(Read the full article on Aljazeera.com)
For many, pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan enjoying ice cream together on a summer’s day encapsulated the close ties between two authoritarian leaders with reputations as being among the West’s bete noires, Al-Jazeera said.
The jovial scene took place at an air show outside Moscow in August 2019, a month after NATO member Turkey had taken delivery of Russian-made S-400 missiles, leading the United States to kick it off a next-generation fighter jet programme and impose limited sanctions. The issue remains at the top of Washington’s list of grievances with Ankara to this day, according to the news organisation.
Chummy images of two strongmen presidents with a deep distrust of the West, however, belie the complexity of relations between the countries as tensions came to a head less than four years earlier when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane over the Syrian border.
It is a relationship that has endured – despite their support for rival proxies in conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh – by compartmentalising its various strands.
But the latest flare-up – between Russia and Ukraine on the latter’s eastern border – could prove different given Russia’s direct involvement on territory it considers its back yard.