The expulsion of Turkey from the F-35 program could lead to closer relations for the NATO ally with China, a move likely to have far-reaching implications in the Middle East, Breaking Defense reported.
There is no doubt that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will now strengthen relations with China, says Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies here.
“He knows that the Chinese have a very multi-targeted policy. They attach military help with economic interests, and Turkey will have to consider it and accept it,” Rabi said.
Jacob Perry, former head of the Israeli General Security Service — better known as Shin Bet — told Breaking Defense that relations between Turkey and China should pique very close attention from the US and Israel — “and I mean very close attention.”
According to Oded Eran and Galia Lindenstrauss, two senior researchers in the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Turkey’s ties with China have warmed.
On July 2, President Xi Jinping hosted Erdogan in Beijing, one day after Erdogan presented a gift to his host — an op-ed in China’s Global Times. Erdogan shares the Chinese strategic line of thinking, centered on a need to change the world order from unipolar to multipolar.
Erdogan also declared that he is a great supporter of China’s so-called Belt and Road Initiative.
The researchers say that without explicitly mentioning the United States, Erdogan challenged the Western powers and spoke of Turkey’s interest in cooperating with China on defense matters.
The words “strategic cooperation” appeared repeatedly in a report about the July 2 meeting between the two leaders on the Chinese President’s official website.
The INSS researchers say that this rhetoric indicates a growing drive by both countries to advance their interests through the prisms of two similar strategic visions: through the Belt and Road Initiative, China aspires to promote its vision of sea and land routes to Europe, while Turkey seeks to promote what it calls the Middle Corridor.
Erdogan sees an opportunity for Turkey in the rivalry between China and the US, especially if it can manage to insert itself as a key factor in China’s strategic approach.
From an ideological standpoint, Erdogan positions his country and China among countries that have not gained the recognition and status that they feel they deserve in the current world order — overseen by its obvious gatekeepers, the US and Europe.
For example, in a recent visit to China, Erdogan suggested that Turkey will join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security body composed of China, Russia and four Central Asian nations.
Meanwhile, Israeli sources told Breaking Defense that there is no doubt that China will try to get as much data about the F-35 by contacting the Turkish companies that were supposed to manufacture parts and assemblies for the Joint Strike Fighter.
“The Chinese are champions in that field. They try to get technologies from any available source,” one source says.