Turkey and Russia step up military ties, despite increasing US concerns

World Today

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 8, 2019. The talks are expected to focus on the situation in Syria, where the two countries have closely coordinated their steps. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin put on a show of friendship Monday, despite increasing U.S. concerns about the relationship.

Washington has put intense pressure on Turkey to drop its plan to buy a Russian missile defense system, but at their summit, neither Turkey nor Russia showed any regret. And both presidents said they only wanted their alliance to get stronger.

CGTN’s Dan Ashby reports.

It was a summit to bolster trade and ties, but Russia already has a deal that’s worth smiling about.

Turkey has bought the Russian-made S-400 air defense system, the first NATO country to do so.

And President Putin said that is just the start.

“The volume of our cooperation in the sphere of international relations is quite large. Our military-technical cooperation is developing as well. There is a great number of issues that we are going to discuss and resolve,” Putin said.

Washington fears the S-400 deal is dangerous for NATO, so it has stopped supplying Turkey with equipment for its orders of new U.S. F-35 fighter jets.

Erdogan was bullish, arguing that nobody could undermine Turkey’s sovereignty.

But some said Turkey is just searching for the best deal.

“It shouldn’t be perceived as a gamer-changer, or Turkey coming more into Russia’s orbit of influence. That’s completely unrealistic. Turkey is trying to maintain working and constructive relations with both sides, and trying to get the best offers and deals for itself,” Russian International Affairs Council member Alexey Khlebnikov said.

The two countries promised to continue working together in Syria and aim to quadruple trade to $100 billion.

And, the S-400 might be the first of many military deals.

Despite all the U.S.’s warnings to Turkey about buying a Russian air defense system, President Putin reiterated on Monday that the deal is going ahead. And while the U.S. continues to be Turkey’s most important ally, Ankara’s message from this meeting is that it’s not willing to turn its back on Russia.