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The implications of Turkish-Russian rapprochement

August 11th, 2016

Commentators disagree on whether Turkish-Russian diplomatic rapprochement is to be judged as a worrisome development by Europe.

Turkish-Russian reconciliation is a challenge for Europe, Péter Bakodi writes in Magyar Idők. The pro-government columnist finds it highly alarming that NATO member Turkey is trying to tighten its diplomatic ties with Russia. Bakodi sees the annexation of Crimea as an indication that Russia is still following an aggressive and imperial geopolitical path. He also considers Moscow a real and imminent threat to the Baltic states, which have significant Russian populations. If Turkey reneges on the EU migrant deal and opens its borders to huge numbers of migrants, this can further weaken Europe’s security, Bakondi adds. In conclusion, he notes that by implication,  Russian-Turkish rapprochement may nonetheless have a positive impact on Europe: such an external threat could strengthen unity within the EU.

Népszabadság’s Gábor Miklós finds it unlikely that Turkey and Russia can broker a strategic deal that would challenge Europe. The left-wing analyst likens the Turkish-Russian relationship to a love-hate affair. While both countries have a joint interest in restoring trade relations and advancing a deal in Syria, they are still regional competitors, Miklós underlines. As the EU has become critical of President Erdogan’s purges in the aftermath of the failed coup, the Turkish government is bluffing, and is playing the Russian card to blackmail its European and NATO members rather than to actually tighten its geopolitical ties with Russia, Miklós contends.

In Magyar Nemzet, Gábor Stier also dismisses fears that Turkey wants to replace its NATO and EU partnerships with Russian affiliations. The conservative commentator believes that the ideological symmetries of the two authoritarian regimes do not matter too much in international relations. He goes on to note that despite recent ideological criticism and diplomatic friction, Turkey’s main interests lie in Europe.

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