Through the long Ottoman era, Turks and Russians fought many bloody wars. In modern times Turkey guarded NATO’s southern flank against Soviet mischief. “The Russians are treacherous” is a popular Turkish adage. But one would hardly have guessed it as the two countries’ prime ministers, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, splashily signed a raft of agreements in a ceremony in Ankara on August 6th . . .
In exchange for backing South Stream, Turkey won Russian support for an oil pipeline from the Black Sea port of Samsun to the Ceyhan terminal on the Mediterranean. It is also said to have cajoled Russia into lowering the price for a nuclear-power station. Nabucco and South Stream are not rivals, they are complementary, insists Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu . . .
A bigger test of Turkey’s stance came in the Russia-Georgia war of August 2008. Turkey carefully implemented the Montreux Convention, which governs traffic through the Bosporus, so only a handful of American warships could enter the Black Sea. Neither Turkey nor Russia wants the Americans meddling in their back pond.
What do the Americans think? Ian Lesser, an analyst at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, argues that for now they are not fussed. “The [Obama] administration is far more sensitive to what Turkey does with Iran.” Turkey’s overtures to Russia are seen in the context of a new foreign policy that involves engaging with all its neighbours. Europe can hardly cast stones either, as it remains divided over Russia. Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was present in Ankara because ENI, an Italian energy company, is involved in the South Stream deal. (photo: AFP)