Russia is playing Turkey like a fiddle. First, Russian-backed Syrian forces slaughtered 33 Turkish troops in Idlib (North-western Syria) and now the Kremlin is believed to have deployed either its S-300 or S-400 Triumf in Libya to rein in the Turkey-backed Muslim Brotherhood forces. What did Turkey do? Well, it has decided to buy another S-400 Triumf from Russia.
According to TASS, head of Russia’s State arms seller Rosoboronexport, Alexander Mikheyev has disclosed that a contract for the delivery of a second batch of S-400 air defence system to Turkey has been signed. He added that the two sides are now discussing “the financial arrangement of implementing the contract.”
As per the Rosoboronexport chief, the timeframe for implementing the contract for the delivery of the top-notch anti-aircraft missile system would depend upon “our partners’ readiness to finally resolve the procedural issues with the financing of this project.”
However, this isn’t the first time that Russia has first taken Turkey to the cleaners and then also sold its weapons system to Ankara. In 2015 also, tensions had escalated between Turkey and Russia after Ankara had shot down a Russian fighter jet that had crossed into Turkish territory. Erdoğan had then jumped in to claim credit for shooting down the fighter jet.
Putin’s reaction, however, was firm. He had punished Turkey by reducing the number of tourists visiting the country and also imposed restrictions on Turks travelling to Russia. Ripped apart by Russian sanctions, Erdoğan had apologised for the misadventure by June 2016. A year later, he bought Turkey’s first S-400 Triumf from Moscow at a whopping 2.5 billion US dollars.
Putin keeps humiliating Erdoğan in the battlefield and a war-battered Ankara often finds itself buying weapons from the same country that embarrasses it frequently. Clearly, Turkey has no one to rely upon for its military needs, except Russia.
Putin knows that Erdoğan’s many wars in the Eastern Mediterranean and the rest of the Middle East have reduced Turkey into a token NATO member. The US won’t sell its fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets or other military equipment to Turkey, while another NATO ally, France is preparing to give Turkey a bloody nose in Ankara’s battle against Greece.
Erdoğan’s aggression has made the Western world, the Arabs and the Eastern Mediterranean an enemy of Ankara. And the move to reconvert the ancient Cathedral-turned-Mosque-turned Museum Hagia Sophia into a Mosque all over again has further alienated the West from Moscow.
The West has unapologetically abandoned Turkey at Russia’s peril and doesn’t care for the rogue Islamist nation’s NATO membership any longer. And on top of everything the Pentagon used the excuse of Turkey’s S-400 purchase to boot Ankara out of the joint F-35 development programme.
Russia, on the other hand, knows that it can beat Turkey and yet Turkey won’t be able to do anything about it. At the end of the day, Erdoğan will be reaching out to Putin for more and more Russian weapons. It’s almost as if Russia advertises its weapons in different battles and an overawed Ankara decides to buy more of them every single time.
Putin also knows that he can beat Turkey left, right and centre, and yet the Western powers won’t come after the Russian President, because Erdoğan is not their man. Even when Russian backed forces had killed 33 Turkish troops in Syria, the Turkish government had strongly pressed for the establishment of a NATO ‘no-fly zone’- a request that had met plain refusal.
Erdoğan is an Islamist bully, but Putin knows how to put a bully in his place and it seems that he has done it all over again.