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Erdogan: The Sultan of Many Clothes

Turkish President Erdogan's backstory suggests an unstable and whimsical leader, not a reliable partner upon whom Russia can afford to place much trust.

In 1969 the musical band King Crimson released their debut album, In The Court of The Crimson King. This was something of an artistic revolution that shook the music world to the core. The opening track is a piece called 21st Century Schizoid Man. The lyrics by the poet Peter Sinfield offer a foreboding prophecy of a post-modern man whose life is ruled by war, destroyed by greed, devoid of art and fraught with neurotic paranoia. One look at the news and it seems just such men are in charge of many countries, no more so than Turkey’s President Erdogan.

Erdogan’s foreign policy and his web of alliances is something of a schizophrenic exercise in mind-blowing acrobatics.  He has at one time been the friend, and then the enemy, and then the friend again, of just about every regional and global power. After risking war with Russia by shooting down a Russian jet inside Syrian airspace, Erdogan has launched a charm offensive with Russia, even praising Putin for supporting the legitimate (however dreadful) government of Turkey after the recent failed coup attempt.

Indeed, Putin’s steadfastness and calmness is something of a breath of fresh air in a world of political schizophrenia. Putin’s position is clear. He supports the rights of all legitimate governments to exist and to do so peacefully, no matter how antithetical a regime might be to the Russian way of government.  Indeed Putin welcomes cooperation from the entire world, including countries constantly slandering Russia on the world’s stage.

By contrast, Erdogan is now engaging in a war of words with the European powers for their alleged half-hearted support of his regime in the aftermath of the failed coup. This is the same man who caused an international diplomatic crisis when a German satirist wrote an anti-Erdogan poem that hurt the President’s feelings. Imagine if the Russian President got upset and threw a tantrum on the world’s stage every time a western comedian or newspaper or Facebook user said something nasty about him?

Any time two large powers reach a rapprochement, it can only be a good thing. Any cessation of hostilities anywhere in the world is a cause for rejoicing and because of this, I welcome rapprochement between Turkey and Russia. Putting aside my personal dislike for Erdogan’s policies and his tyrannical methods of destroying Turkey’s republican constitution, Erdogan has proved himself to be personally unreliable. The man has betrayed just about every international alliance he has ever made and has donned just about every geo-political identity conceivable.

Russia’s mature approach to Erdogan’s most recent about face demonstrates a Russian commitment to peace and good will throughout the world. However, Russia must be cautious when it comes to any long term alliances with Turkey so long as this man is in power. Sultan Erdogan is an emperor with many clothes.   Soon however he may run out of them and find himself without any nations willing to take him seriously, even his own.

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