Erdoğan: Best buddy of Putin and ally of Obama?
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is known as one of the toughest leaders on earth calls, him a “tough man.”
He boycotts the official United Nations dinner hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama, which had never happened before, and Obama calls him a “strategic partner.”
He asks German leader Angela Merkel to let Turkey join the European Union for the good in common and then says he is not taking the EU’s perspective into consideration while taking strategic steps. He ignored an EU reaction over gas cooperation with Russia, weakening the EU (and the U.S.) sanctions on Moscow because of Ukraine.
He claims to be the voice of the streets of the Muslim world, but Ankara does not have very much in common with the current major problems (like Syria, Iraq) with major Muslim countries, like Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia these days.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been playing his own power game in regional politics, resulting in him not being much bound to the traditional Turkish foreign policy axis in parallel with the West, in general.
Turkey has been a member of the Western military alliance NATO since 1952. It is not an ordinary member. It holds the southeast flank of the Alliance, keeps the Straits tight (as the only outlet of Russia to the “Warm Seas,” it hosts a major NATO command in İzmir, a major strategic air base in İncirlik and since 2012, the early warning radars of the NATO-operated U.S. military system Defense Shield (with its missile bases in Poland and Romania).
On the political scene, Turkey has wanted to be a member of the EU for more than half a century now. It adapted its Constitution according to the European legislation about 10 years ago. Yet, when it comes to the practice on issues like media freedom, court independence, separation of powers and checks-and-balances, the current Turkish attitude rather leans to that of Russia, with an Islamic rhetorical flavor.
Russia admits it suffers from the U.S. and the EU sanctions because of the Ukraine crisis, but softly (for now) threatens both that if things continue like this (which both the EU and U.S. said they would) that could “harm cooperation.” Of course, one should not forget about the Saudi role in decreasing oil prices, which affect Russia worse than the fall of its currency. Germany, as the major Russian gas client in Europe, is of course in the game in Moscow’s eyes and, of course, the nuclear talks with Iran cannot go anywhere without Russian consent; Tehran knows that.
On top of everything, after paralyzing Venezuela with (again) oil prices, Obama is trying the cut the major Russian peg in the Western hemisphere with his smart move in Cuba.
In this complicated picture, the “West,” knowing that it cannot risk its strategic and military interests with Turkey, is playing its own game with Russia to minimize risks if the tension between the West and Russia escalates further. It is another matter to ask how long this game could be sustained.