by Alon Ben-Meir*
Western democracies have made it their hallmark to preserve human rights and other crucial freedoms such as the rule of law, as well as respect for international norms of conduct.
In dealing with Turkey’s President Erdogan, the EU and the United States have forsaken their values by allowing Erdogan to run wild with impunity.
How Erdogan ticks
Under such circumstances, accommodating Erdogan is no longer an option. An eternal “pressurer” himself, the only language he understands is counter-pressure.
Simply put, Erdogan doesn’t get the idea of “carrots” since he deems anything like that signs of “respect,” not inducements for better behavior.
The irony is that Erdogan evidently does not understand that he is constantly digging a deeper hole for himself. The national economy is in shambles and won’t improve as a result of Erdogan’s megalomaniac foreign policy pipe dreams.
While Erdogan fancies that these largely neo-Ottoman “grand designs” will help him reconnect with voters, the opposite is the case.
A preliminary list of Erdogan’s transgressions
For evidence, it is useful to assemble the list of transgressions that seem to be the only category Erdogan still seems to “excel” in.
Most fundamentally, Erdogan is violating every article of human rights in his own country, while being keen on destabilizing other countries by exploiting their weaknesses and resources in order to promote his nationalist agenda.
I count altogether 13 specific major transgressions:
1.Erdogan continues to commit gross human rights violations in Turkey by using the failed 2016 military coup as an excuse to silence the media.
Based on a judiciary that, for the most part, barely deserves that name, Erdogan has jailed over 150 journalists, incarcerated around 80,000 suspected of affiliation with the Gulen movement and purged 150,000 military officers and civil servants.
2.Erdogan engages in a systematic operation of ethnic cleansing against minorities in Turkey and northern Syria.
He invaded Syria to both prevent the Syrian Kurdish community from establishing autonomous rule, and to entrench for Turkey a permanent foothold in the country, which is bound to only prolong the conflict and further destabilize the region.
3.Erdogan systematically persecutes his own Kurdish community and continues a 50-year-old war against the PKK, which he views as a terrorist organization.
He also steadfastly refuses to resume negotiations with the Kurds — which account for as much as 20% of Turkey’s population — and end the carnage that has taken the lives of approximately 40,000 on both sides.
4.Erdogan purchased Russia’s S-400 air defense system which, once operational, NATO fears would seriously compromise the alliance’s intelligence sharing and technology — apart from being fully incompatible with NATO systems.
5.Erdogan invested heavily in promoting his Islamic agenda by supporting anti-Western Islamist extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and even ISIS.
6.Erdogan uses Islam as a political tool by building mosques and other Islamic theological institutions. He also sends his imams to teach and preach his brand of religious nationalism in many countries in the Middle East and the Balkans.
7.Erdogan violated U.S. sanctions against Iran by laundering up to $20 billion in an oil-for-gold scheme from 2012-2018, and he continues to cooperate and trade with Tehran in defiance of Western interests.
8.Erdogan made a deal with Putin in late 2019 to patrol northern Syria while working closely with Moscow and Tehran to delineate their spheres of influence in the country. He is thus leaving Syria de facto a divided state under their control, while significantly diminishing what’s left of Western influence.
9.Erdogan sent troops to support Libya’s Government of National Accord in an effort to establish a strong foothold in the country, exploiting its oil and gas and threatening the free flow of energy from the Eastern Mediterranean.
10.Erdogan violated a UN arms embargo while resisting NATO’s peace plans in Libya, including exercising extreme aggression against NATO ally France’s warship enforcing the embargo.
11.Erdogan blocked a NATO defense plan for the Baltics and Poland and regularly intimidates Greece, a NATO member state, violating the country’s airspace with Turkish military jets.
12.Erdogan is adamant about drilling for gas in the territorial waters of Cyprus and has begun plans to expand drilling off the coast of the Greek island of Crete.
In that pursuit, he remains at odds with Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel over ownership of natural resources, threatening to use force to secure “his share” which could burgeon into a violent conflict.
13.Last but not least, Erdogan perpetuated the heated conflict with Cyprus over his demand that his puppet — the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus — enjoy equal political power to the Republic of Cyprus, which is four times larger in population and territory and is an EU member state.
The West urgently needs some self-respect
Notwithstanding Erdogan’s threatening waywardness, he still has the chutzpa to demand that Turkey receive “complete support from our allies in the fight [in Syria] that Turkey has been carrying out alone…NATO is in a critical period during which it needs to clearly show [military] support.”
Asking NATO to support his reckless war on foreign land is the height of shameless audacity.
Coddling the dictator, really?
Sadly, Western powers have convinced themselves that Turkey remains an indispensable “ally,” and that Erdogan’s transgressions and moral insolvency are the price they are willing to pay.
Western countries also embrace the faint hope that in the post-Erdogan era, Turkey will become a constructive player and a power of geostrategic importance, which outweighs Erdogan’s transient outrageous behavior.
That hope is understandable. But in order to help Turkey to get to a better, less oppressive and less dictatorial future, coddling Erdogan is surely not the way to go.
Indulging such a ruthless, unrepentant dictator only lets him hope he can get away with his constant flow of menaces.
A country that badly needs tourism revenues and is currently not receiving them is a country exposed to economic pressure. And that is a good thing.
Turkey among the global top 10?
For it puts paid on Erdogan’s biggest, but entirely futile dream of counting Turkey among the ten largest economies on earth by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic.
Thankfully, at least for now, even Germany seems to understand that. It has stood firm — so far — against Turkish desires for tourists from Germany.
German self-respect would dictate not to accommodate the man and his foreign minister who made it a sport not so long ago to call the current government “Nazi” and who has been using refugees as a human weapon.
Such a pernicious man must be shown his limits.
*Senior Fellow at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs and Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute [United States]
**first published in: www.theglobalist.com