Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to delude him to achieve successive successes, at least at the external level, through his recent interventions in Libya and before it in Syria, in addition to his support for Qatar and excavations off Cyprus, according to an article in the journalist David Gardner’s article, published by “Financial” Financial Times.
But now Turkey’s relationship with Russia, which has been a consensual alliance over the past few years, has deteriorated, based on the management of mutual interests in Syria.
In February, their forces and agents clashed strongly in northwestern Syria, but withdrew before reaching the brink. It seems that Russian President Vladimir Putin underestimated Erdogan’s determination to continue to pressure the Syrian Kurds across the Turkish border and prevent a new wave of Syrian refugees fleeing the Bashar al-Assad regime, with support from the Russian Air Force.
“We were completely convinced that Erdogan was bluffing,” a Russian minister told a senior European diplomat shortly after those developments.
A fragile Turkish economy
The Turkish president, who has been in power for nearly 18 years, has not been bluffing, whether in Syria or Libya. But is this really Turkey’s position of strength?
Moscow and Ankara have always looked for diplomatic solutions of mutual benefit or at least a crust to cover up their use of force. Over the past decade, Russia and Turkey have emerged as regional powers in the Middle East, outpacing traditional Western power brokers: the United States, France, and the United Kingdom.
But each of them suffers from a weak economy, especially Turkey, whose economic situation is fragile, according to the author, who listed 7 reasons for this “fragility”.
What are the seven reasons?
First.. Erdogan relies on Russias agreement to continue to maintain Turkish control of two enclaves, captured in northern Syria in 2016 and 2018, and so does the buffer zone that Ankara is trying to establish across northeastern Syria in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal in 2019.
Moreover, it is Moscow that mediates the reconciliation between Damascus and the Kurdish militias that were allied with the United States, enabling the Assad regime to return to vast areas in northeastern Syria, currently controlled by the militia.
Secondly.. Erdogan’s intervention in Libya aims to obtain a share of what Turkey claims as alleged marine rights to oil and gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean, through a maritime border deal signed with the Libyan government recognized by the United Nations in Tripoli. But this move aroused the hostility of another alliance of opponents, Greece, Cyprus and Israel, who want to pump this gas to Europe via a pipeline to Italy.
Third.. As a result of interference in Libya and Turkey’s continuing exploration of gas off the coast of Cyprus, the European Union has pushed itself at least with the threat of sanctions. Hopes of Turkey joining the European Union have evaporated, but the European bloc, which Turkey wants to reinforce the customs union that exists between them, is still the most important market of Turkey so far.
Fourthly.. Erdogan cannot count on US support, as he faces sanctions because of his purchase of Russian weapons systems as a NATO member, as well as Turkey’s breach of the economic embargo imposed on Iran.
But Erdogan spoke to US President Donald Trump this week and claimed that he had agreed to an agenda on Libya, whether this was true or not, but that the two presidents had already been agreed over the phone last October, and the United States withdrew from northern Syria and was replaced by Turkish forces .
Fifthly … While Turkey diversifies its dependence on energy sources, it still gets nearly half of its natural gas imports from Russia.
Sixth, the Turkish currency is falling very quickly again, threatening to repeat the currency crisis of 2018, when the United States turned the table. Erdogan’s formulation of development policy on construction, low credit, and consumption had begun to fail before the economy was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Seventh .. Many of Erdogan’s signals at the local level do not suggest strength, despite his confident display of rough power abroad. The new wave of arrests of opposition lawmakers and mayors will not restore major cities such as Istanbul and Ankara, which his ruling party lost in last year’s elections.
Erdogan’s plan to transform an ancient system of night guards from caregivers of the elderly into security cadres loyal to him, in reference to the recent passage of the Turkish Parliament by a controversial law to form a police force known as “neighborhood guards”, and give it the authority of the judicial police and take over the night guard of the streets, which means Forming a parallel police force and tightening the security grip on citizens is something that he will not be satisfied with the urban voters who are turning away from.