Russian President Vladimir Putin paid reverence to Turkey for maintaining a strong fiscal relationship with Russia in the presence of Ukraine-related economic sanctions against the Kremlin ratcheted up several times by the United States and the European Union.
In a recent interview with The Anadolu Agency, Turkey’s wire news service, Putin praised Turkey for what he referred to as independent decision-making on their economic relationship with Russia despite the fiscal sanctions imposed, primarily by the U.S. and the E.U., in response to Russia’s activity in the Ukraine.
“We highly value independent decisions by Turkey, including on economic cooperation with Russia,” said Putin, ahead of his December 1 visit to Turkey to discuss economic ties and the jihadists crisis in Iraq and Syria. “Our Turkish partners refused to sacrifice their interests for somebody else’s political ambitions.”
“The position of your government opens up new opportunities for increasing bilateral trade,” he continued. “First of all, it allows the Turkish farmers to fill in the emerging niches on Russia’s huge food market. We welcome their intentions to export more meat, dairy and fish products, vegetables, and fruits to Russia.”
The Russian president revealed that it is Russia’s intention to increase the value of their mutual trade by nearly three fold, from $32.7 billion to $100 billion. Currently, Russia is Turkey’s second-largest trading partner, according to Bloomberg News.
“I would like to note that unilateral restrictive measures imposed on our country by the United States, EU, Japan, Australia, and a number of other states are not legitimate,” Putin reasserted. “Such pressure not only causes direct economic damage, but also threatens international stability.”
Putin acknowledged that Turkey is the second largest consumer of Russian natural gas, after Germany.
“Last year, Russian gas supplies to Turkey reached 26.6 billion cubic meters, and this year, most likely, will probably exceed this amount,” he said.
In Turkey, a NATO member of U.S. ally, anti-American sentiment runs deep in some segments of society. Turkey has refused to allow the U.S. military to use its air base in Incirlik to attack Islamic State jihadists in neighboring Iraq and Syria. So far, it has only allowed unmanned surveillance flights out of there.
The government of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has also refused to take up an active combat role in the U.S.-led military operations against the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, or ISIL), only agreeing to allow the training of moderate Syrian opposition forces on its soil.
An unintended consequence of the sanctions imposed on the Kremlin, which have plunged Russia’s rubble and cranked up inflation, is a groundswell of support for Putin among the country’s general public, according to The Christian Science Monitor.
Ever since he returned to power in 2012, Mr. Putin has opposed U.S. policies across the globe.
Although Turkey is a E.U. accession country, it is not yet a full member and therefore does not fall within the remit of the economic sanctions against Russia.
As a result, the economic relationship between Russia and Turkey, through trade primarily, has flourished.
Russia and Turkey do not see eye to eye on the crisis in Syria, an issue that Putin acknowledged during the interview. He seized that opportunity to take a shot at the West, accusing “some” Western nations of supporting ISIS at one time.
“The main risk of further aggravation of the situation both in this country and in neighboring states stems from the activities of the so-called Islamic State and other radical groups that were once actively employed by some Western countries, which flirted with them and encouraged them,” said the Russian leader.
Russia fully supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey wants regime change.Nevertheless, Bloomberg News reports that is unlikely to interfere with natural gas and nuclear energy cooperation between the two countries.