U.S. may be unable to steer Turkey away from Russia - Jerusalem Post

Some commentators say things Washington had done could reverse the rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, but in fact, such a pivot is quite difficult as common interests tie the two countries, the Jerusalem Post said on Thursday. 

Relations between Turkey and Russia nearly collapsed after Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian warplane near the Syria-Turkey border in late 2015. But since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan publicly apologised for the incident and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for Turkey during the July 2016 coup attempt, the two countries have worked on mending ties. 

The economic interests of the two countries created incentives to seek an end to Russian sanctions, while political interests of both paved the way for cooperation in Syria, while Turkey’s relations with the United States soured over the U.S. support to Kurdish militia in Syria. 

Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 missile defence system has also raised concerns among its NATO allies, which say this move could threaten the interoperability of the alliance’s integrated defence systems. 

The S-400 deal must be understood in light of Turkey’s operation last year in Afrin in northwest Syria, according to the Jerusalem Post. With this operation Turkey wanted to show that while it could not attack Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Manbij due to the presence of U.S. troops, it could nevertheless seize Afrin from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the newspaper said. Russia helped Turkey’s operation by ensuring the approval of the Syrian government for Turkey to enter Syrian airspace.  

The S-400 deal is now deeply entangled in the emerging Russia-Turkey alliance in Syria, said the Jerusalem Post. Turkey this time plans a massive operation in northeastern Syria to clear the areas on the Turkish border from the YPG, while Moscow and Ankara also struck a deal over Idlib, the last major rebel-held enclave in Syria. 

“Turkey and Russia are now in such a deep bargain – from Idlib to the S-400 and TurkStream and the nuclear power plant – that they cannot go back,” the Jerusalem Post said. Moscow understands that the S-400 deal is key leverage over Turkey, while Turkey also has an advantage with its role in northern Syria.

“U.S. commentators and policy-makers sometimes think that if only Washington had done this or that regarding Turkey and Russia, that each country might have changed their trajectory. But there are so many common interests now between Russia and Turkey that a pivot would be difficult,” the newspaper said.