The remnants of the Russian jet shot down by Turkey. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROMHd80PIuI
I must “confess” that I am cheerful that my country boasts the honor of being the first NATO member to shoot down a Russian aircraft. As I mentioned in my previous article, I do not believe that Putin’s neo-sovietism will stop invading countries and sowing seeds of turmoil in the vicinity because of mere condemnations and expressions of discontent. Putin is a tyrant who gets hungrier more he is fed. Giving in to his demands and extortions will not satisfy the new Red danger, will just feed the bear to become even more reckless. Some party had to do something serious against this new irredentism and Turkey stepped forward.
However, in order to understand what does this action mean in long term, one has to understand domestic politics of Turkey. Erdoğan, not really different than Putin when it comes to hunger for power and warmongering, should not be underestimated.
President Erdoğan’s party, AKP, has been ruling the government for more than a decade. One of the most remarkable changes during AKP regime was the nation-wide natural gas infrastructure expansion. Even the smallest towns in Turkey now have access to natural gas for heating and other purposes, which gradually increased Turkey’s dependency on Russian gas. Such a strategical mistake cost Turkey its freedom in international arena: Russia used this dependency as a weapon to intimidate Turkish steps when it crosses that of Putin’s, as well as threatening Turkish producers to cease importing agricultural products which constitutes a huge share of total exports of Turkey. The same can also be said to a degree regarding Germany’s mild attitude towards Russia.
Winning the hearts of voters thanks to natural gas being available in almost every household, Erdoğan quickly found himself getting aligned with the eastern bloc more and more. Several deals with Russia and China, such as nuclear energy agreement with the former and missile system purchase deal with the latter, angered the western allies. Stances regarding Kurdish terrorism made it almost tangled: Russia did not recognize PKK as a terrorist organization, NATO did. But US apparently supported Kurds, on the other hand Erdoğan and US were against Assad regime, while Russia was supporting Assadists.
Therefore, President Erdoğan’s future attempts are unpredictable. All he cares is strengthening his position at his post, there is nothing he would hesitate to do when it comes to secure his power and wealth.
But I do believe that downing of the aircraft was not directly ordered by Erdoğan, instead, I believe Turkish Armed Forces, after a long while, took the initiative and used its authority to shoot down any aircraft violating the Turkish border, and the authorization had been granted without being meant to used, in my opinion. Putin’s statement of being stabbed in the back assures me that this was not Erdoğan’s, at least direct, work.
As Erdoğan was warm towards Putin during G20 summit and was not so quick to anger his trade partner previously, I believe some inner dynamics of Turkey is dragging Erdoğan away from the Russian agenda. Next steps by Erdoğan should be watched carefully to discover hints regarding the future of his foreign policy.
Apart from all, I am happy that Turkmens in Syria are saved from a total annihilation thanks to the intervention of Turkish jets. I do not expect anything “righteous” from Erdoğan’s government, and do not believe that he will suddenly decide to champion human rights and solidarity with Turkmens. But if both Turkish and international public opinion exerts pressure, perhaps even Erdoğan can be forced to do the right and good.