Geopolitics | By Jesús Núñez
It was seen coming for a long time. The course that Turkey has taken, led by a president less and less concerned with maintaining democratic forms and more and more inspired by unbridled neo-Ottomanism, is putting the eastern edge of the Mediterranean into a difficult alley. In a clear contrast to the formula of “zero problems with neighbors”, advocated a decade ago by the then foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, today the change of course promoted by Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led to an accumulation of tensions no longer only with its regional adversaries, but even with its traditional allies. A good example of this has been the virtual meeting of NATO foreign ministers just celebrated. In principle, the star theme of the meeting was the presentation of the document that should serve as a guide to NATO to face the next decade, but in practice the main focus of the debate was on the exchange of accusations, with Turkey as the preferred target. Thus, the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, openly confronted his Turkish colleague, Mevlüt Cavusoglu, for raising the tension with other allies in the eastern Mediterranean, and for the purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft systems, openly threatening sanctions. if they become activated. And although the Turkish response (criticizing Washington for encouraging the rest of the allies to join in the punishment of Ankara, for rejecting the sale of Patriot systems and for supporting terrorist groups in Syria) tried to shift the responsibility on whoever pointed it out with the Finger, the clearest fact is that Ankara did not find a single support among its 29 allies in the Alliance. It is not surprising, in this context, that the Turkish request that NATO be involved in the resolution of the Libyan conflict has not been attended to in any way.
To tighten the rope even more, the US Senate approved the defense budget on January 3: 750.5 billion dollars, leaving activated a depth charge of unforeseeable consequences. The text considers that the Turkish purchase of the Russian S-400s, received in July 2019, constitutes a decision that falls under section 231 of the CAATSA (Law to Counter US Adversaries through Sanctions, in force since August 2017, initially designed to sanction Russia, Iran and Korea del Norte for its arms sales to third parties). Although that same rule could be used to punish Egypt for buying Russian military equipment, it is obvious that Washington can use it at its discretion against whoever it wishes, and so far Donald Trump has had no qualms about speaking out against its application when it has been able to affect some of your preferred interlocutors. Remains to be seen what will joe biden do starting January 20.
Something similar happens in the framework of the European Union (EU). It is no longer just about slowing down, up to hibernation, of the negotiation for the accession of Turkey to the community club, but sanctions against Ankara are becoming more and more likely. The result of the meeting of EU foreign ministers on 7 January points in this direction, pending a final decision in the European Council.
He deterioration of relations with Turkey, with the controversy over the exploitation of possible undersea deposits of hydrocarbons in disputed areas of the eastern Mediterranean, seems to have even convinced Germany – an informal mediator for some time between Athens, Nicosia and Ankara – of the need to apply sanctions, as already formally demanded on November 26 by France and the European Parliament.
It is obvious that Turkey cannot be excluded from the Mediterranean, where it has more kilometers of coastline than any other coastal country; But it also seems clear that Erdogan’s forward flight – with a serious internal economic crisis and external adventurism that exceeds his own capabilities, from Syria to Iraq and Libya, passing through Upper Karabakh– doesn’t seem to be paying you much.