Over the past few years, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made efforts to improve relations with Russia; despite rocky moments, the two countries do indeed appear to be moving closer. Michael Rubin warns of the consequences:
Putin approaches diplomacy not as an exercise in finding win-win solutions but rather as a zero-sum game: a partnership with Turkey cannot be only about diplomacy but must have the effect of permanently separating it from the West. Here, Erdogan, who holds the West in disdain because of its support for Turkey’s old secularist order, plays his part. Even as Turkish and Western diplomats and military officials pay lip service to [shared commitments], Erdogan has fed Turks a steady stream of hatred and conspiracy theories directed at the West in general and at NATO in particular. . . . Russian political and conspiracy theorist Aleksandr Dugin appears more often in the Turkish press than does the U.S. ambassador.
The Turkish military tilt toward Russia has gone beyond the symbolic. As depicted by Turkish diplomats and Western reporters, the [ongoing] purge of Turkish military officers is directed against followers of the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, but Turkish officers with significant service in NATO have been as great a target, if not greater. To have served in NATO commands is now seen by Turkish officers as a ticket to prison, not promotion. Earlier this month, Turkey and Russia held joint naval exercises. . . .
As Erdogan seizes the power to guide Turkey from the West and toward a broader partnership with Russia, the problem for the United States is not that Turkey could leave NATO but that it might not. NATO is run by consensus, and Turkey could act as a Trojan horse, paralyzing all decision-making and effectiveness. NATO has no mechanism to expel a member that drifts away from the alliance’s political or democratic norms. The danger goes farther, however. Turkey is a partner on the F-35 joint-strike fighter and seeks to purchase what the Pentagon sees as the next generation of its airpower. To send or sell any F-35s to Turkey now is to risk provision of cutting-edge military technology and codes to Russia and China.