Erdoğan the other Putin at Europe’s door - analyst
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is increasingly acting like his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in his weaponisation of immigration and launching of new foreign adventures in the region, wrote Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Turkey’s strongman is using migration to threaten the European Union, while adopting the Putin playbook by deploying military power to countries like Libya and Syria to expand Ankara’s sphere of influence across the wider region, Leonard wrote in an article he penned for Project Syndicate on Monday.
Critics maintain Turkey’s military operations inside Iraq and Syria and military support in war-torn Libya are part of Erdoğan’s Islamist expansionism that pursues a neo-Ottoman foreign policy, looking re assert Turkey across lands formerly ruled by the Ottoman Empire.
Meanwhile, Ankara continues to distance itself from the West, Leonard said, pointing to Russia and Turkey’s “long, tortured love-hate relationship with Europe,’’ where both countries have grown increasingly assertive under leaders who share a disdain for EU norms and values.
Turkey has purchased Russia’s S-400 missile-defence system, despite objections from the United States and NATO, Leonard said, while Erdoğan clearly admires how Moscow has re-established itself as a key player in the Middle East and North Africa.
“Erdoğan also seems to have been inspired by the Kremlin’s divide-and-conquer strategy in Europe, where it often squeezes those EU member states that are most reliant on Russian hydrocarbons or markets,’’ he wrote, noting the Turkish president has tried to weaponise the flow of migrants and refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East, just as his Russian counterpart has long weaponised the supply of energy.
Turkey announced in late February it would no longer prevent migrants from trying to reach Europe. The move was perceived as an attempt to drum up more European Union aid for the roughly four million refugees inside Turkey, and to rally European support for Turkey’s military campaign in Idlib, Syria.
While Turkey is not yet Russia, Leonard said, it could well become one if the situation is mishandled by the EU.
The analyst pointed to a need for a new page in EU-Turkey relations, where a mutually agreed set of principles, as well as clear red lines are drawn to deter further destabilisation in the region.