MOSCOW — They say that familiarity breeds contempt. In recent years Russian President Vladimir Putin has met his Turkish counterpart more than any other foreign leader. Practically every meeting between the two brings something amusing, be it Putin pulling the chair from under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or treating the Turkish leader with Russian ice cream. Both obviously enjoy media attention and know how to work public interest in their personas. Both still have the ability to surprise the public. Both seem to enjoy it. Most importantly, however, they know how to link the projection of this “special personal relationship” between the two to the improvement of Russia-Turkey relations.
Only last week many expected — some with excitement, others with fear — that Moscow and Ankara are heading toward a concrete wall of uncompromised disagreements and are about to experience another crisis similar to that of November 2015 when Turkey shot down a Russian jet over Syria. Erdogan’s decision to visit Moscow came as a surprise and was by and large seen as a sign that Turkey was reaching a dead end in its policies in Idlib and was thus seeking a compromise in Moscow. Now Putin has Erdogan open the 14th International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2019, gives him a friendly tour around Russia’s most innovative military and civil vehicles and buys the Turkish delegation a selection of vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The ice cream, however, was the only thing Erdogan got for free in Moscow: Other things he had to either pay for, bargain over or concede.