Aside from a few words of condemnation at the start of the war in Ukraine, Turkey has remained on good terms with Russia throughout. When Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, visited Ankara this month his Turkish counterpart kindly suggested that the West should ease sanctions against Russia if Russia relaxed its blockade of Ukrainian ports. When Mr Lavrov repeated his claim that Russia had invaded Ukraine to liberate it from neo-Nazis, his host said nothing.
Mr Erdogan’s move to block Sweden’s and Finland’s accession to nato has further damaged Turkey’s standing in the alliance. The strongman has signalled that he wants the Nordic countries to extradite several members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (pkk), an outlawed armed group, and to drop a partial arms embargo against his country. He may also be shopping for concessions from America in exchange for withdrawing his veto, or from Russia for doing the opposite. Mr Erdogan occasionally sounds hostile to nato enlargement as a matter of principle. In a recent guest column for The Economist, he went as far as to blame Finland and Sweden for adding an “unnecessary item” to nato’s agenda by asking to join the alliance.