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Russia-Turkey rapprochement has limits

Russia and Turkey have made strides in improving their ties, but the relationship is going to need far more than the issuance of commemorative plates celebrating the Aug. 9 meeting of the countries' presidents in the Constantine Palace's Greek Room.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend a news conference following their meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, August 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin - RTSM4JY
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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Aug. 9 meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t solve all the problems in the complex Russian-Turkish relationship, but it seems likely to impart further momentum to the rapprochement following Erdogan’s apology for Ankara’s downing of a Russian Su-24 in November 2015. Still, the limits to the Russia-Turkey relationship may already be apparent to some in Moscow.

On the positive side, perhaps most significant is the fact that Putin did not limit the event to a one-on-one meeting with Erdogan. Indeed, had the Kremlin sought to draw out Erdogan’s penitence, Russian officials could have done so; Putin could even have pressed Erdogan to repeat his somewhat weak written apology live on camera on Russian territory. Instead, Russia’s president was magnanimous in victory; he not only met his Turkish counterpart, but assembled several key subordinates for a larger and more practically oriented conversation about restarting specific bilateral projects. Russia’s high-level delegation included Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Putin’s foreign policy assistant Yury Ushakov, General Staff Chief Valery Gerasimov, Gazprom Chairman Alexey Miller, and Russia’s energy, economic and transport ministers. Putin’s special representative on Syria also took part, as did Russia’s ambassador to Turkey.

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