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7/26/16

Turkey: Putin May Be Turkey's New Buddy after the Failed Coup - by Nikolas K. Gvosdev

As we continue to sort through the aftermath of the failed attempt at a military coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one unexpected (and potentially unwelcome, from a U.S. standpoint) development is that this botched attempt to remove Erdogan will further the reconciliation process between the Turkish leader and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

For years, the two men had enjoyed not only a strong personal relationship (cemented by shared views opposing the idea that Western values represent a universal template for all societies), but had presided over the transformation of Russia-Turkey relations, from a highly adversarial position at the end of the Cold War to a full-fledged strategic and economic partnership between NATO’s easternmost member and the Kremlin. After the start of the Ukraine crisis, Turkey not only eschewed joining Western sanctions against Russia, but even offered an alternative to the now-stillborn South Stream project, the “Turkish Stream” line, which, if built, would give the Kremlin the ability to end its dependence on Ukraine as a transit state for Russian energy heading for central and southern Europe.

These warm and friendly ties—reaffirmed for the world to see in fall 2015 at the G-20 summit in Antalya—came to a sudden and screeching halt when a Turkish warplane shot down a Russian fighter jet conducting operations in support of Syria’s embattled leader Bashar al-Assad after briefly straying into Turkish airspace.

Putin’s response was sudden and immediate. Sanctions were imposed on Turkey, the Russians proceeded to massively build up their outpost in Syria and Putin made it abundantly clear that he regarded Erdogan’s actions as a personal betrayal of the highest order. For Western strategists concerned about the implications of a closer Russia-Turkey entente, the shootdown pushed Turkey back into the Western embrace, as Erdogan, in turn, demanded assurances from his NATO allies that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had Turkey’s back. The subsequent agreement negotiated with European Union leaders for Turkey to control migration into Europe in return for new concessions (including putting Turkey’s membership in the EU back on the agenda) further seemed to signal that Turkey was returning to its traditional role as the West’s bulwark in the Eastern Mediterranean, both against the chaos emanating from the Middle East but also to check and contain Russian expansionism.

Read more: Putin May Be Turkey's New Buddy after the Failed Coup | The National Interest

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