Long seen as an in-house disrupter in NATO, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey could be scaling back his close ties with Russia. Erdogan, often criticized for his autocratic leadership style and his disregard for democratic values, has maintained a complicated relationship with Russia in recent years, straining his alliances with other NATO member states.

Erdogan’s shift away from Russia comes as a surprise to many observers who have witnessed his growing affinity towards Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Turkish president has previously sought to strengthen economic and military ties with Russia, even going as far as purchasing Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems, which drew sharp criticism from his NATO allies.

However, recent geopolitical developments appear to have influenced Erdogan’s change of heart. The ongoing conflict in Syria, where Turkey and Russia back opposing sides, has strained their relationship. Additionally, NATO’s increasing concerns over Russia’s aggressive actions in Eastern Europe, including the annexation of Crimea, have put Erdogan in a difficult position as a member of the military alliance.

While it remains uncertain how far Erdogan will distance himself from Russia, this potential shift could have significant implications for both Turkey and NATO. It may indicate an opportunity for Turkey to reassert itself as a more traditional member of the alliance, aligning its foreign policy and military strategies more closely with other NATO countries. However, it could also lead to increased tensions within NATO, as Erdogan’s unpredictable and unconventional leadership style has often put him at odds with other member states.

As Erdogan reevaluates his relationship with Russia, the international community will be watching closely to see if this marks a significant shift in Turkey’s foreign policy priorities. Whether it leads to a realignment within NATO or exacerbates existing tensions, only time will tell the ultimate consequences of Erdogan’s decision.