When the leaders of New Turkey and New Russia meet
Today all eyes are turned to the meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin to be held in St. Petersburg. This meeting is taking place after the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15 and after the ice between the two countries has fully thawed. It coincides with a period when Turkey’s exports to Russia dropped 59.9 percent and the number of incoming Russian tourists fell 87.3 percent in the first six months of the year.
However, signs coming from government sources in Russia reveal that this picture will change, if not immediately, but in time. Political analysts point out that the deepening gap between Turkey and its Western allies has a role in this convergence. At the top of the topics to be discussed at today’s meeting are trade, tourism and of course energy.
According to Russian Deputy President Arkady Dvorkovish, who met Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek, recently, the Turkish Stream project that will transport natural gas from Russia to Turkey via a pipeline under the Black Sea will be brought down from its shelf. It is no secret that Russia wishes, in the long run, to bypass Ukraine in its natural gas exports to Europe. Even if this situation does not make the Europeans very happy, the Turkish Stream is a project that pools Russia and Turkey over the same platform.
On the other hand, the Mersin Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant that was suspended after Turkey shot down the Russian plane in November last year is expected to be one of the hottest topics at the meeting. The Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant has caused many questions in the public. Erdoğan will have a stronger hand in this topic when he faces Putin. It is because it has been recently revealed that Cengiz Holding, known to be close to the government, is seeking 49 percent of the Akkuyu Nuclear Company. Cengiz Holding had won the hydroelectric bid of Akkuyu Power Plant one year ago.
In tourism, Russia is Turkey’s second biggest market and thus the source of hot money. While the European market has saturated, Russia still has huge potential.
Since the 1990s when Russia opened to tourism, not only Turkey but other destinations of Russian tourists are managed by Turkish companies. As in the construction sector, there is Turkish company dominance in the tourism sector in Russia. They are all expecting good news from St. Petersburg.
In this city, Turkish company Rönesans Holding has constructed several significant buildings. This company is Russia’s biggest contracting firm with its $2-billion turnover and 25,000 employees. When I had the opportunity to listen to Putin two years ago at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, he was talking about a “New Russia” and “mega projects.”
I have no doubt that the leader of “New Turkey,” Erdoğan, will get along very well with Putin and the relationship between the two countries will be sailing toward a new spring…