Turkey is, undoubtedly, drifting towards Russian bloc comprised of China and Iran from American bloc because of its divergence of national interests with the US and Saudi Arabia and convergence of interests with Russia and Iran. It is a certain and obvious fact in International relations that the countries develop their foreign policies based on the national interests. At present, Turkey is convinced that its national interest is best served by joining the Russian bloc.
The following are the reasons for Turkey’s tilt towards Russian bloc:
The issue of Kurds has become a bone of contention between America and Turkey. Kurds are the 4th largest ethnic group of Middle East living on the borders of Turkey, Syria Iraq and Iran. They are struggling to get a separate homeland for them. In 1980s, Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) launched a violent separatist movement against Turkey, which was declared by both the US and Turkey as a terrorist movement. Kurds living in Syria also formed Kurds People Protection Unit (YGP). America made alliance with Kurds and other fighters to dis-infect Syria from the infection of Islamic state (IS) formerly called ISIS. The alliance yielded positive result in eliminating the threat of IS from the region. However, after achieving the aim, the US left Kurds in the lurch to face Turkish aggression and it was not the first time the US left its ally in the midst of crisis.
Turkey is more concerned about the growing power of Kurds than IS, but the US is forcing Ankara to have compromise with them. Turkey believes that if it leaves Kurds unchecked, they will claim a large swathe of its land in future, which is not acceptable to it. On the other hand, Iran is equally threatened by empowered Kurds population and wants to deal with them like Turkey. It is therefore, Turkey finds Iran in a better position than the US or NATO to help assuage the Kurds concern.
Stability in Syria:
Instability in Syria is having spill over impacts in Turkey because of its geographical proximity with it. Before, Bashar-ul-Asad, as a president of Syria, was not acceptable to Ankara. However, it has, now, realized the fact that peace cannot be achieved in Syria without the cooperation of Iran and Russia. The US and its allies used their maximum power to bring Asad down, but they failed completely. Hence, Erdogan seems to have changed its foreign policy and now he wants peace in Syria whether Asad remains in power or not. This objective naturally brings Turkey closer to Iran and Russia and drifts it from America and Saudi Arabia.
Claiming the leadership of Muslim world:
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed that Turkey is the only country that can lead the Muslim World. After the failed military coup against him, he became a famous Muslim leader around the world. Sunni Muslims started to consider him as their true leader. The way Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran and leader of Shia Muslim mingled with him at different occasions, made it crystal clear that Iran has no problem with his claim of Muslim leadership. However, if the same voice had appeared from Al-Saud, Iran would have turned against it. Thus, the claim of Erdogan to be the rightful heir of sunni leadership and his wish to rule Muslim World has brought him in direct conflict with the house of Al-Saud of Saudi-Arabia.
Turkey’s good relations with Qatar against the wishes of Saudi Arabia:
Turkey along with Iran supported Qatar when Saudi Arabia and its allies severed ties with it. Besides, its improved relations with Doha became a source of concern for Saudi-Arabia. Turkey opened its military base in Qatar and supported its channel- Al-Jazeera against the wishes of Riyadh.Thus, the good relations of Turkey with Saudi’s rival pushed it away from American bloc.
Turkey’s military agreement with Russia:
Turkey has signed a military agreement with Russia and started to purchase S-400 missile system form it. This action has angered the US and Saudi-Arabia leaving no option for Ankara but to move towards the opposite bloc.
Killing of Jamal Khashogi:
The killing of Jamal khashogi in Turkey, inside Saudi’s consulate, further deteriorated the already tense relations between Ankara and Riyadh. The killing brought shame for Turkey. Many people believe that Ankara is drifting away from Saudi-Arabia to improve its image in the Muslim world because Saudi Arabia has tarnished its reputation among Muslims by developing a close relation with Israel to punish Iran and causing human rights abuses in Yemen war.
Joining of Kuala Lumpur Summit:
Joining of Kuala Lumpur Summit by Turkey, which Saudi Arabia and its allies boycotted, permanently shifted Ankara from American to Russian bloc. It was a last blow to Turkey’s good relations with Saudi Arabia.
Thus, Turkey is moving towards Russian bloc because of its national interest. At present, its national interest is best served by joining Russia and Iran instead of the US and Saudi-Arabia.