Erdogan easily made alliances with yesterday’s enemies and just as easily left them overboard for personal gain
A photo: REUTERS
It is generally accepted that the United States has benefited most from the Ukrainian crisis: capital is fleeing Europe, and Moscow is forced to put out a fire in its own backyard. But there is another unobvious beneficiary. Turkey. She is irreplaceable for everyone. For the past six months, the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan organizes Russian-Ukrainian negotiations and the exchange of prisoners in Istanbul. It celebrates an almost two-fold increase in trade with its northern neighbor – after all, it is through Turkey that the shadow bypassing Western sanctions is going on. He supplies Bayraktar combat drones to Ukraine from his son-in-law’s company – and at the same time threatens the Americans to refuse to buy F-16 fighters in favor of Russian Su-35s.
How is this even possible – and whose side will such a specific ally eventually take? The answers are in the political biography of Erdogan, who easily made alliances with yesterday’s enemies and just as easily left them overboard for personal gain.
His biography can begin with a banal phrase: “since childhood, I dreamed of climbing to the top.” And then add something original: “turned power into football.” Erdogan took his first political post in his early youth, in the 1970s. He was elected chairman of the youth organization of the National Salvation Party, an then-existing Islamist movement.
At the same time, young Rejep Tayyip was walking … on a green field. At the age of 15, he convinced his father to let him go to the amateur football club Kamyaltispor, motivating this step with solid bonuses for winning matches (about $ 100 to the current account). The amount of pocket money that the boy from a poor suburb of Istanbul was supplied by his parents for a week was a hundred times less. So he spun around as best he could: he sold water to drivers standing in a traffic jam, and Turkish “simit” bagels from the tray to passers-by. It is clear that this experience left a very specific imprint on his current “work with foreign partners.”
At the age of 19, Erdogan joined the amateur IETT team of the Istanbul public transport service. He spent many years there and was remembered for teaching his teammates to read the Koran in just 15 days. What helped the perfect knowledge of the Book, which Erdogan acquired in a religious school.
The romance with football took bizarre forms. The most popular club in Turkey is Fenerbahce. And so, at the beginning of the 2000s, at his first national elections, Erdogan started a rumor that this team once wanted to buy … him as a player. But the “promising deal” allegedly fell through due to the protests of Erdogan’s father. (There is no one to ask now – Recep Tayyip’s parents have long been dead.) Perhaps the “Sultan”, as he was called, hoped that millions of the club’s fans would fall in love with him after such a revelation. But he repaid them as usual.
RADER CAPTURE OF “FENERBAHCE”
How the “Sultan” went to the heights of power – a lot has been written: both about the fact that he was in prison for “politics” (albeit not for long), and about how he paved his way with cunning intrigues. The world-famous Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen was called “my guru”, and the multi-million flock in response voted for Erdogan in his first presidential election. Having taken power, he, with the help of the Gülenists, dealt with common opponents – the military, who historically advocated a “secular model” and staged putschs more than once in the 20th century when, from their point of view, the Republic deviated from this path.
But religious radicals did not triumph forever. During the 2016 coup attempt, which was backed by the Gülenists, Erdogan was already able to become a “defender of democracy” in the eyes of the police and the army, and with their help he purged tens of thousands of Islamist putschists from state structures. Here is such a multi-vector …
How the “Sultan” went to the heights of power – a lot has been written
A photo: EAST NEWS
However, back to the green fields. In 2013, dissatisfied with the defeats of the legendary football club, Sultan decided that he could clean up Fenerbahce himself. He tried to imprison the president of the football club for supposedly “fixed matches”, and also to put his protege in the leadership. Thousands of fans began to protest, the “brilliant” plan did not work. Erdogan repaid them in his own way: he introduced an electronic system for entering matches in order to identify people who violate the ban on “extremist” (that is, anti-government) banners and chants.
Any football club dreams of playing in the international league. Erdogan’s Turkey is expanding on three continents at once. Everyone knows about her “games” around the crises in Nagorno-Karabakh or Ukraine.
A slightly less well-known plot is the Balkan gambits of Sultan. After all, this territory once belonged to the Ottoman Empire, and nostalgia for its former greatness is an important part of the rhetoric of today’s Istanbul.
And on September 6-8, 2022, Erdogan pays an official visit to three Balkan countries: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here, mosques from the Ottoman period are being restored with money from TIKA, the Turkish state agency for soft power. The highlight of the program is in Sisak (the center of Croatia) Erdogan opens an Islamic cultural center. Then, in neighboring Serbia, he promises to strengthen energy security … in the form of blue fuel supplies from Russia through a gas pipeline passing through Turkey.
On September 6-8, 2022, Erdogan pays an official visit to three Balkan countries: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina
A photo: EAST NEWS
It’s expensive to sell what you don’t own – the corporate identity of Sultan. Indeed, as long as the West imposes sanctions on Russian gas pipelines, Turkey enjoys using them. Because it benefits her.
Finally, at the end of summer, a new war between Serbia and Kosovo almost breaks out in the Balkans – but Erdogan acts as a peacemaker during his visit. Does this remind you of something? Yes, in the same way, he is trying in every possible way to become a “noble mediator” between Russia and Ukraine. After all, the biggest profit is received by the one who trades and trades immediately with all parties to the conflict.
THE OUTCOME IS AN ECONOMIC CRASH?
And the latest news: at the end of September Turkish banks refused to work with Russian payment system “MIR”. Formally, under pressure from the United States. Yes, by promising to develop some kind of “alternative platform”, however, you can promise anything, our oriental partners love this. But where it is beneficial, Erdogan is happy to spit on any requirements of the White House. This year, the Republic, despite the US hysteria, bought the second regiment of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems. According to rumors, Erdogan is not averse to returning the “Greek-occupied islands of the Aegean Sea”, and here the closed sky will come in handy.
Erdogan supplies Bayraktar combat drones to Ukraine from his son-in-law’s company
A photo: REUTERS
And if you ask: “How does Moscow tolerate Ankara’s spit?” – then you can ask a counter question: “How does the United States tolerate them?”. Yes, like this. Because both camps desperately need Erdogan. Russia – as a neutral player in the midst of the SVO. Just imagine, if the British fleet enters the Black Sea through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles to help Ukraine… But it doesn’t enter – Erdogan doesn’t let it in. Not out of love for us, of course, but because then he will definitely not be able to act as the main and sole moderator conflict.
And the Americans need Turkey too. As the second most powerful army of NATO, without which the bloc will fall apart.
But no matter how much the end twists, there will be a rope. Erdogan’s imperial renaissance comes at a cost. In August 2022, inflation in Turkey exceeded 80%; the Turkish lira, unlike the ruble, has become the most unstable currency in the world. It is impossible to talk about the “Great Turan” (another project of Istanbul, the unification of the Turkic peoples led by Turkey) to a voter with an empty refrigerator. General elections in the Republic are scheduled for the summer of 2023, and only a miracle can save the economy by then.
For example, if Turkey finally breaks with the West, integrates into the Eurasian Economic Union headed by Moscow and will be able to receive cheap energy resources from there (the former empire does not have its own oil and gas). Now it looks fantastic. But 8 years ago, when pro-Turkish militants shot down a Russian Su-24 over Syriaeven the current neutrality of Istanbul looked impossible.