Observations of an Expat: Erdogan and Putin cosy up

August 5, 2016 OPINION/NEWS




Tom Arms

What is Erdogan up to? Whatever it is, it has Putin turning cartwheels through the Kremlin corridors.

A few months ago the Turkish and Russian leaders were at each other’s throats over a downed Russian warplane over Syria.

Now Putin is dusting off the best china to entertain Erdogan at a tete a tete in his private apartments on Tuesday.

The surprise move has everything to do with the fact that Turkey’s NATO’s allies refused to provide a fulsome welcome to Erdogan’s brutal crackdown following the failed military coup. Opportunistic Putin, on the other hand, unequivocally denounced the plotters almost before the first shot was fired.

The Obama Administration tried to mend fences by dispatching General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Ankara but in the eyes of Erdogan it was too little too late. Later this month Secretary of State John Kerry will fly in to make another attempt.

As for the EU, well their top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, demanded that “the rule of law and the democratic system” must be respected. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Erdogan’s leadership or suspected intentions.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan demands personal support as the embodiment of Turkish democracy. Furthermore, he insists that ANYONE  who opposes him is a terrorist on the same level as the Jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

“The West,” he angrily said this week, “ is supporting terrorism and taking sides with coups.”

The Turkish leader is particularly annoyed with Germany and the US. The Germans because of Chancellor Merkel’s refusal to consider  his repeated requests to extradite 4,000 Turkish “terrorists” on German soil.

The US, of course, is accused of sheltering Fethullah Gulen — whom Erdogan claims is the coup plotter in chief. The Obama Administration has asked for evidence so that it can start extradition proceedings according to American law.

Erdogan’s response: “I did not request documents for terrorists that you wanted.”




So Turkey’s relations with the West are at an all-time low. The problem is that the West needs Turkey. There are 20 different NATO installations in Turkey. The Incirlik Air Base is host to 2,500 US troops, 250 German troops and 90 B-61 nuclear bombs.

Geostrategic doesn’t even begin to describe Turkey’s position on the map. It straddles two continents and guards the entrance to the Black Sea—home to 45 Russian warships. It also sits right between Russia and the Middle East. Its 640,000 troops represent the second largest military establishment in NATO and it is an establishment which has actively and effectively served in every NATO action since it joined the Alliance in 1953. In the past two years Incirlik has been the key launch pad for US airstrikes against ISIS.

Turkey’s membership in NATO has been firmly rooted in a historic antipathy towards Russia and the secular values of modern Turkey’s post-World War I founder Kemal Ataturk. Erdogan, however, shows signs of wanting to revive the Ottoman glory days when Istanbul was the centre of the Islamic world.

In April, the Speaker of the Turkish Parliament, Ismail Kahraman — an Erdogan confidante–said that the much talked about new Turkish constitution should forego its commitment to secularism and instead become a “religious constitution” rooted in Islam. His comments were greeted with howls of protests—but that was before the coup attempt.

Putin and Erdogan have much in common. They are strong men who regard themselves as the embodiment of their country’s national interests. They believe in control of the media, nationalism, state capitalism and are both socially conservative. Most of all, they believe in manipulating religion for their own political ends. In short, Erdogan may find he has more in common with Putin than any American president.




Tom Arms broadcasts on world affairs for a number of US radio stations including WTKF at http://www.wtkf107.com/. His Weekly Viewpoints discussion programme can be heard at 1830 EST on Wednesdays and his LookAhead at the next week’s main events on Fridays at 1800.


LookAhead Radio World Report for week commencing 8 August:





Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

In addition to being a syndicated broadcaster and columnist on global affairs, Tom is also available for speaking engagements and can be contacted on TwitterLinkedin and email: [email protected]


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