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Has Erdogan gone fully rogue?

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech to his supporters in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSIBDR

Over the last 20+ years, America hsa applied the nebulous term ‘rogue state’ with a bit of impunity.

Syria was called a rogue state for having the audacity to pursue an independent foreign and economic policy in the Arab world.

Yugoslavia was called a rogue state by the US for trying to defend the borders of what until the foreign meddling of the 1990s, was the most successful multi-cultural state in late modern Europe and possibly the world.

So when discussing what makes a rogue state, it is better to construct a new, more neutral definition than rely on the American application of the word to any state which doesn’t dance to the NATO/US tune.

Let us define a rogue sate as: a state whose government pursues unilateral aggressive policies which result in the country’s sudden or gradual isolation from regional neighbours, former allies and those beyond.

This is distinct from a failed state which is a state whose semblance of a government is at best incompetent and totally ineffective, or at its most failed, a government that for all intents and purposes is both fully incapable, corrupt, dis unified and scandalous.

Somalia is often categorised as a failed state in spite of efforts to fix persisting problems. Post-Gaddafi Libya can also be described as a failed state because it lacks a single, mutually agreed upon central government, and in any case both the Tripoli and Benghazi governments are up against tribal groups who answer only too themselves, other piratical elements and violent terrorist organisations, including branches of ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Finally, one comes to Ukraine under the fascist junta regime. This state is by all means a failed state, no matter how hard its supporters try to convince the world otherwise.

It cannot pay its bills, police its streets against competing neo-Nazi elements,  it resorts to the use of terrorists to fight its wars of aggression against the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics (see Azov Battalion), the state’s borders are highly disputed and political corruption and instability is rampant. If America and various EU states give up on Kiev, Ukraine will be both a failed state and a rogue state.

But what about Turkey? Turkey is a great state, a powerful state, and a regionally important state with an economy to be reckoned with, in spite of recent downturns.

But Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is increasingly going rogue.

He has alienated much of the secular Arab world though his illegal invasions and occupations of Iraq and Syria. His bellicose rhetoric against Greece and personal intransigence over the peace process to end decades of illegal Turkish occupation of Cyrus, have opened up both old and fresh wounds with the Hellenic world.

His back and forth relationships with Israel and Palestine has made both sides suspicious of Turkish designs on the area. He is persona-non-grata in much of the EU and the EU leaders seem to be content about that.

Iran is deeply unhappy with Turkey’s moves in the Middle East. And the only thing Barack Obama and Donald Trump seem to have in common is an unwillingness to work directly with Turkey on any meaningful regional issues, in spite of its NATO membership.

Of course this leaves out Russia, who after 2015 virtually broke off all public relations with Turkey over the shooting down of a Russian fighter jet. Turkey claimed that the jet had breached Turkish airspace, others maintain it was in Syrian airspace at the behest of the Syrian government. The logistical likelihood is that the jet never breached Turkish air space and that the shooting down of the jet was either a blunder which masked a crime or a crime which masked a blunder.

While this would have led some countries to war, Russia and Turkey engaged in rapprochement in 2016 and just last week, Erdogan was in Moscow affirming his willingness to expand trade relations and technology exchange with Russia.

Turkey and Russia were enemies throughout the Tsarist period of Russian history. After the deaths of Lenin and Ataturk who had a good relationship with one another, the two countries once again became distant to the point of being quietly hostile, to put it mildly.

Under President Putin, relations have undoubtedly improved, but not because of any humility shown by Erdogan. President Putin has shown a kind of patience with Erdogan’s perpetual hysterics, that almost no other world leader has been able to achieve.

Putin understands that a post-Erdogan Turkey (whenever that happens) will be an important regional player and therefore an important potential partner to a Russian Federation that is no longer content to allow the Middle East, or Eurasia more widely, to be a playground for western liberal imperialists, Salifist regimes and terrorist proxies, nor unbridled Israeli ambitions and bellicosity.

But under Erdogan, Turkey is doing all it can to not return the favour of Putin’s patience. In spite of Putin being the only major world leader to still have any patience at all for Erdogan, Turkey continues to back the blood soaked jihadist group Free Syrian Army and continues to illegally occupy Syrian territory. In doing so, Turkey has become a stumbling block to the very peace process that it signed up to along with Iran and Russia; the Astana talks.

But now, adding insult to injury, the Turkish Foreign Ministry have said that they do not recognise Crimea as part of Russia. So much for partnership…

Nothing Turkey nor anyone else says will change Russia’s borders. Crimea is now, as it has been through most of modern history, Russian. The 2014 re-unification was democratic and peaceful which is more than can be said of how the fascist regime in Kiev governs territories under its control.

What’s more is that Turkey knows full well that Russia presents Ankara with fantastic economic opportunities and Ukraine presents the world, including Turkey, nothing but a headache.

Therefore, Turkeys’ inflammatory statement on Crimea should be seen not in the context of Turkey’s fondness for  the fascists in Kiev, but as part of Erdogan’s quest for neo-Ottoman glory.

Prior to becoming part of the Russian Empire, there was an Ottoman vassal state called the Crimean Khanate and even today some Crimean Tatars, a Turkic people, constitute a minority of Crimean residents. Although they have the full rights of any other Russian citizen and indeed live peacefully in Russia, a far more democratic and free country than Erdogan’s Turkey, Erdogan still would prefer to view himself as the ‘liberator’ of a Turkic/post-Ottoman people.

The only irony here is that even though no one has a legitimate claim to modern Crimea other than Russia, Turkey would actually have a stronger claim than Ukraine, as at least the Turkish state has both a historical basis for existence as well as history in Crimea.

But all history aside, the practical reality is that Turkey has slapped Russia in the face. Russia is too mature a power to feel the sting, but it goes to show that Turkey is ultimately an unreliable partner to everyone, including its own short and medium term interests.

That being said, I do believe that whenever a post-Erdogan era arrives, Russia’s respect for the Turkish state and its patience with a leader that many Turks find as exasperating as foreigners do, will pay off. Turkey will see that Russia remained calm and respectful against all odds, when others lambasted Turkey from a position of hypocrisy and blind ideological dogma.

In spite of Turkey’s importance as a nation and its military might, Erdogan has allowed his country to go rogue. The only hope is that the words of Ataturk remain true, “They go as they come”.

What do you think?

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