What Erdoğan and Putin discussed alone is what's important
The meeting Dec. 3 between Turkish and Russian delegations in Istanbul, even though they are headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Vladimir Putin, matters much less when compared with the conversation the two leaders had when they were left alone.
Indeed the most critical part Putin’s visit was the long tete-a-tete meeting he had with Erdoğan, because that’s when they had a frank discussion.
This is my personal fiction of the possible conversation that might have taken place between the two: See for yourself to what degree it’s fiction or it’s close to reality:
Erdoğan: I will be very frank with you. I have been locked on the presidential elections in 2014. I want an uncontested victory, but the more the Syrian crisis continues, the more my voter base is feeling uneasy.
Putin: I will equally be frank with you. The more the wave of the Muslim Brotherhood unseats dictators in one country after the other, the more uneasy I become, because after Syria, this wave will reach Iran and then will come to the Caucasus and Central Asia. It’s not for nothing that I have included the president of the Republic of Tataristan in my delegation. But can I do the same with other republics like Chechnya? No, because I still have not settled accounts with my own Muslims. And don’t think that I am not aware that you are trying to create a region governed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Erdoğan: I have never thought you would be naïve, but you should not worry about the Muslim Brotherhood. Just give me some time until 2014. After securing my presidency, I will check the Muslim Brotherhood. It is not for nothing that the Directorate of Religious Affairs, Diyanet we call it, now enjoys one of the biggest shares of the budget. And it is not busy constructing mosques in Turkey but educating imams that will be active abroad. Russia, as you know, is one of the countries where Diyanet, with your approval of course, is the most active. Don’t you think it’s better to deal with moderate Islam? Otherwise you will have to face more radical Islamists. In fact the more the war continues in Syria the more it provides a fertile ground to the radicals.
Putin: President Bashar al-Assad will go one day, but right now I cannot afford to have an early victory for Islamists in Syria. I need to gain time and halt the success wave of the Muslim Brotherhood, because in time, the deficiencies and failures of the Muslim Brotherhood will become more apparent and disappointment will replace the current euphoria.
Erdoğan: In this case my problem is that I cannot afford Russia sending arms to Syria. We have turned a blind eye to a dozen Russian planes carrying suspected materiel to Syria. In fact, we were going to force one plane that was loaded to land, but it escaped at the last minute. We just did not want to have a headache in our relations.
Putin: I am well aware of that; that’s why I have sent my warplanes that violated your airspace for a few minutes, just to show I am not happy about the tension in the air.
Erdoğan: Well then let’s not have headaches in the air and now talk about energy issues before we end this meeting.
Putin: Very well, let’s do so.