Turkey on the Сrossroads, or ‘Erdogan the Compromiser’

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by Valery Kulikov, via NEO.org

Recently in regional, and perhaps in international politics, Turkey has begun to attract more and more attention.

The root of this behaviour isn’t the growing economic, military, or political role of the NATO member state. It is simply that Erdoğan, like all of Turkey, is tired of waiting for a verdict from Grand Old Europe on what kind of country Turkey is. Is Turkey a European state or one doomed forever to stand in the shadows? With this in mind, Erdoğan decided to get mixed up in the fight with Europe over Turkey’s ‘European image’ (I mean, 3% of Turkey is Europe after all!) and resurrect the authority of the former Ottoman empire and bestow unto himself a title. If he isn’t at least ‘Magnificent’ (like the tenth Sultan of the Ottoman Empire: Suleiman the Magnificent) then at least he can be ‘the Compromiser’.

This is what enabled Erdoğan to take the initiative to show Europe (read: The European Union) that without Turkey they have no hope in solving the question of energy security. This is especially true given the EU’s ban on the South Stream gas pipeline and the deal, the so-called ‘energy U-turn’, consequently reached between Turkey and Russia, which will be the primary provider of gas to Europe should the situation in Ukraine (due to the fault of the same West) completely break down. Thus we see the creation of favourable conditions for Turkish expansion.

So yes, amid the restrictive sanctions demanded by Washington, directed at Moscow’s growing regional and global authority, closer ties with Russia were not met with cries of jubilation in Brussels. But then again we all know that Brussels is just a deflective screen, and that actually, Europe’s supreme leader is Washington (although we do understand geography perfectly well and we know that Washington isn’t a ‘state’ of Europe and therefore its political-economic interests don’t always entirely coincide with those of the EU).

Consequently Erdoğan has to manoeuvre himself as if he is skiing down a black run at a high speed. Speed of course is the name of the game these days, since if you slow down your place will be taken by some other country seeking indulgences from the EU or US. It could be Bulgaria, Romania, it could even be the “Great Ukraine” herself, selling her national pride and interests for nicely decorated cookies from Victoria Nuland and John McCain.

Thus in its manoeuvring, Ankara once again set off on the road to war in the name of Turkish interests (but most of all, Washington’s). The decision was announced in January of this year when the prime minster of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoğlu, declared that “…Turkey doesn’t want victory for either Assad or IS in Syria, and if the international community doesn’t plan on sending ground troops to Syria, the only alternative is the preparation and equipment of a moderate task force in Turkey”. This idea was subsequently confirmed at the end of this January by the Turkish president R.T Erdoğan, underlining that Ankara’s political goal in relation to Damascus is the replacement of the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and his government.

As a result of EU and US pressure and of Erdoğan trying to sit on several chairs simultaneously, in a matter of days Ankara and Washington signed an agreement for a three-year military training programme of Syrian opposition forces, starting in March 2015. By the terms of the agreement, 400 American soldiers will train 15,000 representatives of Syrian opposition forces hostile to Damascus in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The Turkish stage of the process will take place in a Gendarmerie training base in Kırşehir; there they plan to train 2,000 opposition fighters every year as selected by a joint committee of Turkish and American military specialists. To begin with, in the coming days, 30 instructors will be sent to Turkey from the USA who will first of all start to work with Turkic people who have arrived from where they are living in Syria.

Overall the training of the Syrian opposition forces will take place in groups of 200-300 people and each group will be given three months for their training. The US army will supply the opposition fighters with weapons and equipment.

However, according to statements released by Turkish spokesmen, there is no precise answer in the written agreement between Turkey and the USA to the question of who exactly the trained opposition fighters will be fighting against. It is assumed that they will fight against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and also IS, who, according to Washington, can’t win without the removal from power of the current Syrian president.

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