By Elijah J. Magnier:
On Sunday, Turkey goes to the polls in a presidential election that can shape the country’s future for years to come. Some 60 million Turkish voters will go to the polls, while 3.5 million are eligible to vote abroad, bringing the total number of voters to around 63.5 million. The election will also decide who will fill the 600 seats in the country’s parliament. The world eagerly awaits the return or downfall of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He ruled the country for 20 years and stroked a balance between East and West despite the US and the EU dissatisfaction, the NATO member that has become Russia’s strategic ally. Washington and Brussels have been alarmed by the rise of strongmen like Erdogan and Putin since the turn of the century, and Erdogan’s defeat would not be disliked in the West.
Russia, the US and the EU:
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart have a complex relationship. Tensions between the two reached a boiling point in 2015 when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian-Turkish border that Putin considered a ‘stab in the back’. Turkey continues supplying Kyiv with lethal drones despite Russian objections in Ukraine. In Syria, Erdogan is still far from withdrawing. His forces from the northwest he is occupying despite the numerous Russian-Iranian negotiations (and maintaining forces in Iraq against Baghdad’s will). Despite these differences, they share a joint opposition to what they see as a Western-dominated global order.
Despite the challenges in their relationship, Putin and Erdogan have found common ground in their opposition to the West’s dominance and their desire to challenge the existing global order. This has led to a degree of cooperation between the two countries and a shared sense of camaraderie and mutual support. Last month, Russian and Turkish Presidents celebrated fuel loading into Turkey’s first civilian nuclear project. The Akkuyu nuclear power plant, built by Russia’s state-controlled atomic corporation Rosatom for $20 billion, symbolises the flourishing bilateral energy and economic ties forged by the two leaders during their two decades in power. The Turkish-Russian level of cooperation is upsetting the United States, which is fighting Russia in a proxy war on Ukrainian soil.
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