Jun 19 2019

Putin using Turkey as a means to meddle in U.S. affairs - analysis

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been meddling in U.S. affairs, not only through election politics, but also in the Middle East through Turkey, said journalist Andrew Malcolm in an opinion piece in the Miami Herald on Tuesday.

Ankara and Moscow have been strengthening relations since 2016 by establishing the Astana process along with Tehran to end the civil war in Syria; cooperating in energy policies with Turkey’s first nuclear plant being constructed in a joint Russian-Turkish project and establishing military ties through Turkey’s purchase of Russian missile systems.

Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia is interpreted by many analyst as a sign of Ankara drifting away from its Western allies, since Ankara has remained defiant to pressure from Washington threatening to eject Turkey from the F-35 programme by July 31 and impose sanctions, if it goes ahead with plans to acquire Russian-made defence systems.

Malcolm noted the widely-accepted suggestion that Moscow sought to meddle in U.S. affairs through fake news spread from social media could sound humorous to some.

“But Putin and gang are involved in some far more immediately significant meddling in U.S. affairs in the Middle East, specifically with our NATO ally Turkey,” he said.

In both Europe and the Middle East, Putin is attempting to rebuild the ambition of a grander Russia, following in the footsteps of Joseph Stalin, who had designs to insert Soviet influence into the Middle East, specifically Turkey, Malcolm opined.

NATO in 1951 admitted Turkey, a Muslim-majority country, into the alliance to cut Soviet Union’s expansionist policies, the journalist said.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has so far remained reluctant to directly confront Putin, might be changing this approach over Turkey’s plans to acquire S-400 systems, Malcolm said. According to the journalist, to give Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a message about what he is about to lose, Trump last week staged an unusual White House flyover for Poland’s president, whose F-35 purchases are proceeding.

“It would seem Turkey has chosen a side incompatible with its membership in NATO, which must now make its own choice about dropping a member for the first time,” Malcolm said, referring to Erdoğan’s repeated statements that Turkey would not renege on plans to acquire Russian systems.