An unlikely alliance

Russia and Turkey are an unlikely alliance, as they say politics make strange bedfellows. In this case, both Russia’s Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan are looking for friends in unlikely places.  For they share much in common, even though they have lately been at loggerheads.

What caused a rift between Russia and Turkey was the Turkish downing of a Russian warplane that they claimed entered their airspace from Syria a few weeks ago.  Of course, Russia denied this and cut off diplomatic relations.  They also forbade all Russian tourists from visiting Turkey and cut trade relations.  This was a great economic loss for Turkey and was a major problem for Erdogan, after losing Israeli tourism and much more as a result of terrorist incidents.

But, the recent coup attempt gave Erdogan much more to worry about.  However, he used the botched coup as an excuse to get rid of his enemies, and to purge the army and the judiciary, as well as the educational establishment, of all his opponents.  You could say that he staged a pro-Islamic counter-coup against the basis of secular Turkey.  Now that Erdogan has become Turkey’s virtual dictator he shares much in  common with Putin, Russia’s strong-man.  So they are now natural allies, even though the case of the downed Russian plane has not been resolved.   Nevertheless it is in both their interests to put that problem aside and make amends.

Where the US has under Obama left a power vacuum in the Middle East, it is now being filled by an unlikely combination of Russia, Turkey, Israel, Egypt and the Kurds.  The only democracy in this group is Israel, but it also has the most effective Air Force and Army in the region.  In opposition is Iran with its proxies, Hizbollah in Lebanon and Assad’s Syria.  Although Israel and Egypt are not directly engaged in the war in Syria or against IS, they are nevertheless solidly on the anti-IS side.  Hence Sunni Muslim countries, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are covertly engaged in exchanging information on the subject.  Where this new strategic, but loose, alliance will lead is still uncertain.

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