This puts the United States in a difficult position. Turkey appears to be on an inexorable path towards partnership with Russia and even on a path towards working closely with Iran. Whatever the outcome of the working group proposal, Turkey is in a long-term drift in a different direction. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu runs articles deeply critical of U.S. CENTCOM’s role in eastern Syria. It is widely acknowledged that Ankara is pivoting to Moscow, but its interest in improving the Turkey-Russia relationship is not a one-way street. Russia will now need Turkey in Syria. Linked as they are, through the Astana and Sochi process regarding Syria, and also with Iran, they pose a challenge to the United States. Once the S-400 is in Turkey, it will give Ankara unprecedented say over Russian policy in Syria and also over the Syrian regime’s next moves. Eventually this may cause tension between Russia and its Syrian ally. It may also feed tensions with Iran, which has its own goals in Syria. Russia may have gained a Turkish ally but it has also ended up with more than it bargained for.
Seth J. Frantzman is a Jerusalem-based journalist who holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and a writing fellow at Middle East Forum. He is writing a book on the Middle East after ISIS. Follow him on Twitter at @sfrantzman.