FT: Recep Tayyip Erdogan plays a risky double game
In a leading article on Thursday signed by the editorial board, British newspaper Financial Times said that Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan wanted to attract Russian capital to Turkey ahead of next year’s elections but Ankara's close cooperation with Moscow could trigger US retaliation.
The article stated that Russia's invasion of Ukraine created an opportunity for Erdogan to mediate between the parties and he deserved praise for his role in the grain corridor agreement between Ukraine and Russia, but his careful safeguarding of important economic ties with Moscow concerned its Western allies.
“After his cosy-seeming four-hour meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin last Friday, western capitals worry Erdogan is deepening links with Moscow when his Nato partners are doing the opposite, and the Kremlin is looking for ways to bypass western sanctions. The Turkish leader is playing a complex but risky game,” The FT said.
The newspaper reminded that Turkey did not participate in the sanctions imposed on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine by the US and the EU, continued to buy oil and gas from Russia, and kept its airspace open to commercial Russian planes.
On his way back from Sochi, Erdogan told reporters that Mir, the card system that makes it easier for Russian tourists to make payments in Turkey, was adopted by five banks in Turkey.
At a time when Visa and Mastercard are suspending their operations in Russia, Western countries are concerned about the Mir connection being used to neutralize sanctions, the FT said.
“Erdoğan has good reason to woo Russian financial inflows as he tries to win re-election next year amid an escalating debt and currency crisis, caused largely by his own economic mismanagement. Inflation hit a 24-year high of 79.6 per cent in July and the lira has halved in value against the dollar over 12 months,” it said.
The FT warned that any deepening of economic ties with Moscow was likely to inflame frictions with the west as failure to prevent sanctions leakage via Turkey would make it all the more difficult for Western countries to restrain other emerging markets such as China.
The newspaper concluded: “In his game of geostrategic poker, Erdogan should be wary of overplaying his hand”