By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
The Turkish government is continuing its duplicitous game of playing on both sides of the fence, pretending to be the friend of both Russia and Ukraine in order to draw maximum benefit from its tightrope walk.
However, Turkey cannot keep playing this game for too long before it falls flat on its face from the teetering tightrope. For decades, as a member of NATO, Turkey violated its principles, bought problematic weapons from Russia while acting as a member of the Western military camp, refused to support the collective decisions of the organization, and got sanctioned by the United States, its NATO partner.
Turkey has played a similar erratic role as a member of the Council of Europe, violating the basic rules of the organization, including repeatedly refusing to implement decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. After all this, Pres. Erdogan has the audacity to complain that Turkey is not allowed to join the European Union. In reality, it should not even be allowed to remain in the Council of Europe. Too bad NATO does not have a provision on expelling one of its member states. Amazingly, Turkish leaders have appealed to the United Nations to have their country become the sixth permanent member of the Security Council with a veto power. Such a thing should never be allowed. It would be the end of the UN.
In the meantime, Turkey is continuing its two-faced “neutrality” between NATO and Russia in the Ukraine war. Turkey is the only NATO member that has refused to sanction Russia and has not closed its airspace to Russian aircraft. Turkey abstained while the overwhelming majority of the Council of Europe voted to suspend Russia’s membership. Turkey then turned around and voted twice in the UN General Assembly in March in favor of a resolution condemning Russia for invading Ukraine.
Furthermore, the Turkish Ambassador to the UN, Feridun Sinirlioglu, delivered a scathing attack on Russia. Sinirlioglu said the war in Ukraine is the result of the “blatant violation” of international humanitarian law by Russia, which he described as “unacceptable.” He then added, “For our part, we will not give up on our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.” These words indicate that Turkey is not neutral in this war.
While Turkey’s ambassador at the UN was sharply critical of Russia, Turkish businessman Ethem Sancak, one of Pres. Erdogan’s closest political allies and executive board member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), visited Moscow and told the Russian RBC TV channel that Turkey’s sale of drones to Ukraine was a big mistake. Sancak also said: “We will not join in the sanctions, because if Russia falls, Turkey would get divided. And if Turkey falls, the same goes for Russia…. We are allies with Russia.” Sancak described Turkey’s membership in NATO as “shameful….” He then added: “NATO is a cancerous tumor.”
In addition, “Having gained experience in sanctions busting schemes that undermined both US and UN Security Council embargoes on jihadist groups and Iran in the past, the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now poised to implement a similar playbook for Western sanctions on Russia. Hoping to make money for his business cronies and aid his country’s embattled economy and finances, Erdogan apparently saw the opportunity to make a profit by offering Russians a lifeline to help overcome the restrictions and beat the sanctions,” wrote Abdullah Bozkurt in Nordic Monitor.
In order to appease Russia, Turkey rejected U.S. suggestions to transfer to Ukraine the S-400 missile systems it had bought from Russia, which had resulted in the U.S. imposing sanctions on Turkey. Furthermore, in recent days, several Russian oligarchs have brought their luxury yachts and private jets from Europe to Turkey to avoid western sanctions. Bahadir Ozgur, a Turkish commentator who specializes in exposing organized crime, says Turkey is the “gangsters’ heaven,” the Al-Monitor news website reported.
As a result of long-running sanction-busting activities by Turkey, the Biden administration is well aware of Turkish efforts to bail out Russia from U.S. and EU imposed sanctions. Neither the White House nor Congress are too keen to side with Erdogan who is constantly plotting to glorify himself and his country by trying to mend its damaged relations with Europe, the United States, Israel, Egypt, the UAE and Armenia.
In another failed public relations stunt, Pres. Erdogan announced prior to last week’s NATO Summit in Brussels that he would be meeting with Pres. Joe Biden in order to create a photo-op intended to raise Turkey’s questionable standing in the world and his own poor rating at home.
Despite Erdogan’s intense diplomatic lobbying, Pres. Biden refused to meet with him at the NATO Summit, undermining his desire to gain positive PR from such a meeting. The White House rejected a push by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara for such a face to face encounter.
Pres. Biden, who has had a long-lasting personal dislike of Pres. Erdogan because of his anti-western policies, did the right thing by not providing him with further opportunities for self-aggrandizement at a time while he continues his close relations with Russia. There is also stiff resistance in Congress to any appeasement of Turkey.
Erdogan is constantly justifying his tightrope walk between East and West by claiming that he is trying to play a mediating role in the Ukrainian war. This is yet another misleading excuse for Erdogan’s self-serving attempts to give himself and his country undeserved importance.