Foreign policy change but no moderation

Foreign policy change but no moderation

Turkey seems to be changing its foreign policy with new deals with Israel and Russia – two arch enemies until recently. Nevertheless, it would be very misleading to assume that this change is a sign of “moderation.” First of all, these are not deals between moderate, peaceful and democratic countries; Turkey, Russia and Israel have authoritarian regimes and governments which will hardly encourage each other to engage in moderate politics. Besides, these deals cannot even be explained in terms of economic and, therefore, political pragmatism that would eventually lead to some sort of moderation. Instead, the deal between Turkey and Israel is especially based on very dubious calculations, namely in the name of forming an implicit coalition against Iran. Saudi Arabia and Israel have long behaved as “frenemies” (as some call it) whose interests coincide, especially after both countries registered their profound disturbance with the U.S.-Iran rapprochement.

Now, it seems that Turkey, the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia and Israel have come to an agreement with this ‘frenemity’ politics. That’s why such a coalition is no promise of more peace in the region; on the contrary, it will enforce the vicious politics of sectarianism. Moreover, the agreement between Turkey and Israel will not help both sides soften their respective prejudices, since Islamists evaluate the deal as a result of “necessity” and have not shown any sign of changing their anti-Semitic views. Some even warned that one should be very cautious “about deals with Jews,” since they are one of the “most greedy and vicious people – along with the English.” Therefore, it is worse than a marriage of convenience since it is not only a matter of a lack of love, but it is also a matter of mutual hatred and is akin to “sleeping with your enemy.”

As for the rapprochement with Russia, it is even more curious in terms of its progress and sustainability. The terms of the agreement between Turkey and Russia are still a mystery and rather curious, since the two countries have very different positions not only concerning Syria, but on some other important matters, too. Russia has been on the side of the Syrian regime from day one, whereas Turkey has supported the so-called opposition all the way along, there has been no sign that Turkey has changed its strategy and accepted “defeat.” 

Moreover, the fact that Turkey has always supported Islamist movements in Russia that Russia perceives as a major domestic threat has created even more tension as Russian citizens have traveled to Syria to fight against the regime. Russia has declared that it is fighting for its security when it militarily intervened in Syria given the number of Russian citizens who are fighting for ISIL and other radical Islamist groups. 

I do not know if Turkey’s rulers decided to change their position concerning the Syrian regime and Syrian politics in general. Besides, it is very difficult for Turkey to abandon its support for jihadists of Russian nationality like the Chechens in Syria and elsewhere. I think the last Istanbul airport bombing by ISIL members of Russian nationality may be seen as the first sign of the possible costs of a policy change on that matter.

Otherwise, all of us who live in Turkey should be more than happy for the foreign policy change since we will again be able to sell tomatoes to Russia, and many Russian tourists could help save the industry. Besides, the agreement with Israel will help the people in Gaza.