Putin is a big winner of the failed coup in Turkey

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Russian President Vladimir Putin stands behind a Turkish flag during the official welcome ceremony on day one of the G20 in November 15, 2015 in Antalya, Turkey.

Turkey was shaken on July 15 as a faction of the military tried unsuccessfully to force President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power. 

The coup failed within a day, and Erdogan was quick to use the opportunity to solidify his already increasingly authoritarian rule by implementing a three month state of emergency, temporarily suspending the European Convention on Human Rights, and by removing tens of thousands of employees from military and government positions. 

And as Turkey continues to takes steps towards increasingly illiberal democracy, a big winner of the failed coup is Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Anna Borshchevskaya, an Ira Weiner fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, writes in The Hill that the coup will force Erdogan and Putin towards a closer relationship as Turkey moves further away from the West and its demands for human rights and open democracy. 

This budding new relationship is already on display, Borshchevskaya writes citing Middle East Expert Alexander Shumilin, by the fact that Erdogan has blamed the coup organizers for also being responsible for the downing of a Russian fighter plane in November 2015. That incident caused a precipitous decline in the relations between the two nations, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov telling reporters that the incident seemed like a “planned provocation.”

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) talks with Turkey’s then-Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan after their news conference in Istanbul December 3, 2012.

So, as Ankara seeks to throw the coup plotters under the bus for all manner of failed Turkish policy and inner societal problems, Borshchevskaya notes that Putin will also use this time to better influence Turkey’s foreign policy — particularly in Syria. 

Borshchevskaya also translates a statement from Ruslan Pukhov, the director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, given to the Russian publication Kommersant, in which he states “Erdoğan will have neither the energy nor resources to help pro-Turkish oppositionists in Syria.” 

Essentially, Turkey will be significantly less capable of carrying on its anti-Assad foreign policy in Syria after the coup. This would hamper the effectiveness of rebel groups that have relied on Turkey for support, and will strengthen both Russia and Syria’s hand in the region. 

But all in all, the greatest benefit to Putin from the coup will be further instability and strife within a critical NATO ally on the vanguard of the increasingly unstable Middle East. 

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