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Erdoğan’s Road to Canossa doesn’t bode well for Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Turkish President Recep Erdoğan (right)
Erdoğan’s Road to Canossa doesn’t bode well for Ukraine

When Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich IV denounced the Pope to retain his powers over the clergy, the Pope, Gregory VII, excommunicated him, which led to a lengthy struggle between the secular rulers and the church. German noblemen did not support Heinrich and he was forced to walk to Canossa, the castle where Pope resided, in a monk robe, barefoot, having had to await at the gates three days in the snow to have the excommunication lifted. This event was popularized as “Gang nach Canossa”, or “Road to Canossa”, as a symbol of one’s regretting of his past deeds and renouncing them all unconditionally.

Henry IV and his entourage at the pope's gate at Canossa in 1077, by August von Heyden
Henry IV and his entourage at the pope’s gate at Canossa in 1077, by August von Heyden

Mr. Erdoğan, Turkish President who plans to become a sultan/caliph one day, is having his own Road to Canossa nowadays. In a previous article on Euromaidan, I had already stated that the unnatural deviation of Turkish foreign policy from the rational and natural course could not stand any longer. Erdoğan first obtained the support of the West promising he will “democratize” the country, and he used that support to decrease the influence of the military over politics. The West acclaimed it, as in their eyes it was a move towards a more democratic society. However what they did not see, or deliberately ignored, was the fact that military in Türkiye was a guarantee of secularism and the republican regime. Eventually, Erdoğan leaned more towards the East, he established good relations with Russia and China, increased the dependency of Turkish trade and industry on these countries as export markets and energy import sources. Moreover, he tried to create a “loyal Middle East”, he supported all kinds of terrorist and illegal groups from Ikhvan-e-Muslimin to Islamic State, from PKK to Hezbollah, from Boko Haram to Iranian international money laundering network. He thought he would play with these organizations to shatter the status quo and establish his own hegemony, then he could easily discard them with all the blame on them.

But the international community and diplomacy proved not as naïve as Mr. Erdoğan dreamt, and his plans, one by one, fail. He is forced to make unconditional peace with former opponents. He did not want the Turkish jet to down the Russian plane but had to stand his ground;  however eventually he apologized to Putin. He had claimed he would not forgive Israel, but now he acknowledges the two countries need each other.

He has always been like this; during his initial years, he accused the previous governments of oppressing the Kurds thus causing PKK to adopt violent strategies. He gave PKK the valuable time to recover after its leader was imprisoned by the previous government, allowed them to thrive not only in rural areas but in cities, claiming this will solve the terrorism question. In the end, his efforts resulted in bombs exploding in biggest cities and PKK-infested towns being destroyed in a massive urban warfare, which was used by PKK propaganda and stained Türkiye’s international image, seen as Türkiye was killing civilians. He supported PKK because against “the former Türkiye” he needed an ally and a threat, he was planning he could easily get rid of them when he no longer needs them, but he realized that it was not so easy to do. The same with the Gülen movement: he endorsed them, allowed them to take over important posts and government offices, they supported him during his battle against secularism, democracy, and human rights; but when he tried to get rid of them fearing they have grown too powerful, it caused a crisis and friction at a state scale.

Türkiye’s foreign policy and government has only one goal: to ensure the reign of Erdoğan lasts as long as he lives
And now, as Erdoğan increased Türkiye’s dependency on Russia, he finds himself once again this position: he is once again outwitted and has to forget all he had said, accept whatever Putin dictates.

As Erdoğan’s current image in western eyes is very negative and he realizes that no one trusts him anymore, and as Brexit has caused a wave of doubt amongst European countries, Mr. Erdoğan will once again try to establish new ties with Russia and China. In the long term, even reconciliation with the Assad regime is possible. He might even consider punishing the pilot who shot down the Russian warplane that violated Turkish territory, to prove his own innocence.

In Türkiye, we supporters of the Ukrainian cause never believed the sincerity of his temporary support for Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians. Now the small support for Crimean Tatars advocating the integrity of Ukraine will not continue, and the government may even see them as hostile, fearing that they will make their once-again-ally Putin suspicious.

Türkiye’s foreign policy and government has only one goal: to ensure the reign of Erdoğan lasts as long as he lives, therefore our expectations should not be optimistic.

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