Turkey’s pivot towards East a detriment to Israeli interests - analysts

Turkey’s pivot toward Russia and China amid increasing tensions with the West poses a serious detriment of Israeli strategic interests, said an analysis for the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), an Israeli think tank.

The deep crisis in the relations of NATO allies Ankara and Washington presents fertile ground for Russia to achieve its goal of creating an internal rift in the North Atlantic Treaty with greater ease than before, according to Oded Eran and Gallia Lindenstrauss, INSS senior fellows.

Turkey’s procurement of the Russian S-400 air defence missiles, despite repeated threats from Washington on U.S. sanctions and removal from the programme to build and fly F-35 fighter jets, is the most pressing of many issues of contention between the two countries. 

Eran and Lindenstrauss pointed to Ankara’s opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad's continued rule in Syria as one factor that pushed the country toward increased cooperation with Iran and Russia. 

As Turkey continues to distance itself from Washington and draw closer to the Moscow-Tehran axis, the article said, it is also increasing its ties with China.

“Erdogan shares the Chinese strategic line of thinking, centered on a need to change the world order from unipolar to multipolar,’’ the article said, noting that China constitutes Turkey's third-largest trading partner, the volume of trade activity of $21 billion.

Erdoğan even turned a blind eye to the plight of China’s Muslim Uighur people who speak a Turkic language during a recent trip to Beijing.

China has faced international condemnation for placing more than a million Muslim Uighurs in concentration camps. 

Turkey, the only Muslim nation to have regularly expressed concern about the situation in Xinjiang, in February described the camps as a “great shame for humanity” and called on Beijing to close them. 

However, Erdoğan made a u-turn during an official visit to China this month.

“It is a fact that the peoples of China’s Xinjiang region live happily in China’s development and prosperity,” Chinese state television quoted Erdoğan as saying during his visit.

The Turkish strongman’s statements and conduct in recent years, ‘’reflect the consolidation of Turkish strategy shifting its critical political weight, and also perhaps its economic and defense policy, from the northwestern sphere to the northeastern sphere,’’ the analysts wrote.

The vacuum created by the U.S.’ waning interest in the Middle East is set to create opportunities for  Turkey, Iran, and Russia, according to the INSS article, which highlighted Israel’s challenges in the face of this unfolding development. 

“Israel would do well to give thought to these issues, as well as to the possibility of a bolstered Chinese or Russian presence in the Eastern Mediterranean,’’ it said.

As Turkey turns eastward, Israel may, in the short-run, procure some of Turkey’s F-35s, which the country is being denied, while in the long-run the EU as well as NATO will be required to make adjustments with regard to the deployment of bases, the article concluded.