The strange and opportunistic partnership between Turkey and Russia was on full display in the Black Sea this week, as the two sides conducted joint naval exercises sure to irk NATO. Newsweek:
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet joined the Turkish navy in the strategic body of water, which has been a source of heightened tensions due to parallel military exercises by Russia and members of NATO, of which Turkey was a part. […]
“As part of the drill, ships of the two countries practiced… exit from a naval base, joint maneuvering and communication, as well as repelling an attack of a small-sized high-speed target, an inspection operation, search for and rescue of a person in the water,” Trukhachev told reporters, according to Russia’s Sputnik News.
In one sense, this is a dynamic that has been obvious for a while: Turkey is restless and Russia is happy to be a flirt. Erdogan, for his part, has been fanning the flames of anti-Western sentiment at home leading up to the big referendum on expanding the powers of the Presidency. Doing war games with Russia serves similar domestic needs: it signals that Turkey has geopolitical options outside Western institutions, and that Erdogan has global clout. For Russia, the drills provide a golden opportunity to pick at growing schism between NATO allies.
At the end of the day, everyone concerned knows that there are strict limits to the relationship between Russia and Turkey. (It’s already a Potemkin friendship.) But games like this are not without consequence. The mistrust being generated is real, and will impact the Alliance going forward.