Moscow looking to flex muscles through asymmetrical partnership with Ankara - analyst

Moscow envisages a prospect of asymmetrical partnership with Ankara, which has led it to carefully take advantage of Turkey’s domestic and regional problems, wrote Bülent Aras, a Senior Scholar at the Istanbul Policy Center, on Lobe Log weblog.

Despite differing views in war-torn Syria, Russia continues to demonstrate sensitivity to Turkish concerns, Aras wrote, as it is Moscow’s interest to make Turkey a dependent ally.

Turkey supports armed groups in Syria that oppose the regime of Bashar Assad, which is in turn backed by Russia. Ankara’s primary concern is the emergence of a Kurdish entity along its border and preventing a further flow of refugees from Syria into Turkey.  For Russia, averting the collapse of the Assad regime takes precedence.

Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia following the downing of the Russian fighter jet in 2015 has made Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria possible, Aras wrote, and this, in turn, has allowed for Russia to control Turkey’s role in Syria. Moscow has tried to manage the operations of the Turkish military in a way to ensure they don’t impede Russia’s agenda.

Ankara also suits Moscow’s interests as a reliable customer of the Russian defence industry, Aras wrote.Tensions between the United States and Turkey have escalated in recent months over Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400s, with Washington ejecting Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme and threatening sanctions.

“That decision has cost Turkey its initial $1.5 billion investment in the project and has further cost Turkish companies a potential gain of $12 billion from their participation in the F-35 manufacturing process,‘’ Aras wrote.

Turkey is now reportedly eyeing the Su-35 and Su-57 as alternatives to the F-35 fighter jet and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed his desire for Turkey take part in the production of the next generation S-500 air defence system.

Moscow’s cooperation with Turkey also provides “cleavage in NATO and the trans-Atlantic partnership,‘’ the analyst said, a development which ruffling feathers in both Washington and Brussels.

As Turkey’s membership in NATO is being increasingly questioned over the S-400 purchase, concerns are looming over the exposure of Western military secrets to the Russians.

Russia is likely to pursue its partnership with Turkey on condition that it maintains the senior role, according to Aras, who underlined this alliance would work for Turkey’s short-term political and security considerations, but it will be detrimental to Ankara in the medium-to-long run.