Erdoğan, Putin, Salman vying for power in Middle East - Financial Times

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are united in their autocracy, centralised power and risk-taking, which have prompted them to push for regional power, the Financial Times said on Monday. 

Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Mohammed bin Salman are like “mafia dons,’’ whose conflicting interests are fomenting conflict from the Middle East to the Caucasus, it said, which threaten civilians in the regions.

Erdoğan and Putin throw their weight behind opposing sides in the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Libya and the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Yet the pair maintain a friendship that is raising eyebrows in the West.

The common grounds between the unlikely pair, the Financial Times said, is that they are both anti-U.S. autocrats,  “seeking to expand their influence into the power vacuum created by a reduced U.S. role in the Middle East.’’

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia is the third key player in the region, it said, one, which maintains close relations with Washington.

All three leaders are linked by their willingness to utilise violence, both home and abroad, the article said, pointing to Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and 2015 intervention in Syria, among other moves. 

Salman, for his part, has launched a war in Yemen, blockaded Qatar and has taken responsibility for the Istanbul murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite denying personal involvement.

As for Erdoğan, he is engaged in the wars in Syria and Libya. Turkey has launched repeated military operations targeting Kurdish forces in Iraq while pressing territorial claims in the Eastern Mediterranean in disputes with Greece and Cyprus.

Turkey has also thrown its full support behind Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Ankara is accused of providing Syrian mercenaries to the region.

“All three leaders also have delicate balances to strike between foreign intervention and domestic stability,’’ the Financial Times said. “As their economies struggle, all three leaders need more than ever to demonstrate strength overseas. The danger of clashes between them is rising.“