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Erdogan Keeps Putin Waiting in Show of Gamesmanship

Erdogan Putin
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets Vladimir Putin Tuesday after keeping the Russian President waiting. Credit: Presidency of the Republic of Turkey

Russian President Vladimir Putin was kept waiting for his grip and grin meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as the assembled news media filmed all of Tuesday’s awkward moment.

For the record, Putin stood, fidgeting and looking a bit confused, for about fifty seconds before Erdogan strode into the room and the two leaders smiled at each other and shook hands.

The gamesmanship in Turkey appears to have been payback following a Moscow meeting in 2020. Putin kept Erdogan waiting for such a long time before that meeting that the Turkish President sat in his chair before the Russian President finally arrived, according to reports.

Putin has been an international pariah since his decision to invade Ukraine in late February. He recently embarked on a mission to shore up what friendships he has left, mainly those with authoritarian regimes. In addition to visiting Turkey, the Russian president also met this week with leaders in Iran.

Erdogan, meanwhile, has been trying to exert more power and influence. He has threatened to veto Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO—likely seeking concessions—and Turkey has repeatedly conducted overflights of its aircraft above Greek islands without approval, prompting rebuke from Greece and other nations.

Erdogan and Putin Relationship

Erdogan and Putin have historically enjoyed close ties and exchanges with many experts believing they are architects of a shared sense of revisionism in sensitive geopolitical terrain, namely Ukraine with Putin and Greece with Erdogan.

For Tuesday’s meeting with Erdogan, Putin’s facial expression noted a hint of surprise as he waited and the seconds ticked away. Dressed in a dark blue suit, he shifted his weight repeatedly, but kept his hands clasped together. A mild look of relief crossed his face as Erdogan finally walked into the room.

It was an unfamiliar role for the Russian autocrat, who has, in previous years, been the one to keep other leaders waiting. Besides Erdogan, The Guardian reported that the list includes the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, whom Putin kept waiting for fourteen minutes during a 2003 appointment; Pope Francis with whom Putin was an hour late for a 2015 meeting; and former US President Donald Trump who waited for forty-five minutes for the Russian leader before a summit in Helsinki. In addition, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel waited over four hours for Putin in 2014, and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych also waited for four hours for a meeting with the Russian President.

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