The crisis that has broken out in relations between Ankara and Washington over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to buy the Russian S-400 missile defense system is a development that many believe could undermine fragile regional stability and have unforeseeable consequences for Greece.
That said, the Republic of Cyprus had purchased similar Russian missiles back in the late 1990s, but when Ankara and NATO expressed their strong displeasure at the move, the missiles were secretly transported on Russian commercial ships to the island of Crete in 1999 and eventually became part of the Greek arsenal. NATO eventually accepted the deviation from the norm.
The leaders of the West have been critical of the Turkish president’s strengthening ties with Moscow even though they themselves bear a good deal of responsibility for the prevailing situation in the region.
It was unfortunate Western interventions that led to Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008. The case of Ukraine later was a similar one, and the irrational attempt to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is what allowed Russia under President Vladimir Putin to put its foot once more in the warm climes of the Mediterranean, which it had withdrawn from after Egypt’s rapprochement to the United States.
An alliance between Ankara and Moscow is historically unnatural and should reasonably be ruled out, as the two countries share no common interests – they didn’t in the past either when the Ottoman Empire was the bulwark against Imperial Russia’s southern expansion or during the years of the Soviet Union and the Cold War. Only once, after the Bolsheviks prevailed in Russia and Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal declared war on Greek troops in Asia Minor, did their two “revolutionary” regimes join forces against the “imperialist” threat.
Now, for the first time since then, Turkey faces the danger of fragmentation because of the support the West has either openly or tacitly expressed for the Kurdish demand for autonomy. It should come as little surprise, therefore, that Erdogan should choose to turn toward whatever power was willing to grant him some support.
Russo-Turkish cooperation arose as a matter of expedience and the return to the previous status quo does not depend solely on the Turkish president, Mr Erdogan: The West must also consider its responsibilities.