Crimean spring in Turkey

Crimean spring in Turkey

Let’s hope that the Crimean Tatars do not find themselves at risk. That may be quite embarrassing for Turkey, otherwise known as the protector general of all the victimized Muslims of the world. On March 6, Mustafa Jemiliyev (Kırımlıoğlu), leader of the Crimean Tatars, told a news conference that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told him Turkey “would immediately get involved” if Tatars felt at risk. If Mr. Davutoğlu was serious, Crimean Tatars’ Turkish kin, too, may feel at risk soon.

Probably still dizzy with the unattained victory in Syria, Mr. Davutoğlu said Ukraine, after Syria, was a test for the international community, i.e., “we want the mightier west to do what we think is best for us in Ukranine – just like in Syria.” Of course, Professor Davutoğlu has good knowledge of history and he knows that since the Tatars settled in Crimea, their Turkish brothers have lost all of the 17 or so wars they fought against the Russians.

In Syria, Turkey too indirectly faced Russia; in Crimea it may too directly face it. It is because of that fear that a few days after Ankara promised that it would never leave the Tatar brothers in the lurch, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took the initiative not to leave the Tatar brothers in the lurch: he personally spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and asked him to protect the rights of Crimean Tatars. The Tatars must have sighed with immense relief.

The usual and overly loud Turkish cries over the plight of Arab brothers in Syria, Egypt and Gaza are not heard over the potential plight of Tatar brothers. Instead, Turkey is urging the west and Moscow to do what it thinks must be done in Crimea. That’s better, and safer for the whole world.

In fact, the day after the Crimean referendum that annexes the peninsula to Russia, the mighty Turkish navy sent an impressive task force consisting of two frigates, one corvette and one logistical support ship, for an African campaign. Again, that’s safer for the flotilla than sailing in the Black Sea; and possibly better for world peace. The mission? “To give the message that the Turkish navy is on duty to ensure world peace.” Fortunately, that message will be conveyed oceans away from Crimea while the mini-Turkish fleet sails to 27 African countries.

No doubt, Mssrs. Erdoğan and Davutoğlu are playing a smarter (or at least more realistic) game in Crimea than they played in Syria and Egypt. On the evening of the referendum in Crimea, Mr. Erdoğan merely commented that “things do not look bright for the Crimean Tatars.” And guess where was Mr. Davutoğlu, the first foreign minister to visit the Ukrainian capital after the fall of Russia’s man in Kyiv, a few days before the referendum – or when the inevitable was brewing up? Moscow? Washington? You’re almost there.

The foreign minister was in St. Vincent and the Grenadines; no, not for sunbathing. He was there to win votes for Turkey’s candidacy at the United Nations Security Council. After having met with members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Mr. Davutoğlu gave the good news that eased tensions in the Black Sea, “The Caribbean countries trust Turkey and its foreign policy.” The Crimean Tatars were particularly pleased and took to the streets to celebrate.

This columnist suspects Mr. Davutoğlu’s visit to the Caribbean at times like this could have a secret agenda, something more strategic than mere vote hunting for the UNSC. Judging retrospectively from the main features of foreign policy, which the Caribbean countries trust, there is reason to suspect a Turkish plan to appeal to CARICOM for full membership. Wouldn’t that be incredibly fabulous?

And it looks like the more plausible option since, after the fall of Crimea, the chances for Turkish membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization look rather slim.