The sudden growth in Turkish-Russian relations in recent years has baffled many observers, who have struggled to explain this change. One has to consider the long history of competition between the two countries to understand their current relationship and its limitations. Rivalry mixed with hostility has defined their relations since the 17th century, and this still informs their current views of each other with historical stereotypes.
Turkey and Russia also have similarities in their dealings with the wider world. Since its emergence, the Russian state has swung between an east-west pendulum and moved in a north-to-south trajectory, which brought it into conflict with peoples standing in their way. The inability to overcome Ottoman Turkey on the north-south axis contributed to Russia’s periodic swings between Europeanism and Eurasianism. Boris Yeltsin’s Europeanism and then Vladimir Putin’s version of Eurasianism mixed with Russian nationalism are the latest incarnation of that phenomenon.
This issue was published by the German Marshall Fund of the United States in June 8, 2020.