During President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to his counterpart in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin, the fact that Putin made Erdoğan wait for two minutes in the Kremlin before meeting him created a storm on social media. What was particularly notable was the the stopwatch image on Russian state television that depicted how long Putin made Erdoğan and his delegation wait.
A report aired yesterday on Russian state-controlled TV (Russia 1) features newly released footage about how Putin made Erdogan wait for 2 minutes outside the hall before meeting him on March 5 in Moscow. pic.twitter.com/SFk87v0EJO— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) March 9, 2020
Putin has a notable history of showing up late for meetings with other foreign leaders, including American President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, and even Pope Francis. He has become so notorious for this habit that The Guardian even published an article on the subject in 2015 entitled “Why is Putin always late?”
In the article, it describes other dignitaries that Putin has kept waiting, including former US Secretary of State John Kerry, a meeting for which Putin showed up three hours late. John Kerry reportedly wandered around Moscow's Red Square during the interim. Putin also made the Queen of England wait 14 minutes for a visit.
One chart based on data between 2003-2018 shows Putin being late to meetings with a variety of world leaders, including a 2012 appointment with former American President Barack Obama, for which Putin was late by 40 minutes, as well as a 2014 meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who waited four hours for Putin to show.
Based on these incidents, Putin making Erdoğan wait for just two minutes seems timely by comparison. According to Russian expert Cenk Başlamış, in his column for the Medya Günlüğü, only the Russians know whether the two-minute wait was an “ordinary” or a “particular” situation. Başlamış noted that the Turkish delegation appeared in front of a portrait of Aleksandr Suvorov, a Russian commander who fought and won battles against the Ottoman Empire.
This had resulted in comments that the appearance of the portrait was for the purpose of humiliating the Turkish delegation, though it had actually been hanging on the walls of the room for quite some time. Başlamış said that the real issue could lie with with the reporter directing viewers toward the portrait, noting that this was on the state channel Rossiya, which is under strict control of the Kremlin, and is the same channel that published the stopwatch image depicting Putin's lateness for his meeting with Erdoğan.
Erdoğan: Moscow disturbed by the media's depiction of the incident
Erdoğan commented on the issue on his return flight from Brussels, where he met with high-level representatives of the EU and NATO on March 9. He told reporters that the Turkey-Russia relations cannot be "sacrificed to such manipulations of the media."
Erdoğan said the Turkish side has talked with the Russian officials regarding the images and Moscow was similarly "disturbed" by them. "They said that a malice was absolutely not intended [with the wait] and they were also seriously disturbed by this position [of the Russian media]," he said.
"Some people are trying to deduce a malice intent from this. Putin saw us off to the car. Of course, when they have malice intent, they do not write about this or show this," Erdoğan said.
Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu: Putin also waited on the other side of the door
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also commented on the issue, saying that it was not only Erdoğan who waited, but also Putin waited "on the other side" of the door.
"The protocol is predetermined. There is a meeting point in the middle. Leaders go through different doors. If our President waited a minute, Putin also waited on the other side a minute," Çavuşoğlu told Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency during an interview on March 10.
Çavuşoğlu also said the Russian media's handling of the situation was "disrespectful." "It is not right that the Russian media has turned this into a magazine show," he said.
The Turkish minister said that whenever Russia and Turkey have a "difference of opinion" regarding certain matters, the Russian media utilizes "black propaganda."
"Even if a slight difference of opinion exists, they initiate black propaganda immediately. Are we doing this? In the past, following the downing of the [Russian military] aircraft, they have also undertaken serious black propaganda," Çavuşoğlu said, referring to Turkey's shooting down a Russian warplane on its border with Syria in 2015.