Erdogan’s in a fix as he finally must pick a side in the East-West divide

Rami Rayess
Rami Rayess
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Erdogan is in deep trouble. According to the unfolding facts, this is less than personal speculation. Vibrant political mediation efforts played by the Turkish President before the eruption of struggles in Europe reached a dead end in light of Putin’s firm position of neutralizing Ukraine and destroying its military capacities.

If war comes to an end anytime soon, Erdogan could be a central mediator to the post-conflict period due to his ties with the two opposing sides. It is too early to speculate. Only when the war ends will we know what will unfold in terms of the political prices paid by the different stakeholders.

The time has come for Turkey to choose a side instead of galloping as a go-between. Turkey has been a political shapeshifter for some time, standing with the West on specific issues, while blowing on the East at other times.

Ankara cannot but stand with NATO and the West in this conflict. It started paying the price from the onset of the war, with its economy witnessing additional deterioration. With American and European sanctions mounting, Turkey’s ailing economy has no respite ahead and will suffer other falls and hyperinflation.

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Turkey would most likely seek confirmation from Washington that it will resume political and military cooperation after being temporarily put on ice due to bilateral tensions. The current crisis imposes on both to reconstruct a new approach in which the unfolding developments are assessed.

Turkey is in a strategic position both politically and militarily. Washington will not be sending its troops to save Ukraine any time soon. The US needs to rely on regional players and multinational organizations like NATO and the European Union to do the hard graft while leading from behind. Otherwise, the conflict will be further protracted and spin out of control approaching a Third World War.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia. (File photo: Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia. (File photo: Reuters)

The time of truth has arrived. Shuffling cards is no longer an option for Erdogan. It is time to choose a side. Erdogan has been playing friends and foes with almost everybody in the region for some time. But, you can only full some of the people sometimes, but not all of the people simultaneously.

With the EU, he waved the refugee card. With the US, he retaliated to the hesitant closure of F-35 deals by turning to Russia to purchase the S-400 defense missile system instead.

Imagine a NATO member buying advanced defense systems from a significant opponent in the shape of Moscow, which he tried too, to manipulate on several fronts. He joined efforts with it and Iran in the Astana process to resolve the ongoing Syrian war turning his back on the United Nations. He also coordinated several military operations in Northern Syria, aiming at erecting a buffer zone that would keep his historical enemy, the Kurds, kilometers away from mainland Turkey.

The selling of Bayraktar air vehicles was a deal the Turkish leadership enjoyed, and it felt pride. Yet, the Turkish President has also developed political and military ties with Ukraine granting it his support to join NATO, considering it one of its sovereign rights, just like Georgia. Ankara can also join the club of weapon manufacturers globally and broker deals for billions of dollars.

Turkey also considers Ukraine a buffer state with Russia. It does not want to see the Russian Army facing it across the Black Sea on its maritime border. Its categorical condemnation of the War on Ukraine is similar to its refusal of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea back in 2014. This time, Turkey and other NATO countries cannot simply let go of Ukraine as they did with Crimea. Condemnation declarations are not sufficient.

At war, states have to choose their side of the battlefield. Russia’s Ambassador to Lebanon declared in a press conference held in Beirut a few days ago that the war has revealed to his country who is with Moscow and who is against it. This is Russian logic and an international approach applied in severe bloody conflicts. The Ukraine war seems right at the outset. Any support is much-needed support.

Turkey is at a crossroads. It will choose the West and the NATO path, or it would be committing political suicide.

Read more:

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Economic decoupling is a threat to world peace

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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