EU seethes over Turkish trade with Russia – FT

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Ankara rushed into the vacuum created by US-EU embargoes against Moscow, and Brussels is angry

The value and volume of Turkey’s exports to Russia has risen dramatically from 2021 levels, as Turkish companies rush to service the market abandoned by US and EU corporations. Officials in Brussels told the Financial Times on Tuesday that this is “not nice” and “not really appropriate,” but acknowledged there is little they can do about it.

The latest statistics from the Turkish Trade Ministry show exports to Russia amounting to over $2 billion between May and July, $642 million more than in the same period last year. In July alone, the value of exports rose by 75% year-on-year, from $417 million to $730 million. It was the largest spike in Turkish exports anywhere. Russia now accounts for 3.9% of all Turkish exports, up from 2.6% last July.

Ankara’s exports to the US are also up by 25%, and the total value of exports is 13% more than last year, the Turkish Trade Ministry noted. Part of that is down to the devaluation of the Turkish lira – but also due to the embargo against Russia imposed by the US and its EU allies, one Turkey has declined to participate in.

“It’s on our radar,” said one EU official who spoke with FT on condition of anonymity. “It’s not nice and is not being perceived well by the EU. It’s an irritant.”

Some EU capitals have reportedly inquired with Ankara about Turkey’s relationship with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi earlier this month. 

Erdogan is pursuing what he calls a “balanced” approach to the conflict in Ukraine, selling combat drones to Kiev while maintaining economic ties with Moscow. Turkish officials and business leaders have openly embraced the opportunities created by the sanctions-driven exodus of US and EU companies from the Russian market.

At the time the EU is “scaling down its ties with Russia” over the conflict in Ukraine, “it is not really appropriate to increase links or engagement with Moscow,” said Peter Stano, the chief spokesman for the EU’s diplomatic service.

However upset Brussels officials may be with Turkey, they acknowledge there isn’t much they can do about it.

“It’s Turkey, everyone [in the EU] needs them, for one reason or another,” one EU official, who also requested anonymity, told FT. “And the EU has to be aware of its abilities… we can’t just tell [Erdogan] he has to follow our rules.”

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