Europe in the World

Russia and Turkey - What does their partnership mean for the EU?

13 February 2015
Dimitar Bechev (Director, European Policy Institute, Sofia; Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council)



Russia and Turkey have, over the past two decades, developed a very constructive relationship across a wide variety of policy areas. Imperial rivals during much of the Cold War, both countries have since then found common interests in matters of energy, trade and even defence. Besides their growing interdependence, it is hard not to notice the similarities between the two leaders of these countries, especially when it comes to the conspiracy mind-set of blaming dissent at home on foreign meddling. But does this mean that Turkey is fundamentally realigning its foreign policy strategy, away from the EU and towards Russia? And is the EU facing the emergence of an “axis of the excluded”? Not so according to Dimitar Bechev. In this Policy Brief, he argues that the ties between Russia and Turkey are driven by pragmatism and realpolitik. Contentious issues – such as the war in Syria - may be insulated from areas of overlapping interest, but deeper examination shows the glue holding the two countries together – their energy interdependence – is slowly weakening. Bechev believes the EU should take advantage of this divergence and try to (re-)anchor Turkey to its own initiatives and policies.

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Head of Europe in the World programme and Senior Fellow

Giovanni Grevi
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Researcher in EU energy and climate policy, Institute of European Studies, Free University of Brussels

Marco Giuli
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Paul Ivan
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Amanda Paul
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Ivano di Carlo
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