Erdogan, Turkey’s President and emerging authoritarian strong man, is working to restore its version of the Ottoman Empire and an Islamic caliphate.
As part of this effort, Erdogan is now entangled in conflicts or controversies on multiple fronts including Syria, Libya, the Aegean against Greece, Cyprus, its own Kurdish areas, and now in the Caucuses as its military are supporting the Azerbaijanis in their new offensive.
The folks at The Duran have created a video on the Caucuses gamble by Erdogan. Their perspective is generally pro Russian, so understand that perspective.
“The downing of an Armenian SU-25 fighter by a Turkish F-16, according to the Armenian Defence Ministry, seems to complicate the situation, as Moscow, under the Tashkent Declaration, is obliged to provide military assistance to Armenia,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. This was seen as a stark warning that further Turkish actions may elicit an equal Russian reasonse.
Turkey has denied the downing of an Armenian SU-25 by a Turkish F-16, Erdogan himself making the denial while demanding Armenia immediately withdraw from Azerbaijani territory, as he sees it. The Armenians occupy land given to Azerbaijan, on the map, by the former Soviet Union, but the lands had always been occupied by Armenians. After a war in the 1990’s, Armenia siezed the territory and now contols it.
Russia has guaranteed Armenian independence and security and has a large military base in that country, along with historic ties, but Russia has tended to favor Azerbaijan and has sold them arms over the past 20 years, even while maintaining ties with Armenia.
But Russia depends on Turkey to allow its ships to transport oil out of the Black Sea and has major economic ties, the disruption of which could have serious repercussions for the Russian economy.
That being said, is the Turkish economy is faltering badly on this news. The US Dollar is now at 1 dollar to 7.7 Turkish lira, an all-time low, with all signs pointing to further decline. Erdogan’s gamble is that these adventures will solidify him and perhaps even help Turkey economically. Triggering a war on the Caucuses may be a way to pressure and distract Russia and gain ground in Syria and against Greece, but instead he may have only turned 100% of his neighbors against him.
What of the population in Turkey? This remains a question as the Turkish people seem, on the surface, to be eating up the nationalism and jingoism, so to that extant this may be keeping him in power. But at some point the cost of this adventurism may begin to drag on the populace.
It should be interesting to observe Istanbul, which is governed by an anti-Islamist mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu. This population may be quicker to show resistance to these moves as the economic crisis intensifies and the military adventures bear no fruit.
But, having said all that, every prediction of Erdogan’s fall has failed. Turkey’s economic engagement with many countries has caused them to continue to prop him up and this may not change. Thus far, the Russians have not shown much spine in backing Armenia, playing for the role of mediator and not taking sides.
The fact the Armenians have so far held back the Azerbaijanis, despite Turkish military support against the Armenians, has kept a lid on the conflict. But if Turkish military actions increase and if the Azerbaijanis advance against the Armenians, Russia will be forced to act or lose face to such a degree as it will jeopardize all of their alliances.
This could be yet another foreign adventure gone wrong for Turkey. They were rebuffed in the Eastern Mediterranean, they lost ground in Libya after Egypt became involved, they are facing setbacks in Syria, and their foray into Iraq has failed. On every front, Erdogan came in strong with his rhetoric, but his end-game was lacking in results.