Last Friday, Russia began delivery to Turkey of its S-400 surface-to-air-missile system, over repeated objections from the U.S. and other NATO countries. As a result, Washington canceled the sale of its new F-35 jets to Ankara, concerned that Russian engineers might be able to collect valuable classified information about the airplanes, which the S-400 has been designed to shoot down. By thus choosing Moscow over the U.S., Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has decisively marked his shift toward Russia, Iran, and China and away from the West, write Oded Eran and Gallia Lindenstrauss.
Ankara opposes Bashar al-Assad’s continued rule in Syria, but during the civil-war years it increased cooperation with Iran and Russia. . . . While Turkey has distanced itself from Washington and drawn closer to the Moscow-Tehran axis, its ties with China have warmed as well. On July 2, President Xi Jinping hosted Erdogan in Beijing, a day after Erdogan presented a gift to his host: an op-ed in the Chinese mouthpiece Global Times making clear that he shares the Chinese strategic line of thinking, centered on a need to change the world order from unipolar to multipolar, without explicitly mentioning the United States.
Israel has a complex array of considerations in the face of the strategic changes in Turkey’s orientation. . . . Erdogan’s regime has challenged Israel on a slew of issues in the last decade. Turkey stands with Hamas, aids organizations in eastern Jerusalem that help inflame the situation on the Temple Mount, and for a long period prevented Israeli participation within NATO. . . . A Turkish pivot eastward is a tectonic shift that is liable to work to the serious detriment of Israeli strategic interests in various realms such as energy, civil aviation, and trade. 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.
A change in Turkish orientation would, [however], create opportunities vis-à-vis Europe and the United States. In the short term, a cutoff of the supply of F-35s to Turkey might allow Israel to procure some of them and perhaps also generate greater involvement of Israeli industry in manufacturing components that were meant to have been manufactured by Turkish companies. In the middle and long terms, the change will require that the European Union and NATO make adjustments, including with regard to the deployment of bases, which could also entail the greater involvement of East Mediterranean states [like Israel].