Pre-election need for financial support behind Erdoğan’s support for Russia - analysts

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s defence of Russian interests and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin regarding grain exports from Ukraine is rooted in a need for financial support ahead of the 2023 elections, according to analysts speaking to the Media Line.

The president, after two decades in power, has seen lower and lower poll numbers as Turkey battles the economic crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation rates above 80 percent, and a currency that is rapidly losing its value.

On top of the overall popularity of anti-Western rhetoric among his voter base, Erdoğan “wants to insure the Russian assistance in the elections through the economy”, Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Ankara offices, told Media Line.

Russia has provided Turkey with foreign investment and the Russian central bank announced it could buy currencies of friendly countries last month. Turkey’s first nuclear power plant is currently being constructed in partnership with Russia, with a $20 billion investment by Moscow.

“The fact that grain shipments are going to the countries that implement these sanctions (against Moscow) disturbs Mr. Putin. We also want grain shipments to start from Russia,” Erdoğan said at a news conference last week.

“I can say very clearly that I do not find the West’s attitude to be right,” Erdoğan said, adding that western countries “base their policies on provocation”.

“I’m saying this to those who underestimate Russia, you are in the wrong. Russia is not a country to be underestimated,” Erdoğan said in the same speech.

According to Moscow-based analyst Kerim Has, Erdoğan has become “the main promoter of Russian arguments in international media”.

The power balance is also shifting in favour of Turkey, Has told Media Line. Currently, Ankara stands out as a way for Russia to connect with international markets after sweeping western sanctions cut off most of its ties.

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