Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

A Russian cargo aircraft delivering S-400 components to Murted Air Base in Ankara, Turkey. Photo: Rasit Aydogan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The U.S. removed Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program on Wednesday, escalating a months-long standoff over Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems.

Why it matters: Turkey is a strategic U.S. ally in the Eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia and an important partner in American relations with the Muslim world. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to move forward with the S-400 purchase risks undermining NATO military coordination and exposing U.S. and broader NATO alliance capabilities to Russian intelligence.

Background: Turkey has seen several recent U.S. decisions as running counter to its security interests.

  • During the fight against ISIS, the Obama administration oversaw the ascendence in northeast Syria of the YPG — an iteration of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey views as an existential threat.
  • After the failed coup in July 2016, Turkey sought a more forceful response by Washington, including the potential extradition of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, the figurehead of the cult alleged to be behind the coup attempt.
  • Just last week, bipartisan leaders of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees issued a statement supporting sanctions against Turkey for its drift toward Russia.

Between the lines: As Ankara has lost priority in the U.S.' Middle East strategy, Erdogan has sought to reconfigure Turkey's sphere of influence, including warmer diplomatic and economic relations with Moscow — a move some of the U.S.' Arab allies have made as well.

  • For Turkey, the S-400s are a slight at the U.S., a hedge against NATO security guarantees Erdogan considers weakened, and a symbol of Russia's success in outcompeting U.S influence.
  • Putin has been able to use the situation in Idlib, Syria, as leverage over Erdogan by holding back forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad from retaking the city. Turkey has taken in nearly 4 million Syrian refugees and does not want to see the humanitarian crisis on its southern border exacerbated.
  • Erdogan, meanwhile, is capitalizing on Turkey's role as the geographic buffer between Europe and Syrian refugees to threaten the U.S., should relations deteriorate further.

What to watch: Many of Turkey's grievances, including legitimate strategic neglect of Ankara by Washington, pre-date Trump's presidency. But the next chapter of the U.S.–Turkey alliance will be shaped by the unpredictable dynamics of strongman diplomacy between Trump and Erdogan.

Adham Sahloul is a foreign policy analyst and former researcher at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.