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SPOTLIGHT: TURKEY AND RUSSIA, REUNITED AGAINST THE WEST

Russia and Turkey have historically straddled East And West, often in different ways and with different degrees of influence over the centuries. Right now, both countries appear crucial — and unpredictable as ever, each in the hands of imperious rulers. Thus all eyes today are on a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin today in Saint Petersburg to "reset" ties between "friends."


The fact that Erdogan's first official visit to a foreign country since the failed coup in Turkey last month is to Russia undoubtedly carries a strong symbolic impact. Putin was notably among the first world leaders to call Erdogan and voice his support after the attempted takeover — in contrast with most Western countries, which Ankara has accused of withholding support in the crucial hours after the attempted July 15 putsch.


In an interview with the French daily Le Monde yesterday, the Turkish president slammed Western leaders for their lack of support and even accused the U.S. of supporting terrorism. Russia, too, has accused the West of supporting terrorism in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. There is plenty that still stands in the way of a true Ankara-Moscow partnership, most notably Syria itself. But if the beginning of any good alliance is a common adversary, then Putin and Erdogan will have had plenty to talk about in Saint Petersburg.

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Geopolitics

Russia's Military Failures Are Really About Its Soldiers

No doubt, strategic errors and corruption at the highest ranks in the Kremlin are partly to blame for the Russian military's stunning difficulties in Ukraine. But the roots run deeper, where the ordinary recruits come from, how they are exploited, how they react.

Army reserve soldiers go to Red Square to attend a Pioneer Induction ceremony

Anna Akage

To the great relief of Ukraine and the great surprise of the rest of the world, the Russian army — considered until February 24, the second strongest in the world — is now eminently beatable on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces operating with vastly inferior firepower.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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After renouncing the original ambitions to take Kyiv and unseat the Ukrainian government, the focus turned to the southeastern region of Donbas, where a would-be great battle on a scale comparable to World War II Soviet victories has turned into a quagmire peppered with laughable updates by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on TikTok.

The Russians have not managed to occupy a single significant Ukrainian city, except Kherson, which they partially destroyed and now find difficult to hold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are left to suffer the bombing of cities and villages from Lviv to Odessa, with looting, torture and assorted war crimes.

The reasons for both the poor performance and atrocities are many, and include deep-seated corruption and lack of professionalism up through the highest ranks, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had never served in the army, and arrived in his position only because of his loyalty to the No. 1 man in the Kremlin.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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