In the background of the diplomatic row between some EU countries and Ankara, Russian media reported that the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had discussed a purchase of S-400 long-range air missile defence systems for Turkey. Ankara is a NATO ally of the most of the European countries. But can the EU really trust its South Eastern neighbour?

After Mr. Erdoğan reacted furiously to Netherlands’s decision prevent his foreign minister from entering the country in order to hold a pro-government rally with Turkish citizens living in Rotterdam, the Turkish president accused EU members Germany and the Netherlands of being fascists and Nazis. He also accused EU member states of persecuting Muslims in a similar way to how there Jews were treated during World War II and said that the “spirit of fascism” was running wild on the streets of Europe.

A modern day Jihad

In the meantime, the foreign minister of Turkey, Mevlut Cavusoglu, warned that Europe will be the site of what he called “holy wars’ that will ultimately destroy it, and a week ago the Turkish pro-government newspaper Yeni Akit warned that “The Netherlands has 48,000 soldiers while there are 400,000 Turks living there”.

On this background the Russian newspaper “Izvestiya” reported, that the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the president of Russia Vladimir Putin had discussed purchase S-400 long-range air missile defence systems. The information had been confirmed by the Russian defence minister Sergey Shoigu, and the minister of National Defence of Turkey Fikri Isik noticed that “there is a progress” on the matter.

Moscow and Ankara are in warm economical and political ties, although that was in jeopardy in November 2016 when Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet near the border with Syria, and Russia’s ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was assassinated during opening an exhibition in an art gallery in the Turkish capital late in 2016.

Moscow hot air

Russia and Turkey are planning the construction of a gas pipeline across the Black Sea to Turkey’s European part, with a further extension to the border with Greece, so-called project  “Turkish stream”. If the Turkish Stream pipeline will ultimately be constructed, its launch will substantially mitigate transit risks for Russian gas via the territory of its neighbours, and will increase the Russian presence in the Turkish gas market. The “Turkish stream” will also give Moscow additional influence on Europe as the second line of the pipeline is designed to supply an additional 15.75 billion cubic meters of Russian gas a year through Turkey to Southern Europe. If the project is implemented, Russia will increase its gas supplies to Europe by about 10 percent.

By the words of the journalist Semih Idiz “spurred by anger at the West, Turkey appears to be moving increasingly into Russia’s political orbit”. “It is no secret that Erdogan sees ties with Russia as a way to counterbalance deteriorating ties with the United States and Europe and has even expressed a desire to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, led by Russia and China”, says Idiz for “Al-Monitor”.

In times of strengthening the ties between these two regional powers, ruled by the authoritarian leaders like Putin and Erdogan, EU must show a clear and firm position. Defending the European values, in 2014 Brussels imposed sanctions on Russia because of the illegal annexation of Crimea and deliberate destabilisation of Ukraine. That put the relations between EU and the Russian Federation on a thorny field. And nowadays the relations with Turkey are becoming increasingly difficult.

The EU stands in front of difficult questions, regarding energy supplies and the collective security. And that’s  why the unity between the member countries is more crucial than ever.

Milen Marinov
Bulgarian journalist and devoted to the European cause.

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    1. Turkey has never been a country with European culture. And won’t be any time soon. EU should have a united position towards Turkey. As for Russia, the North-Atlantic community should stop pressing against her. In the 1990’s and in the early 2000 it showed sincere interest in being in good relations with the North-Atlantic community (NAC). It was rejected and there were many anti-Russian moves which the Russians couldn’t leave unanswered. EU needs a revision of its policy towards Russia towards a more positive one. Russia might be a competitor, but also a partner, and not an enemy.

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    3. This is surely the continuation of ‘The Great Game’ (q.v. ‘Kim’ by Rudyard Kipling). Access to the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean is the prize that Russia still gambles for, with peoples’ lives and liberty as the stakes.

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