Turkey’s Erdoğan becoming Putin’s man in NATO - analysis

Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to play his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan like a fiddle as Turkey slides away from NATO and into Kremlin’s sphere of influence, wrote Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, for the online magazine the Globalist.

Unless the United States and its transatlantic allies develop a concerted counter-strategy, Russia will continue to exploit Erdoğan, who Russian analysts already refer to as “our man in NATO”, Erdemir said.

The United States announced in July that fellow NATO member Turkey would no longer participate in the programme to build F-35 fighter jets, citing the Turkish government's decision to purchase Russian-made S-400 missile defence system. Washington says the S-400s are incompatible with NATO systems and pose a danger to the F-35 stealth fighter jets.

Without the complete removal of the S-400 system, Erdemir said, Turkey could not rejoin the US-led F-35 fighter jet programme.

Meanwhile, Putin has begun pitching his country’s Su-35 and Su-57 jets to Turkey as the two leaders discussed further defence cooperation during a visit by Erdoğan to Moscow where he attended the opening of Russia’s international MAKS air show in late August.

“Erdoğan’s visit to Moscow was less about shopping for Russian military hardware than it was about his desperation for Putin’s help in stopping the advance of Bashar al-Assad’s forces into the Turkish military’s area of operation in northwest Syria,’’ Erdemir wrote. 

The advance of the advance of Russia-backed Syrian government forces into Syria’s last rebel-held province of Idlib has threatened to spark a humanitarian crisis and left Turkish military observation posts in the area stranded and vulnerable.

Putin refused to take a call from Erdoğan for several days after Syrian government forces surrounded a heavily fortified Turkish observation post in Morek, with the Kremlin informing Ankara that Erdoğan could meet his Russian counterpart at the MAKS air show, he wrote. 

The Turkish president’s kowtowing to Putin has so far failed to win him any favours in Idlib, the article said, adding that not only had Assad’s forces continued their advance, but had also struck targets near another Turkish observation post on Wednesday.