Erdoğan’s political troubles help Russia -- analysis

The Istanbul mayoral rerun election has undermined the legitimacy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, potentially tilting the playing field in favor of foreign partners like Russia, said an analysis for Jerusalem Post.

The annulment of the March 31 Istanbul vote and scheduling of a June 23 rerun have undermined the legitimacy of Turkey’s leader, which would seem to make long-term strategic concerns more difficult to sustain.

“Few foreign players would wish to engage a ruler with uncertain future. This, however, doesn’t stop Russia from dealing with Erdoğan,” Timur Akhmetov, researcher at Russian International Affairs Council, wrote on Tuesday for Jerusalem Post. “This kind of cooperation heavily tilts bilateral relations in favor of Russia.”

Moscow can channel Erdoğan’s ambitions and anxieties and convert them into long-term commitments conducive to Russian interests, according to Ankara-based analyst Akhmetov. This is the case regarding Turkey’s upcoming S-400 purchase, which has upset NATO and U.S. officials, who see it as incompatible with NATO systems and the U.S.-made F-35 advanced fighter jet.

Akhmetov points out that the S-400 and other Russian defense systems are meant to counter NATO weapons like the F-35 and expected to stay in service for some 30 years.

“One can argue that the decision to sell the S-400s to Turkey is short-sighted. Why would Russia invest this much in a regime that is gradually losing its legitimacy, capacity and resources to keep the agreement?” wondered Akhmetov.  

“Moscow’s confidence despite Erdoğan’s government being under increasing pressure to cancel the deal may suggest that Russia has found a reliable partner in Turkey, which doesn’t feel threatened by prospects of the U.S. sanctions, domestic political turbulence, or increasing public demands for more democratic governance,” he said.