Turkey: Erdoğan’s choices: Neither / either / both the US; nor / or / and Russia

15.10.2019 medyascope.tv
Translated by: Melissa Clissold /
Orjinal Metin (tr-10/15/2019)

Hello, good day.  From the moment that the Cold War ended, it was claimed that the world was heading towards monopoly, meaning that there was no other monopoly other than the US; and this was largely accepted for a while. But, especially in recent years, there are strong evaluations that show us that the US has largely lost this monopoly and that Russia, firstly, and China at the same time have balanced things out. The things that are currently unfolding in the Middle East, the environment that Turkey finds itself in and the ongoing Operation Peace Spring, shows us that Turkey is somewhat trapped, excluding China, between the US and Russia.
Up until recently, President Erdoğan has tried to create a balance between the US and Russia – or if we are to mention their leaders, both with Putin and Trump. This would not have been so easily done if there were another president instead of Trump in America. As a matter of fact, Trump has mentioned from the very beginning, even during his period of candidacy, his interest in Russia and his sympathy for Putin, or we can at least think that this empathy has a role in this. When we look at everything, Erdoğan, for example, through his insistence of being a member of NATO but at the same time insistence of buying S-400 missiles from Russia, tried to implement a policy without being dependant to one side completely. 
Of course, relations with Russia developed as much as it could, and relations with the US worsened. In order to create a balance, he wanted to distance himself from the strategic dependency on the US and drew closer to Russia. But when we look at the results, I believe that the policy of trying to get on well with both sides has created a heavy price for Turkey. 
Because these two big powers – the very powerful US on the other end of the world, and Russia which is right beside Turkey – with the relationships with these two powers, Turkey has turned into a country that gives a lot and receives little, in my opinion. But things worked out; of course a couple of really big crises took place – momentary bursts such as with the Pastor Brunson crisis; or with Russia, the downing of the Russian plane – but when we look at it, Erdoğan was able to maintain a balance with the two countries, to a certain extent. The results are clear, a choice between Russia and the US has come to the forefront. 
When we look at it from today onwards, this choice has sort of been replaced by “Neither the US or Russia.” During the 70s, this was actually a slogan used by Maoists across the globe and our country too – “Neither America or Russia.” When we look at it, when Turkey started Operation Peace Spring in Syria, it of course had the support of Trump, Trump said he would withdraw his troops, so it can be accepted that the support of the US was actually present. Russia did not come against the operation at first. 
Therefore, it appeared that both leaders, both countries were supporting this operation at first. Thus, during the United Nations Security Council, both countries vetoed the Turkey proposal. But after a few days we saw things were changing. Especially Trump, due to internal pressures, started to change his stance and language towards Turkey, he made insults, he threatened Turkey with sanctions and some of those sanctions have started to be implemented from last night onwards. And Russia, whilst on one side not really being clearly against Turkey’s operation, made a very strategic move in order for the People’s Protection Units (YPG) / Democratic Union Party (PYD) to not be left in a difficult position by the Turkish army or the Free Syrian Army that the Turkish army supports. 
He made the YPG/PYD meet with Damascus and sort of made them shake hands. Right now, with a sort of military agreement, the YPG powers are leaving their position in their hands to the Syrian army and they may even join the Syrian army in one way or another. Therefore here, when we look at it, it can be seen that both sides that appear to not come against the operation, and even easily allowed it to take place, started to come against Ankara’s plans and make things difficult. As a result, it is possible to see that both countries, meaning the US and Russia, are not truly beside Turkey. 
Of course, this slogan “Neither the US nor Russia” could be used by nationalistic and Islamic movements too. There are not many who talk about this openly; it is easier to taunt the US and Trump, and Anti-Americanism can create more of a splash. But for some reason, we do not see many serious outburts regarding Russia or those who support and defend the operation. However, animosity against Russia is actually traditionally quite widespread in Turkey. 
Especially in environments that support and applaud the operation, in largely nationalist-conservative environments -meaning the Turkish right-wing- opposition against Russia has a tradition for a long time; but for some reason now, opposition against America is coming up more strongly than opposition to Russia. And perspectives such as “Neither the US or Russia, a Turk has no other friend but a Turk” are trying to be spread in order to bring forward a belief that Turkey will succeed in this operation no matter what. 
Of course, one must not forget this: Other than the US and Russia, China has clearly stated that it is against the Operation, many countries within the European Union (EU) have stated they are against the Operation and many sanctions were implemented regarding new sales of arms. The Arab League also stood against the Operation, so did Israel. So, Turkey has actually brought the whole world together with this Operation. Enemies such as Iran and Saudi Arabia are saying similar things against the Operation, so is Israel and Europe.  
Anyway, if we are to return to the US and Russia phase: We now have an image that has moved from “Both the US and Russia” to “Neither the US or Russia.” But all of these images are somewhat deceiving; a much more complicated situation is present. Now is there an option in front of Turkey such as “Either the US or Russia?” So, the question that appears before us is: “Does Turkey have to choose a side, or if not, can it do what it wants to do in Syria and the region on its own?”
What particularly draws my attention is that no one – not Putin nor Trump – is stating “Leave him, take my side”, especially Putin. There is not situation which would encourage Turkey to leave NATO; on the contrary, Turkey is very happy to develop strategic and economic relations with NATO, of which it is an important member. A Russian specialist has evaluated the situation as Putin’s Trojan Horse in NATO. When we look at things from the point of view of the US, certain people within the US’s established order, certain European countries, NATO countries can be uncomfortable by Turkey getting so close to Russia. On the other hand, we do not see an attitude requiring to cut all ties from Russia, especially coming from Trump. 
Of course, the role of Trump and Putin’s personal relationship may be in place here. But in my opinion, neither side wants to carry all of Turkey’s weight, this is also the case. On the other hand, if Turkey makes a very clear strategic decision by choosing between the US or Russia – then there may be a potential of Turkey becoming a regional actor, and in fact, neither of them want this to happen. As far as I can see, that which is dominant in Moscow and Washington –  if perhaps Hillary Clinton had been chosen, if Hillary Clinton was President in the US instead of Trump, perhaps the situation would be different – Turkey is actually spending too much energy on trying to balance out these politics and giving more than it is receiving. 
Of course, another interesting aspect is that, even if Turkey did want to choose sides, they wouldn’t really want Turkey to be completely dependent on them; but another important aspect is this: Turkey, by entering this operation, is going down an interesting path – and I think that is another very important topic, I hope to cover it in the following days -, and that is that of the Kurdish problem suddenly becoming an international issue. And this has brought to light the past attempts of solutions and the peace process, which was a process that Turkey had previously tried to solve within itself. 
Now we look at things; Moscow is acting as a mediator between Damascus and YPG; on the other hand Trump, is directly speaking with the general of the YPG on the phone and is passing these discussions on to President Erdoğan – these appeared on the American media today and American Senator Graham confirmed this, meaning, the American President directly is in contact with the YPG and one of its generals and for days, Trump has been talking about a Turkish-Kurdish  war, he states that it has gone on for years and that it needs to come to an end. 
So, neither Russia, nor the US, nor Trump, nor Putin sees this operation as Turkey’s struggle against terrorism. Both of them sees this in very different ways; but even if they do not talk about this openly such as in certain Western media outlets or certain European politicians, they see this as an extension of the Kurdish issue and they are taking certain actions to resolve this issue. 
One example of this is seen in analyses such as “Putin can ensure peace between Turks and Kurds in Damascus” that was in today’s English media outlets. Yes, we now see that the US and Russia – to what degree, we do not know – are mentioning this. They have a saying; “Turkey has a problem with Kurds. This problem leads to lack of stability in the region. It puts a lot of issues such as the struggle against ISIS etc. in the region, into a difficult position. 
Therefore, no matter what – Trump wrote about this openly as you know – we must mediate between them. “If not”, says Trump threateningly, “If this does not happen, if Turkey continues down this path, I’ll destroy its economy.” How serious must we take Trump’s threats? This is debatable, but at the same time, with the Pastor Brunson example – and he insistently reminded us of this a few times recently – the damage he has caused to Turkish economy is clear, we are face to face with such a situation.  
In conclusion, Turkey’s attempt to create a balanced relationship with Russia and the US is becoming even more difficult and turning into a “give more, receive little” position. Especially in terms of the economy right now and as you know the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) today revealed the unemployment rate among the youth, it is not easy. If Turkey was a country with a strong economy, it could challenge these powers easier, and Trump knows this, he uses this as a leverage in some ways. 
In such a situation, there are three options in front of Turkey: “Both the USA and Russia” or “Either the US or Russia” or “Neither the US or Russia.” All of these have more disadvantages than advantages. Due to Turkey being a country unable to have resolved its own internal problems, the US and Russia will both try to milk this situation as much as possible, this is what I am seeing.
Yes, that is all I have to say, good day. 




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