Turkey and Russia are increasingly becoming strategic partners in an effort to work with Iran and remove the US from the Middle East. This is Turkey's overall goal, and the recent conflicts and chaos it has spread from Syria to Libya, the Mediterranean and Caucasus are designed to partition these areas into Russian and Turkish spheres of influence.
Turkey has encouraged its lobbyists in the US to claim that Ankara is doing "geopolitics" designed to be a "bulwark" against Russia, using Cold War-era terminology to encourage Westerners to believe that Ankara is on the side of Washington against Moscow. The reality, however, is that Turkey's goal is to work with Russia and Iran to reduce US influence.
Turkey's goal is to work with Russia and Iran to reduce US influence.
This has been the result in every area that Ankara has invaded and involved itself. Turkey worked with Russia to partition parts of northern Syria, removing US forces and spreading extremism. In Libya, a conflict that the US was once involved in has now become a playground for Turkish-backed militias.
The recent war between Azerbaijan and Armenia was likewise designed to bring Turkey and Russia into direct contact in the southern Caucasus, remove US influence and partition the area.
Evidence for this can be found in the agreement to end the war, which saw Russian peacekeepers and soldiers increase their role in Nagorno-Karabakh, an autonomous Armenian region in Azerbaijan. Turkey prodded Baku into war against Armenians there, causing massive damage and forcing 50,000 to flee.
For Turkey, the attacks on Armenian civilians were a success, replicating Turkish-backed ethnic-cleansing in Afrin, where Kurds were expelled in January 2018. The model was the same in Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey sent extremists, accused of beheading people, to ransack churches and force Armenians out.
A hundred years after the Armenian genocide carried out by the Ottoman regime in 1915, Turkey wanted to continue the process. Much as in 1915, the goal in the end would bring renewed Russian involvement in the Caucasus. ...
Russia views this as a kind of police action, going in to stop squabbling by former Soviet socialist republics. This is how Ankara views the region as well, but from the Ottoman Empire's point of view.
That is why Turkey keeps talking about rewriting the Lausanne Treaty and other agreements made after World War I. Ankara's invasion of Syria and setting up a dozen bases in northern Iraq, as well as involvement in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean, is part of this.
Turkey sells its involvement with different public-relations campaigns in different places. In Washington, it sells this as "geopolitics," pretending to be a US ally. In fact, Turkey is rapidly buying Russian arms. ...
Turkey, Russia and Iran see this as a pragmatic working relationship, growing out of the Astana Process, or Syrian peace process, of 2016 that was supposed to carve up Syria into areas of influence and remove the US from eastern Syria. The end goal is the same: Remove the US and give each member of this new alliance its respective area of control. ...
Western media is fed stories about how the Turkish-Iranian-Russian triangle is destined to clash because of historic Ottoman, Persian and Russian imperial goals, or because they are Sunni, Shi'ite and Christian countries. This is a misreading of history. They are more likely to work together against their common enemies in the West and to further their joint authoritarian and military agendas.
Turkey, Iran, and Russia all seek to end the US hegemony that grew out of the Cold War.
They share much in common as rising powers in the world, seeking to end the unipolar world of US hegemony that grew out of the Cold War. Those in Washington who see Turkey through a Cold War lens are wrong about Turkey's overall agenda. The agenda of Ankara is always to weaken and reduce the US role in the Middle East and to increase the Russian and Iranian role.
In every invasion Ankara has performed so far, it has sought to increase Russia's and Iran's power – not only weaken America but to also weaken any groups that want democracy or a more free press and to bring in extremists and authoritarians.
John F. Kennedy in 1960 argued that the world was not just divided into a Soviet and American camp, but rather those countries that were "free" as opposed to those that aren't. He understood that authoritarians prefer to work together; that is what is happening in the Caucasus.
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.