Erdogan: We trust Russia as much as we trust West
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said he trusts Russia as much as he trusts Western allies, marking a pivotal stance in Turkey's approach towards global relations and alliances despite Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
In a recent sit-down with PBS NewsHour, Erdogan openly declared his trust for Russia as akin to his trust in the West, while dissecting the nuances of NATO member Turkey's international relations, future prospects in the European Union, and its stance on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
At the heart of Erdogan's narrative was a candid affirmation that Turkey, despite its NATO allegiance and U.S. alliance, harbours equal trust for Russia.
"To the extent the West is reliable, Russia is equally reliable. For the last 50 years, we have been waiting at the doorstep of the EU, and, at this moment in time, I trust Russia just as much as I trust the West," Erdogan asserted, marking a conspicuous shift in the dynamics that have historically characterised Turkey's relations with its neighbors and allies.
This significant revelation came amidst a broad-ranging discussion, where Erdogan seemed willing to reassess Turkey's bid to join the European Union - a process initiated back in 1999. Noting the prolonged delays and perceived inadequacies in support from the EU, Erdogan conveyed a readiness to abandon the bid if the EU makes such a decision, emphasizing Turkey's self-sufficiency over the past five decades.
The discussion also ventured into the intricate geopolitics involving Sweden's potential NATO membership and Turkey's role in facilitating or stalling this development. Erdogan insisted that Sweden's bid to join NATO and Turkey's EU accession were separate issues, with Turkey ready to support Sweden's NATO aspirations provided Sweden meets certain expectations, particularly concerning the handling of what Erdogan termed as "terrorists wandering around freely" in Stockholm.
The conversation also touched upon the recent F-16 sale discussions between the U.S. and Turkey, highlighting potential links with Turkey's support for Sweden's NATO bid. Erdogan, however, denied any direct linkage between the two issues, placing emphasis on the role of parliaments in both countries to decide the outcomes.
Addressing concerns over Turkey's reluctance to join EU nations in sanctioning Russia over the Ukraine conflict, Erdogan outlined Turkey's unique position and historical ties with Russia, emphasizing a humanitarian obligation and economic cooperation that goes beyond the EU's mandates. Erdogan also expressed faith in Russian President Vladimir Putin's commitment to ending the Ukraine conflict as soon as possible, based on his personal dialogues with Putin.
The Turkish President remained circumspect about predicting the outcome of the Ukraine conflict, noting the complexity and long-term nature of the situation.
When asked about the high-profile arrests in Turkey like businessman Osman Kavala and Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas, Erdogan rejected any criticisms, instead shifting the responsibility to the autonomy of the Turkish judiciary system, and avoiding personal responsibility for these decisions. He also scolded the host for interrupting him, displaying a short temper and an unwillingness to entertain criticism.