Writing these Monday columns, I have the feeling of living a Groundhog Day over and over. When the meaningless action for the sake of action foreign policies will come to an end? Or, do we miss something and at that, when put together the final tally of actions, do we arrive at some sort of meaningful full picture? Is the purpose to sever the ties of Turkey that bind it to the West to which it turned its face towards since centuries and cut it loose from the western security structure of which it is a member? All are these actions are designed for public consumption and to keep the nationalist-Islamist coalition in place indefinitely?
Short and honest answer is I do not know. Yet, one feels like out of intellectual honesty and the urge to defend whatever tidbits remain from one’s secular republican citizenship, that one needs to persevere. Hence, we soldier on, like green parrots resting on a tree branch, we keep sharing our takes, with you, the most cherished reader. As the NBA expert sportswriter Ara Gözbek from our sister GazeteDuvar edition reminded us, great Pat Riley famously said: “Stay tough and never surrender. This is what winning is all about.” Gözbek also draws our attention to the fact that Riley not also was a basketball player, but played (American) football as well in his youth. Hence, the emphasis on “toughness” we gather.
Erdoğan’s Ankara too pretend that, if middle weight regional power Turkey is not a playmaker, it is and will remain unless its “genuine” demands are fully heard, the eternal party-pooper. Yet, there seems to be, at least to me a difference between bashing your neighbour’s party and disrupting the system altogether. Perhaps, therein is the key that shows us the limits of this so-called “assertive” foreign policy. Assertive is quite timid a word when it comes to qualify the constant, deafening defiance. Erdoğan is by all the means free to tank the Turkish economy or go his own way in every single conflict in the Turkey’s adjacent area. But the strings will be pulled once he is perceived to be one head-on decided to take the entire international system down in a blaze of glory.
Catching Foreign Minister Maas wrong footed by sending Oruç Reis seismic research vessel back to the Mediterranean leading to his cancellation of his announced trip to Turkey, while Germany was one of the few earnest voices remaining within the EU which called for dialogue and engagement is a perfect example. Opening parts of Varosha in, yes you guessed it, defiance of the UN parameters, brought about the condemnation of the UNSC and offered the perfect excuse to Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration -accepted as the Republic of Cyprus by the EU. “Turkey is Armenia’s best asset” exclaimed retired diplomat Mr. Engin Solakoğlu as a guest to my TV talk show on ArtıTV the Wednesday evening and that’s a good example too that depicts the needless mingling in other countries’ affairs.
Not even a day passes without spokespersons for the “Palace” and for the Foreign Ministry, ministers, high level officials “slam” and declare some development “null and void.” Rules and parameters are for others, criteria are “do it yourself” kits. As international relations pundits around the world solemnly announce “the death of diplomacy”, not only democracy but politics altogether are about to exhale their last breath in a whimper. As lack of rule of law becomes the norm internally, norms are exceedingly thrown out of the window in diplomacy. Whichever foreign leader tries his or her hand in dealing with and instilling sense in Ankara feels, they are given short shrift sooner rather than later. The present foreign policy surfs on top of all these contradictions and an oriental sort of variable geometry. All business is transactional: leave it or take it.
The US and the EU had a hard time in dealing with Erdoğan’s Ankara till today. Putin’s Russia watched the play with glee. Xi’s China barely lifted an eyebrow and suppressed its yawn. Neither China nor Russia are willing and capable to replace the EU in Turkey’s economic relations and bail the country in a possible and perhaps imminent crash. So we are back to square one as the sun rises on yet another groundhog day. How to find a formula for the US and the EU to bail the Turkish economy out and pilot the fragilized Turkish democracy back to healthier waters without Erdoğan looses face internationally and appears weak internally? It takes two to tango and a bailout is not a get-of-jail-free card. We can only pray for the clearer minds to prevail abroad and for the main opposition inside to come to its senses. EU membership, abiding by international norms and remaining safely anchored within the western security structure are not the same as giving in to “imperialism” and looking for a “mandatory state” to take over Turkey.