Turkey is one of the key countries in the world with a superb geographical environment allowing it to be a swing state. Since years it has been a part of NATO and a key bolt for the alliance forming the backbone of its southern flank. Why Is that? Turkey, thanks to its geography, can reach both the Black and the Mediterranean Seas. It also guards the crossing between those two sees, so it holds the key and is a gatekeeper locking Russia out from influence in the region.
This, in turn, means that Russia can not reach further south to the hot waters without the help of Turkey. That is why the Kremlin only has a tiny foothold in Syria and not bases scattered all over the Mediterranean. Turkey also has a significant role in this conflict and is influencing various forces in the country to strengthen its position. And on top of that, there are Kurds both in Turkey and Syria seeking independence which only adds to the mix another match that can light the whole region.
Trying to pull Turkey towards the western countries and NATO was essential for a very long time and keeping it there also is. That is why the alliance allows for constant fighter brawls between Turkey and Greece another NATO country. Both nations have some unsolved issues connected with islands in the Mediterranean Sea, but as it happens there are higher priorities, so from time to time, you can read that they have been testing each other’s defenses.
Since the U.S. has started to get back a bit from the region the key players have begun to play their own game. We can observe Russia trying to squeeze its foot into the opened door and tightening its relations with Turkey. This alliance should instead be sighted as a short-term one. At this point, both countries seem to benefit from the situation and try to get the most out of it, but historically Russia and Turkey weren’t friends and often thought wars with each other from the reasons mentioned in the first paragraph.
For the time being, they have decided to forget about the past days and tighten its relationships. Turkeys ruling president is strengthening his power in the country and after the recent coup got closer to Russia. This means a possible deal for the S-400 system which is a big problem for the U.S. and primarily for the rest of the NATO, although we have to mention that Greece has an older Russian system called S-300.
Recently The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that may stop the sale of F-35 jets to Turkey. This move is supposed to put some pressure on Turkey, stop the S-400 deal and at least signal the countries leadership that tighten relations with Russian are a no go. At this point, Turkey has no short-term alternatives for the F-35, but in the long run, it has already started to work on an indigenous fighter aircraft. Turkey could also push towards Russia made Su-57, but it should carefully look at how India has struggled with this concept and eventually ditched it. On top of that Turkey might also move forward with a transport plane made with Ukraine. All in all, it seems a bit like cutting its ties to the West, right?
And then there is money. Well, there always is. The Turkish economy is starting to show some weaknesses with its currency, the Lira, falling. Will a further crack push it towards Moscow? One can only presume that Russia can chip in to put its foot further in the door. Of course, its pockets are also empty, but when an occasion pops out, they tend to find a way to take advantage of it.
All in all, we should observe how the situation in Turkey unfolds as it might be a game changer for the whole region.