Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, failed to achieve positive results in his two latest trips to the United States and Russia. This may be attributed to the fact that the autocratic Turkish leader has become overconfident, thinks that he can play the US and Russia against each other and does not seek the advice of Turkey’s seasoned diplomats.
Last September, Erdogan, accompanied by a sizeable retinue, went to New York to address the UN General Assembly, promote with much fanfare his book “A Fairer World is Possible” and inaugurate the 36-floor Turkish House located in Manhattan right across the UN building
Speaking at a business forum in New YorkErdoganstressed the “strategic alliance” supposedly existing between the US and Turkey and the complete agreement between him and US President Joe Biden to overcome problems in their bilateral relations. However, much to the frustration of Erdogan, a meeting with Biden did not take place.
This, of course, was a big blow to his bloated ego and Erdogan angrily said that the course of US-Turkey relations “does not bode well” and that he had never experienced such a situation with any US leader before.
To show Biden how angry he was, Erdogan announced that he would buy a new batch of the Russian S-400 defense system, infuriating the State Department and USCongressmen who warned of new sanctions on Turkey.
Apparently, Erdogan sought a meeting with Biden, on the one hand, to project domestically in Turkey the image of a world leader and, on the other, to strengthen his position in the tough negotiations he was going to have in Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 29.
The Turkish leader desperately needed to prevent a Russian offensive in Idlib in Syria, as this will most probably cause a new influx of Syrian refugees to Turkey which is already hosting about 4 million refugees.
Turkish politicians attribute the ruling party declined in the recent local government elections to the question of refugees.
The other thing Erdogan wanted from Putin was to avoid massive price hikes of Russian natural gas, on which Turkish industry depends for its energy needs.
Putin avoided making any promises on these two subjects. He said that trade between the two countries had increased by 55 percent this year and added that Turkey can rely on Russian natural gas shipments, without promising deep cuts in energy prices.
What is noteworthy, is that the meeting between Erdogan and Putin took place completely behind closed doors, without the presence of Ministers on either side. Obviously, the Russian side was annoyed with Ankara’s declarations that it does not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, as well as with Turkey’s military-technical cooperation with Ukraine and Poland, and primarily the export of Turkish Bayraktar drones to these countries.
Over the years, Erdogan has become arrogant and overconfident about his own and Turkey’s influence and military capabilities. Under his leadership, Turkey refashioned itself as a revisionist power openly challenging not just its regional neighbours but also treaty allies like France, Greece, and the United States.
Asli Aydintasbas, Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, points out that Erdogan believes Turkey ” is neither part of the transatlantic community nor Eurasia, neither East nor West, but a resurgent power in its own right. He doesn’t want to be a Russian vassal, but he doesn’t trust the West either.”
In October last year, Erdogan boasted that Turkey has attained “the power to carry out with active military support its political and economic policies on the ground” and added: “Those accustomed to speaking to us with an imperious tone now negotiate with us on equal terms … We have fully subverted their policies to subjugate us to decisions taken without us on all regional and global matters.”
Breaking the mould of the previous Turkish foreign policy of embracing the status quo and avoiding foreign adventures, Erdogan involved Turkey in such conflicts by deploying Syrian mercenary fighters in Turkeys military intervention in Libya and in support of Azerbaijan in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Ian Bremmer, foreign affairs columnist of Time Magazine says:”History says Turkey’s strongman will become even more aggressive and erratic, at home and abroad, as his country’s economy weighs more heavily on his political future.”
Since the departure of Ahmet Davutoglu from the helm of the Foreign Ministry, Erdoganpersonally charts Turkey’s foreign policy, ignores the advice and suggestions of diplomats, and orders the Foreign Ministry to follow his decisions on major policy issues. In fact, Erdogan alone takes important decisions on Turkey’s foreign policy, risking good relations with the country’s allies and neighbours, aiming to please the nationalistic feelings of his supporters.
The “zero problems with neighbours” slogan, used at the time of Ahmet Davutoglu, has now become, with Erdogan’sclumsy handling of foreign policy, “nothing but problems”.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday created a diplomatic scandal when told his Foreign Minister to expel the ambassadors of 10 countries, including those of the United States and Germany. The Ambassadors of the US, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden on Monday called for a “just and speedy resolution to the case of philanthropist and activist Osman Kavala, who is has been imprisoned without a conviction since 2017.”
This move will certainly create a big problem in the diplomatic relations between these 10 countries and Ankara.
Namik Tan, Turkey’s former Ambassador to the US, in an article argued that that “recent moves regarding the USA and Russia indicate that Turkey’s foreign policy has regressed into a one-man show by President Erdogan. Turkey’s career diplomats would have adviced Erdogan against making contradicting statements and warned against possible externalities of trying to play to superpowers against each other. They could have told him that he was risking losing credibility and why foreign policy cannot always be subservient to domestic politics.” (ANI)