MOSCOW•ANKARA—Its first major arms deal with a non-NATO country, Turkey has signed an agreement with Russia to buy S-400 missile defence systems. So far, signatures have been signed and deposits paid. According to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin’s military advisor, Vladimir Kozhin, the plan is “being prepared for implementation.”
This act comes as a surprise for many, for it may spell trouble for the Eurasian country; Turkey is currently facing a period when it is not exactly on good terms with several Western states they have long tried to please, due to their wanting to join the European Union. Arguably, the relationship between Turkey and the EU has been the greatest example of a political “friendzone” in the modern history of international relations. But perhaps we will soon see Turkey escaping that friendzone.
However, Turkey’s pivot from NATO is not the only shocking factor—it is their agreement with Russia. From the Crimean War that saw the humiliating defeat of the Turks more than 200 years ago to the shooting down of a Russian jet over the Turkish-Syrian border in 2015 (which led Putin to ban the kebab), it can be said that Turkey and Russia has had a relationship less than cordial. Furthermore, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been a constant critic of the Kremlin.
However, this is not to say Erdogan is the opposite to his authoritative Russian counterpart. In fact, Erdogan is infamous for exactly what Putin is too: corruption, the abuse of his power, and the banning of memes featuring themselves. But perhaps this is what worries the Western powers so much—a radical, power-hungry man building an army for himself. After all, Erdogan does have the command of the second largest standing army in NATO, after the United States.
Turning his back on the Western states, Erdogan has made himself clear a statement, saying that “nobody has the right to discuss the Turkish republic’s independence principles or independent decisions about its defence industry” and claiming that Turkey is “obliged to take safety and security measures in order to defend” itself.
However, the delivery of Russia’s weapons to Turkey will not be imminent, which may be a sigh of relief to the West. There will still be time for negotiation on the table. But currently, the warming of relations between Turkey and Russia is something the world has not seen in more than 200 years, marking a significant shift of power on the political stage of Europe.