Erdoğan Relying on Russia To Bolster Support Ahead of Turkish Elections

Putin with Erdoğan.

Putin with Erdoğan.

“…Putin is making “gesture after gesture” to…President Erdoğan… No Turkish administration in the past has received such political support from a world power… Putin is behaving like a provincial AKP leader, to get [Erdoğan] reelected…” 

As he prepares for elections in June 2023, Turkish President Erdoğan will face a more united and determined domestic opposition than ever. Polls show that the most important issue for the Turkish electorate is the economy. Given the high inflation and economic crisis in the country, polls also show that if elections were held today, Erdoğan’s victory is not guaranteed. It is in this context that a series of recent moves made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in support of Erdoğan, are significant. As the first accompanying passage taken from respected Turkish journalist Murat Yetkin’s YouTube channel details, Russian President Vladimir Putin is making “gesture after gesture” to secure Erdoğan’s victory in 2023 elections by helping him claim that he is improving Turkey’s economy.  

In the second accompanying passage from independent news and analysis platform Medyascope, former Turkish diplomat Sinan Ülgen points out that the current pronouncements about making Turkey the largest natural gas center for Europe is a significant change in Russia’s stance on the issue.  He begs the question: “Why now?” and suggests that Putin prefers Erdoğan to win. Ülgen also notes that Russia’s state-run Rosatom, which is building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, wired around $15 billion to its Turkish subsidiary recently, helping relieve a shortage in Turkey’s foreign currency reserves, a notable benefit for Turkey in an election year.  In the third excerpted passage, also from Medyascope, expert Ömer Taşpınar claims the transfer of funds represents Putin’s “investment in Erdoğan’s election victory.” Shortly after the transfer, Erdoğan criticized the West’s sanctions on Russia, while voicing support for Putin’s decision to block natural gas sales to Europe. Taşpınar says this was Erdoğan thanking Putin for the transfer.  In addition to Turkey’s economic woes, Erdoğan also faces resentment from the Turkish public regarding the approximately 3.6 million Syrian refugees that it currently hosts. From the fourth excerpted passage, also from Medyascope, expert Gönül Tol predicts that Putin may help Erdoğan with this challenge too, by allowing Erdoğan to conduct an operation into northeastern Syria before the elections, something Putin has objected to in the past. This would enable Erdoğan to claim that such an operation would allow for the creation of a safe zone where Syrian refugees could be resettled back in Syria. Turkish observers would seemingly not be surprised if Putin gave the green light to Turkey to conduct at least a limited operation in the coming months.


Murat Yetkin, “Erdoğan Putin’le aylık olağan görüşmede: Rusya yeniden seçilsin istiyor (Erdoğan in his monthly regular meeting with Putin: Russia wants [him] to get reelected),” Murat Yetkin via YouTube (veteran journalist Murat Yetkin’s own YouTube channel providing neutral analysis on Turkish developments), 12 October 2022.

Russian President Putin is making “gesture after gesture” to Turkey, specifically to President Erdoğan… Back to back statements coming from Moscow about natural gas are surprising even for Ankara.  No Turkish administration in the past has received such political support from a world power… Our journalist friend Nevsin Mengu says that Putin is behaving like a provincial AKP leader, to get [Erdoğan] reelected… 

Sinan Ülgen, “Putin’in Türkiye’deki “seçim yatırımları” ve tüm yönleriyle gaz merkezi (Putin’s “election investments” in Turkey and the gas hub [debate] from all angles),” (independent Turkish news and analysis platform), 15 October 2022.

Russia’s capital investments into the Turkish banking system for the Akkuyu nuclear plant, certain statements, other ways that Russia has provided financial help to Turkey such as sending the money for the Akkuyu nuclear plant in advance, suggest that Putin prefers that Erdoğan stay in power, since he knows how to work with Erdoğan and has a working relationship with him, one that has produced results for Putin.  Because it does seem like sending the money for Akkuyu in advance has no benefit for Russia, but a notable direct benefit for Turkey.   The natural gas issue is a bit different.  On this issue, Russia has a benefit, but… if Russia is really proposing to make Turkey a gas hub, as opposed to a transit country, this points to a huge policy change for Russia, …which begs the question, “Why now?”… given that Turkey has wanted this for 25 years.  So it does seem that Putin is taking steps to help Erdoğan in the upcoming elections. 

“Transatlantik: Ankara-Atina hattında gerilim: Savaş kapıda mı? Enerji krizi | Biden-Trump çekişmesi (Transatlantic: Tension in the Ankara-Athens route: Is war knocking on the door?  The Energy crisis | Biden-Trump Competition),” (independent Turkish news and analysis platform),7 September 2022.

The billions of dollars that came from Russia, I’m not sure how that’s coming, but… it seems that Putin is making an election investment for Erdoğan.  He wants Erdoğan to win elections… and he gave this money for him to win.  And in return, we see that Erdoğan is protecting Russia in his statements.  Erdoğan’s comments [criticizing Europe’s sanctions and voicing support for Russia’s decision to cut natural gas to Europe] are pro-Russia…and his position is one that is closer to Russia on the issue of energy… He is criticizing the EU for the sanctions and saying that Russia is a strong country when he should be saying that Russia should not weaponize gas…

“Transatlantik: Kılıçdaroğlu’nun ABD ziyareti | ABD’den F-16 kararı | Erdoğan-Putin görüşmesi (Transatlantic: Kılıçdaroğlu’s USA visit | The USA’s F-16 decision | Erdoğan-Putin meeting),” via YouTube, 13 October 2022.ğan has been a lifeline for an isolated Russian economy…  Putin is also a lifeline for Erdoğan [domestically]…  In this context, Putin’s injection of money into the Turkish economy … is important for Erdoğan… I think Putin can provide important help for Erdoğan in Syria… Before the elections, I think an operation into Syria would be beneficial to Erdoğan because he could use the narrative that “I know you are resentful about the refugees but I can fix this problem.  I will conduct an operation into Syria to establish a zone [for the refugees to be resettled].  Until now, Putin had not given a green light to Turkey on this, but today, given how much Putin depends on Erdoğan, he might give a green light for this, which would be a huge favor to Erdoğan.

Image Information:

Image: Putin with Erdoğan.
Attribution: CC BY 3.0