by George Ades
After the “chilling” of relations between Russia and Turkey following the downing of the Russian jet over Syria, Turkey suffered the effects of an economic embargo justifiably imposed on her by Moscow, as a result of which millions of Russian tourists stayed away from that country with dire effects for the Turkish economy; furthermore, the trade ban between the two countries begun to show its negative effects on Turkey. That is the economic aspect of the situation.
When the Russian jet was shot down, either with or without the prior knowledge of the Turkish government, Erdogan, fearing Russian reprisals, attempted to draw his NATO allies into the fray but aside from a generic statement of “Every country has a right to defend its own borders and airspace” from Washington, there was no actual support for this NATO ally who found himself alone facing the claws of the bear. At the same time there was no knee jerk reaction from Moscow as we have witnessed for the hostile incident by Turkey, but a methodical “punishment”, skillfully implemented, that took its toll on both the Turkish economy and on Erdogan’s popularity, at least with the business sector of his country.
The cold shoulder that Erdogan collected from his “allies” did not go unnoticed by the Kremlin, which capitalized on it and begun to soften its tone towards Ankara,, leaving the door ajar for a possible reconciliation. All it would take would be a heart-felt apology that would satisfy the Russian people and things would go back to normal again. At first Erdogan resisted, but after talks between Russian and Turkish Officials we witnessed a sudden and unexpected 180 degree turn by the Sultan that gave rise to speculation that the Russians had offered him something that went beyond the mere restoration of trade relations; this had to be something that was more near and dear to the “Sultan”; perhaps his personal survival and welfare. The apology that Erdogan issued was readily accepted by Moscow but was not appreciated by his partners who professed to tell the “Sultan” to take it back. (In their own imperial way).
Right after Erdogan made the public apology and withdrew his support for groups fighting against the Syrian forces, Putin gave orders that the tourist ban on Turkey would be lifted immediately giving Erdogan enough to save some face for the humiliating move.
Which leads us to the botched coup attempt. Once Turkey and Russia became “best friends” again, it was only a matter of time before a military coup would be attempted; many of us began to write about it and I’m not thinking of a coup that would be instigated by disgruntled Turks, but one that would serve overseas interests. One week before the events of Friday, the Turkish regime began a wholesale arrest and prosecution campaign among the highest ranking officers in its military; Admirals and Generals were being rounded up and detained on charges of treason. Why wasn’t this purge done before that by the paranoid Erdogan? Unless, of course, the names of these officers were not known to the Turkish Secret Services before. So who was it that supplied them with the list of dissidents?
The Iranian press is now claiming that the “tip-off” for the coup came from Russian Intelligence. Personally I would not rule that out; in fact I suggested as much elsewhere.
So where does all this leave Turkey in the global power game?
Turkey is a valuable NATO ally, the “gatekeeper” of the Bosporus Straits that control the Black Sea and the Russian Navy’s access to the Mediterranean. The US is not likely to let go of that trump card that easily. At the same time, Erdogan has lost confidence in the US that in all likelihood were behind the attempt to overthrow him; to put it bluntly, he no longer trusts them. Erdogan is in survival mode at the moment and, after evaluating the situation, he has probably come to the conclusion that his best chances lie with Moscow.
Options available to the US and NATO:
- A second coup attempt to remove him. The odds of success for a follow up coup are not great.
- An attempt to “take him out”. Risky as this will likely lead to a civil war and chaos. May be considered if all else fails.
- Appeasement of Turkey by the US. A kind of kiss and make up to buy time, and disrupt the process of the Turko-Russian reconciliation….until of course, the time is right again to remove the uncooperative, ambitious Erdogan from power. The “Sultan” has probably thought of or been advised of that possibility.
As things stand now for Erdogan, Russia is the one offering all the “goodies”, while the US does what it does best and often….threaten.