Later, the financial and economic crisis of the EU economically diminished its lure. The Arab spring of 2011 presented a geopolitical opening for the AKP government. Turkey became more assertive regionally. In the beginning, Ankara pursued this through the deployment of its soft power. Then, as the Syrian condition deteriorated and began to present a major national security threat, there was a swift turn to hard power. The dramatic decision by President Obama not to punish the Assad regime in August of 2013 after the use of chemical weapons was confirmation to Turkish security elites that they could not count on Washington. The latter further alienated Ankara as it allied with the Kurdish PYD/YPG, the Syrian branch of Turkey’s nemesis PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) in the fight against the Islamic State.
But arguably, the most critical turning point for Erdoğan, by then in full command of Turkey's politics, was the response of the allies on the night of the failed coup attempt in July 2016. Whatever the full story, the allies' reaction was inadequate and lacking in democratic solidarity. This lack of support at such a critical moment deeply embittered both the Turkish public and the government. The failed coup led to the declaration of a state of emergency, and soon the prosecution of the culprits was used as an opportunity to launch a comprehensive witch hunt. These developments further undermined the rule of law along with democratic institutions and practices in the country.
Another consequence of the coup, during which President Putin expressed his solidarity and support for the Turkish President, was to direct Turkey to align itself with Russia with which it usually finds itself on opposite sides. This punctuated the beginning of their pas de deux. As Professor Evren Balta of Özyeğin University observed: "Arguably the most important problem in Turkey-Russia relations is the fact that the cooperation between the two countries has never been predicated upon common principles, institutions or even a short-term common vision. These two countries that do not trust one another and have different understandings of their interests and of the threats they face, can only manage to have a partnership if a third actor appears on stage that they both mistrust more than one another".
The purchase of the S-400 defensive air missile system from Russia was arguably a decision that was consistent with this quest for "autonomy". However, their procurement eventually led to Turkey's expulsion from the F-35 production network and cancellation of the delivery of the aircraft Turkey ordered that were to be the mainstay of its strategic doctrine and air defense in the coming era. The backlash to the decision to purchase the S-400s left Turkey vulnerable and isolated within NATO. Moreover, the move brought Ankara fury from the US Congress that forced the hand of President Trump to implement the CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) legislation against Turkey. Currently, Turkey awaits the approval of the US Congress to buy F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits for its existing fleet.
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