Hit Erdoğan’s Turkey, if you need an enemy for elections
Turkey is becoming a country targeted by politicians who have domestic concerns like winning an election. For Western leaders who do not want to mess with China or Russia, President Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey is portrayed as “the other”, or the “enemy of choice”. Erdoğan and his narrow circle may regard this as proof of their foreign (and now domestic) policies on the right track. But Turkey does not deserve to be the subject of political attacks, and even insults of those who hope political gain out of that.
We’ve had three instances in the last few weeks when Western politicians treating Turkey as an enemy for their personal agendas.
US President Joe Biden, in his letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, said the US couldn’t finish ISIS in Syria yet, because of Turkish cross-border anti-terror operations against the PKK.
Before that, despite all the diplomatic efforts, Biden did not want to meet Erdoğan during the UN General Assembly on September 21-22.
It is a matter of concern in Ankara what Biden will say if in the press conference -if it is held- following a reported face-to-face meeting with Erdoğan in the premises of the G20 Summit in Rome on October 30-31. For Biden, Erdoğan seems to be a domestic issue as well. There are midterm elections in November 2022. Democrats could lose a majority in the House of Representatives. Biden failed to deliver the promised development in the economy. He first achieved success in the fight against Covid, which he counted as his first target, but then he reduced the support money, causing a reaction. White racists are a serious problem. The agreement he reached with the UK and Australia against China caused the revolt of the French President Emmanuel Macron, when Germany’s Angela Merkel is retiring, can shake the US relations with Europe, which Biden attaches great importance.
Break the glass when you need an enemy
The USA’s admission of its defeat against the Taliban after 20 years and Biden’s decision (which Trump had decided earlier) to withdraw hastily from Afghanistan raised the question of Syria. Would Biden withdraw from Syria before ISIS is finished? Will he leave his Kurdish collaborators exposed in Syria like left his collaborators unprotected in Afghanistan?
An excuse, a scapegoat, an exterior enemy was needed to answer these questions, and that was Turkey. Erdogan’s image as a Muslim-democratic, moderate Islamic leader of the secular, Western-oriented Turkey is far behind for both the Democratic and Republican circles of the USA. The identification of Erdogan, naturally with Turkey, has created a political atmosphere in which almost every aspiring politician hopes to score points by hitting Turkey regardless of their own appearances.
It is another issue whether hitting Turkey would have any considerable effect in the US elections, but certainly pleases the anti-Turkish lobbies in the Congress.
We see a similar attitude in the French President Emmanuel Macron as well.
The first round of presidential elections in France will be held on April 10 and the second round on April 24. By winning this election, the French leader wishes to assume the title of “voice of Europe”, after Merkel’s withdrawal from politics.
Macron began complaining about possible Turkish intervention in French elections months ago, through “mosques, schools, and other organizations”. About 1.5 million people from Turkey live in France, with a population of 67.5 million, and it cannot be said that all of them are fans of Erdoğan. Regarding the “other organizations,” it was clear what Macron meant with a statement by the French Senate which targeted when the French Senate set the target for the “Institute du Bosphor”. The Institute is a key player in moderating Turkish-French relations and is supported by one of the most Western-oriented institutions in Turkey, the Turkish Industry and Business Association, TUSIAD. TUSIAD categorically denied the allegations.
Last week, on October 7, Macron talked about 300 years of Turkish colonialism in Algeria, forgetting the French massacres there. His aim was to influence the Muslim voters in France, mainly of Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian descent. Thereupon, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu gave a harsh but slightly sarcastic reaction, saying, “You cannot win elections like this.” On October 8, Macron signed a “Defence Cooperation” agreement suggesting arms sales with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis against the “Turkish threat”.
China, Russia, and Turkey? Seriously?
Austria is not in an election atmosphere; the elections are scheduled for 2024.
However, the right-wing Austrian People’s Party leader Sebastian Kurz, who resigned from the Chancellery on 9 October due to corruption allegations, is one of the politicians who want to be the voice of post-Merkel Europe, like Macron. He has not left his party and looking for a new opportunity.
Kurz also targeted Turkey in his speech at the Western Balkans Summit on 6 October, one day before Macron accused the Turks of colonialism. According to Kurz, if the EU could not offer a perspective to the Western Balkans, “other superpowers like China, Russia, or Turkey” would play a bigger role. Let me repeat it; “Superpowers like China, Russia, and Turkey,” said the ambitious politician. This is undoubtedly a definition that would flatter Erdoğan and his foreign policy team. It also shows how European right-wing politicians exaggerate the “Turkish threat” rhetoric and expect to benefit from stamping out Turkey as an enemy.
Obviously, Europeans refrain from any quarrel with China. China buys properties of small and weaker states country by country. Moreover, EU countries do not want to mess with the cyberwarfare capabilities of China. As for Russia, Vladimir Putin’s hand is on the natural gas valve. Germans and East Europeans know that Russians do not joke. What remains in their hands is Turkey, where Erdoğan likes to pretend to be the leader of the Islamic world – although he is not,- and feeds unjustified fears by saying, for example, that Turkish culture resembles the Taliban -which certainly is not, for his daily tactics.
Unfortunately, the Turkish people are in a situation where the vow of denying Turkey is used irresponsibly by any Western politician who wants to.