Is Russia meddling in Turkey’s affairs?

Is Russia meddling in Turkey’s affairs?

Russia is accused of meddling in the U.S. presidential elections. But what about Turkey? Is there no meddling in Turkey by Russia? Take the case of Aleksandr Dugin, referred to by the Turkish media as “a Russian philosopher and President Putin’s special advisor.”

Dugin is admired by Turkey’s “pool media” - the name often given to the country’s pro-government media - because he says things they want to hear. His most recent remarks to daily Habertürk, for example, were quickly picked up by this portion of the media. For the record, Habertürk is not really a member of that “pool.”

In his interview over Skype, Dugin accused Washington of being behind last year’s failed coup attempt, saying its harboring of Fethullah Gülen is proof of this . Gulen is the Islamic preacher in self-exile in Pennsylvania who is blamed for masterminding the coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. (Curiously Dugin himself was actually in Turkey on the night of the coup attempt and suggested in later interviews that he knew it was coming.)

What Dugin told Habertürk is not new. Indeed, it is a widely held belief in Turkey, and there are many opponents of the government who also believe what he says. After all, this country holds the gold-medal for anti-Americanism.

But having a “Russian philosopher” who is also a “special advisor to Putin” voice support for this theory gives added weight to it for the pool media.

Dugin also claimed that Ankara’s alliance with the West is finished, saying that Washington will now try to undermine Turkey by all means possible. He said it would try to stir ethnic conflict (effectively meaning the Kurds), foment economic and social unrest, and try to sow the seeds of disquiet in Turkey’s political and military elite against Erdoğan.

What Dugin is doing, of course, is “salting the battle field,” to use the title of one of the episodes of a marvelous BBC spy mini-series. This is easy pickings for him, given the widespread gullibility in this country.

Still, he also said some things that are telling, although it is doubtful that many in the pool media picked up on the significance of these remarks. For example, asked to comment on the view that Russia is trying to pull Turkey away from NATO and toward itself, Dugin said: “Putin is not trying to pull Turkey toward his side, the West is pushing Turkey [there].”

While the West’s reaction to Turkey on a number of levels justifies this remark, the key point in Dugin’s words is that Russia is not the one reaching out to Turkey - it is the other way around.

This puts Russia on a higher plane than Turkey, and implies that Ankara will have to swallow a lot in order to not endanger its growing reliance on Moscow.

Dugin is clearly trying to contribute to this dependence with his regular interviews in the Turkish media. Some of his remarks, however, should displease the “pool media.”

For example, when asked about the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, which Turkey says is a Kurdish terrorist organization, Dugin responded by saying that the Kurdish identity “cannot be suppressed because this will only push the Kurds toward the U.S. and Israel.” When asked why Moscow wants the YPG in the Syria talks, Dugin said Russia’s relationship with the Kurds is actually “to Turkey’s advantage.”

Such “minor points,” however, are not enough to undermine his standing among pro-government circles in Turkey.

Wikipedia - which incidentally is still banned in Turkey - defines Dugin as “a Russian political analyst, strategist and philosopher known for his fascist … views, who has ties with the Kremlin and the Russian military.”

“Russian fascism” is by definition not only anti-Semitic but also anti-Turkish and anti-Islamic. But why let such a minor point spoil the admiration for Dugin? After all, he says things that many in this country want to hear today.

The long term consequences of Ankara’s reliance on Moscow, in the way that Dugin suggests, are not today’s questions for the “pool media.” That media is simply too embroiled in its current prejudices to see the bigger picture.

Opinion, Semih İdiz,