Gift for Erdogan

23:00, 28 November 2015
World
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Analysis

Vladimir Putin presented the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a generous gift - a powerful external enemy. In the confrontation with Putin's Russia the Turkish leader might make his dream come true – to become a par with Atatürk, exactly by 2023, the centennial anniversary of the Turkish Republic. By teasing the Turkish Air Force stubbornly and repeatedly, and provoking NATO’s second largest army with the regular violations of airspace, Putin has launched a game Erdogan couldn’t resist playing.

Having won the first ever direct presidential elections in Turkey in August last year, as well as retaining the monopoly on power of his AKP party in the parliamentary elections on Nov. 1 elections, Erdogan received carte blanche to fulfill his historic mission. The only thing he was missing was internal consolidation amid intensified activity of the president's political opponents, as well as a long-lasting struggle with the Kurds. Turkey’s transformation from the status of friends of Putin’s Russia into adversaries following the incident with the Russian Su-24 taken down for airspace violation has opened the doors for Erdogan to play a variety of political combinations, both within the country, and abroad.

For instance, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish Armed Forces, President Erdogan may finally restore close and constructive relations with his military (his longtime rivals in a fight for political power) in the wake of Russia’s open hostility, obvious escalation of the Syrian conflict and increased risk of a military threat (deployment of S-400, aka Growler, surface-to-air missiles in the Russian airbases in Syria). The notorious "Ergenekon" case of 2003, when of top military officials, writers and politicians were sentenced to life in prison for an attempted coup, may be left behind. Today Erdogan could let the military regain both public respect, and political weight, in return for constructive support in the fight against long-standing historical enemy - Russia.

Erdogan's popular support deteriorated earlier this year in the face of the slower growth of the national economy and accentuated criticism of the president’s opponents on the issues of socio-economic policy of the Turkish authorities. But as soon as the war against the Kurds reignited, and a wave of horrible terror attacks covered the country, putting security in first place, the ratings of Erdogan and his party jumped back up. They will hike even higher as the Turkish nation unites in the fight against Putin's Russia, which launched massive anti-Turkish media hysteria and the already-traditional sanctions campaign, adding to the military presence in Syria and in the Mediterranean Sea. In this environment, the internal and external factors combined, it is the best moment for the Turkish leader to raise the issue of expanding the president’s powers.

Turkey is quite capable of becoming a center of attraction for all the Turkic-speaking countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia, dividing the zones of influence with China.

As for the foreign policy, the opportunities are even more interesting. Firstly, there is no doubt that Erdogan is confident, like many others, that Vladimir Putin and his entourage will fail in their attempt to start another World War with hybrid methods. Putin's plan is failing on all fronts and aspects, which brings significantly closer the expected fall of the Putin regime and the internal transformation of Russia, itself. Needless to say that in this period, the whole area of Russia’s external influence would be open for the neighboring to expanding the influence of the neighboring states. For example, Turkey, as a powerful regional actor, is quite capable of becoming a center of attraction for all the Turkic-speaking countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia, dividing the zones of influence with China.

On the other hand, Turkey now has a great opportunity to normalize relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israeli warplanes regularly strike the positions of the Syrian army, but today the prospect of being taken down by the Russian air defense systems become real. It would be naive to assume that such things will entail no serious consequences for Russia. Common interests of Turkey and Israel in ousting Assad and Syria’s internal transformation, as well as the neutralization of the common threat in the shape of the Russian army which causes regional escalation, is a reasonable platform for joint efforts.

Military deterrence of Russia will help Turkey raise its status of a regional leader, normalizing relations with its neighbors.

Despite Turkey’s significantly polarized positions with Saudi Arabia following the Arab Spring, today the Saudi actually lead the anti-Russian campaign in the energy sector, launching an oil “blitzkrieg” in Europe. In its desire to create a powerful regional oil and gas hub, Turkey could rely on Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran (the latter will start large-scale exports of hydrocarbons in three to five months). Elimination of Russia from the scheme does not spoil the perspective, itself, but only slightly shifts the emphasis. At the same time, military deterrence of Russia will help Turkey raise its status of a regional leader, normalizing relations with its neighbors.

Erdogan also has an excellent opportunity to ridicule Europe, in a revenge for the entire period of EU’s "cool" attitude toward Turkey over the last decade. By deterring Russia, Ankara shows real strength, which the European capitals are not able to demonstrate these days. French President Hollande's calls for wider cooperation with Moscow on the ground to deal with ISIL after the terrorist attacks in Paris look extremely disappointing for a state like France, against the backdrop of a tough stance of Turkey. Europe's inability to curb Putin's Russia militarily shows that the only NATO’s forces really able to deter Russian provocations are the United States and Turkey. Without them, NATO would become an easy prey for Putin's Russia, professing a "game with no rules."

Russian horde has first bumped into the heroism of the Ukrainian soldiers in Donbas, and is now bogged down in a rigid deterrence by Turkey in Syria.

In this context, Turkey started to share military glory with Ukraine on curbing the Kremlin with military prowess. Russian horde has first bumped into the heroism of the Ukrainian soldiers in Donbas, and is now bogged down in a rigid deterrence by Turkey in Syria. It is possible that these factors actually ensure today’s security and peace in the Baltics and other European states. For Ukraine, it offers a good opportunity for the development of truly constructive relations with Turkey on all issues, starting with the military and military-technical cooperation, to drafting an Action Plan for the development of Crimea after the restoration of Ukrainian jurisdiction over the Russian-occupied peninsula.

Roman Rukomeda

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