World powers should handle Erdoğan's ‘megalomaniac' approach with care
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is marketing his world view that the United States and European Union need his country more than it does them and his "megalomaniac approach" necessitates careful examination of a powerful regional leader not bound by existing arrangements, regional affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el said in an opinion piece on Friday.
“The confrontation with Greece and Europe in general over oil exploration in disputable areas could transpire as an experiment in implementing Erdoğan’s new strategy and not only an economic conflict between two states,” he wrote in Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Turkey and EU member Greece have been locked in a months-long territorial dispute in the eastern Mediterranean that has involved other EU countries and the U.S. in de-escalating tensions. The EU is scheduled in December to discuss possible sanctions on Turkey should it continue its hydrocarbon exploration in internationally recognised Greek waters.
Bar'el said the EU summit, which was set for October but later postponed, was linked to the upcoming U.S. presidential election in November. U.S. President Donald Trump, who is rerunning as the Republican candidate, has warm relations with Erdoğan, despite a series of spats between their countries including Washington’s objections to Turkey’s purchased S-400 missile systems from Russia.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presidential hopeful, has expressed a less-friendly policy towards the Turkish government and its actions at home and abroad.
“If Joe Biden is elected the American policy toward Turkey will change fundamentally and support the (European Union) in applying diplomatic pressure on Erdoğan,” Bar'el said.
In spite of whoever sits in the White House, the EU will not allow the U.S. to “set the rules of the game” in the eastern Mediterranean, and the Turkey’s threat of allowing a new wave of refugees to enter Europe will remain, the columnist said.
Turkey’s foreign policy initiatives have not been limited to the eastern Mediterranean this year. Turkish armed forces have launched major offensives against Kurdish armed groups in Syria and Iraq, supplied hardware, fighters and know-how for a military confrontation with the United Arab Emirates-backed opposition in Libya.
The Turkish government meanwhile declared firm support for Azerbaijan in its latest bout of fighting with Armenia over a post-Soviet territorial dispute and has repeatedly lambasted Arab countries for breaking a decades-long taboo of establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.
“From a state seeking a warm corner in the Arab Middle East, Turkey became a confrontational state seen by many Arab states as an enemy,” Bar'el said, saying such an Israeli thing to say.
Even Russia said this month it does not see Turkey as a strategic ally, but a close partner. Russia and Turkey have maintained an ostensible economic partnership and share a common distrust in the West, despite backing opposing sides in the Syrian and Libyan conflicts.
“In recent years, despite the growing economic crisis, Erdoğan has built Turkey up as a regional and diplomatic power that cannot be ignored or dismissed, one that is ready to confront Europe, Russia and the United States,” Bar'el said.