Interview with a Romanian expert on Turkish foreign policy with regards to NATO, EU, Russian-Ukrainian war, the Middle East and natural gas geopolitics in Southeastern Europe
Cross-border Talks spoke to Dragoș Mateescu – a Romanian expert on Turkey, working for the Romanian diplomatic institute. We deal with Turkey’s veto on Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, the foreign policy of Ankara in the Middle East, gas geopolitics in Southeastern Europe, as well as Turkey’s attitude towards war between Russia and Ukraine.
Mateescu explained that Turkey is led by people with strong nationalist convictions, who have their sensitivities, just as other countries have theirs. He sees an escalation of challenges and threats to the current political status quo in Turkey – not only the Kurdish issue, not only the Gullen affair, but also the economic condition, which is dire. Mateescu provides facts and perspectives on a number of issues, which could set up better the international public’s understanding of Turkey and its foreign policy.
Malgorzata Kulbaczewska-Figat: Good afternoon, everybody. And welcome to another episode of Cross Border Talks. Today as we are recording the battle is raging in the east of Ukraine. On the other side of the Black Sea, there is a state that watches events in Ukraine and Russia with great interest. Before the war, Turkey had very close ties to both Moscow and Kiev, and even a few weeks before the Russian invasion, Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Kiev and secured a free trade agreement with Ukraine. Also, let us not forget that the Ukrainian-Russian peace talks, as long as they were held, were held on Turkish soil.
What is behind this game? What are the Turkish aims in international politics? What are the Turkish ambitions? Those are the key topics of our today’s talk, in which we are joined by a Romanian expert that will be presented in a moment by my colleague Vladimir. My name is Malgorzata Kulbaczewska-Figat, and I am connecting with you from Katowice, Poland. And now let Vladimir present our guest.
Vladimir Mitev: Yes, Dragoș Mateescu is probably the most visible and the most knowledgeable expert on Turkey in Romanian media, at least among those people who dare to take positions publicly. He is certainly the most important one because he has teached for some 18 years political science and international relations at a university in Izmir. He also has a PhD from Nottingham University and he also has had previously in the nineties career of military special ops person. So he’s certainly best fit to comment on a number of issues which we are now going to discuss with him – related to the war in Ukraine, energy, geopolitics in the region and EU and NATO affairs, in the context of recent developments.
Turkey stated that Ankara would not look positively on the Finland and Sweden bid to join the NATO’s, even despite how their intentions were praised in Washington. According to Erdogan, both states needed to change their policies first. They needed to stop being guesthouses for terrorists, as he put it. What is behind these very serious accusations? And can Erdogan’s Turkey actually obstruct the Scandinavian way to the alliance?
Dragoș Mateescu: First of all, thank you for inviting me today. Congratulations for your efforts in general. In the case of this regime that has been ruling Turkey for almost 20 years now we talk about a process of alignment, gradual process of alignment between the imperative of the regime, which, like any other regime, is to survive as it is and the imperatives of what in Turkey is called the Derin Devlet – the Deep State bureaucrats, which tend to be nationalistic and leaning towards the left or right doesn’t really matter. What unites them is this nationalistic outlook and in general, anti-Western tendency, for many of them in particular anti-American, that has been cultivated for generations in Turkey. I’m talking not only about the education system, but also the media. I’ve been experiencing that for some years there, and I kind of know what I talk about beyond what is talked about by other experts. And this alignment produces force behind this tension. I don’t think it is as it happened before.
In 2009, Mr. Erdogan was a prime minister at that time. He did oppose the appointment of Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen as secretary general of of NATO’s Danish prime minister at that time on specific grounds. But then eventually that decision was reversed. This time I think it’s more serious because again, it’s this alignment and we talk about these sides, the regime and the deep state sharing security concerns, which are old. We talk about some red lines that have been in Turkish politics, in Turkish security community for generations now: regarding the Kurdish issue, but not only, regarding relations with Greece and also relations with the West in general.
The Turkish opposition to Sweden, Finland has been consistent because many of the people that were afraid of repercussions of various sorts from the Turkish state, from the Turkish security establishment, from the Turkish justice system, police have emigrated and some of them emigrated to countries like Sweden. There are fewer, but also there are in Finland. And we talk about again, generations, we talk about the Kurdish issue, but then followed after 2016 by the Fethullah Gulen terrorist group, as it is called in Turkish, the what is denominated by the Turkish state as the Fethullah Gulen terror organization. Not all of them, but many of them have emigrated and Turkey wants them extradited back to Turkey. Sweden, Finland – it’s very difficult for them to deliver this, because according to them everything has to be done according to their laws. And it’s very difficult to bring in court, in the respective courts of certain Finland a case that supports extradition and decide on extradition. And then all of the emigres invoke the fact that they would not be treated justly back in Turkey and that the cases against them are politically motivated. But I would conclude at this point the answer to this first question and we elaborate on it as more questions come.
So, back in 2009, Turkey eventually agreed to have the former president of Denmark in the high NATO’s post. Will it agree also now?
I doubt it. I doubt it because it also coincides with other issues. The context is much more complex than it was then. And let me put it this way. There are three aspects in Turkish Republican history that produced red lines in terms of security, in terms of foreign policy. One is the Kurdish issue. One is the Cyprus issue. And the last one, in fact, the first is the Armenian issue. They are very sensitive for the nationalistic very strong core of Turkish politics which complicates things much more. The Fethullah Gulen terrorist organization issue and other issues also exist. Now we add to this the survival of the regime because the economy is going very bad and there is a decreasing popularity of the regime, which is very significant. You want to have a nationalist stance on behalf of the regime to survive, to coagulate that force behind you that maybe will give you a chance in the elections, which, by the way, are next year when we have the centenary of the Turkish Republic, 100 years since the foundation of the Republic.
In this context, we also have, because of Turkish actions with S-400 rocket systems bought from Russia and so on. We have sanctions against Turkey and it’s ironic but meaningful that while Turkey was excluded from the F-35 program with a very strange premise, because practically the United States had to renew the memorandum of understanding, which has the value of an international treaty regarding the F-35 program – and they made instead another one which excluded Turkey from it. But in the new format, Greece may be invited to join. So it’s a lot of humiliation, I would even call it, for the Turkish nationalist elite perceived as such. At least then the fact that the patriot systems are not delivered to Turkey. A lot of other aspects.
I, in fact, made a list here because there are so many that are important issues, which Ankara brings up. You add that Turkey for more than 50 years has been outside the EU while being an applicant state and the candidate state after 2005 formally, officially starting the accession. And then there are apparently smaller issues for some, but I think decisive too. Mr. Erdogan has never been invited to the White House since the coming to power of Mr. Biden in the United States, which is perceived as an affront, a personal affront. In the situation where actually that week when Turkey was becoming very vocal about Sweden, Finland, three leaders of three countries visited Mr. Joe Biden at the White House, the representatives of prime ministers of Finland, Sweden and Greece. And these add too much from the point of view of the leader in Ankara and the nationalist elite. I repeat this is perceived as a very serious affront based on all these. It’s very difficult to imagine that Turkey will back down. Maybe we may expect that it will double down on these issues and insist on these issues even more, because the stakes are very, very high for the current regime in Ankara.
I think that the stakes are very high for Turkey also in the Middle East, a key region in which Turkey was always engaged in different ways. Coming back to the more recent history, I remember back at the beginning of the Syrian war, Erdogan calling for ousting Bashar al-Assad – and then I remember Turkey, step by step, realigning its policies with Russia to find some solution that would fit both countries with high ambitions in the Middle East. Furthermore, there were, if I’m not mistaken, there were four Turkish military operations between August 2016 and our days in northern Syria, in Turkish Syrian Kurdistan, if you want. And what are the plans of Turkey for the Middle East for now?
Our viewers are familiar probably with or if not, we have to remind them that this week practically started with another threat from Mr. Erdogan, the threat of a new operation, which would be the fifth and a half, let’s say, of Turkey in northern Syria. And the official motivation for this is, of course, about the threat posed by the YPG, the Kurds in northern Syria reunited under the logo of YPG, which Turkey considers an ally, a part of the PKK, or a strong connection with the PKK, but which this YPG has been, in fact the represented the force on the ground for the Alliance against Icis, against the Islamic State, and threatening with this new operation that aims to practically unite some of the territories that Turkey already controls with where it has observation posts and the military infrastructure. Those being three main localities. More than this, but mainly the Rifaat, Manbij and Kobani, which are inhabited predominantly by Kurds, have always been areas where this YPG is very strong or has been strongly represented. Now, however, we have the Russian forces and forces from the Syrian regime, the Damascus regime, controlling them. Plus, let’s not forget that the airspace is controlled by Russia in the region.
In my opinion, it will be very difficult for Turkey to achieve anything significant in the area because we also have American troops in one of the locations. But it’s a rattling of sorts as a signal to this same nationalistic camp that is in power now. And I will come back to this, because you hear me repeating this aspect, but it is more significant than actually sounds. So it’s in line with this general objective of the regime, which I iterated before.
But again, coming back to this nationalistic camp, it’s important to underline that in Turkish politics in general, what we understand as patriotism, which in Turkish is vatan severlik is completely confused with with nationalism which is milietchelik. There is no difference and has been cultivated for generations. For generations as such. Nationalism, let’s specify, presupposes some sort of hatred of others and superiority toward others. And Turkey has been pursuing this role of superiority towards the Kurds in particular from the very beginning, from the beginning of their history together, which goes back hundreds of years, in the sense that Turks and Ottomans before them perform the civilization role in relation with other civilizations, which was intensified in the early Republic times. And this is not something that was present in Turkish politics, very much like religious fundamentalism or religiousness in general. These were considered extremes and were somehow put on the back of the main stage, political stage of Turkey via major military coups that we know happened in Turkey. For the first time, these two extreme currents come together in power, and in my opinion, they are impossible to oust for the first time. They are not going to give up. There is an existential battle which again has long roots in Turkish politics. And their raison d’etre is confrontation with the outside, and they have the confrontation with the outside where in that logic of confrontation, operation in Syria, attitude towards Sweden, Finland, attitude toward NATO all of them negative. All of them. Negative attitude towards the European Union. Council of Europe.
The cases of Osman Kavala, Selahattin Demirtas and many others. 50,000 people in prison. Political prisoners considered by various institutions. 15,000 of them are Kurds. More than 60 mayors in the Kurdish areas, predominantly Kurdish areas in prison. And those localities are governed by appointees from Ankara. It’s a big, big process that is taking place in this nationalistic sense, Islamo-nationalistic sense.
Before we go to the Black Sea region. Just one quick question. You mentioned Ankara’s negative approach towards different international actors. Is there actually anybody with whom Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to, well, build relations based on friendship or mutual understanding? There was a series of opening up to other Middle Eastern players like the United Emirates last year or Egypt or even. Relations with Israel seem to change a bit. What about these relations?
The central problem is the problem of trust, because there are reports in the Turkish media about the government starting to cut ties, for instance, with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the nemesis of governments in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates in Egypt. But eventually we learn that the ties were not fully cut. For Israel, ties with Hamas matter. Turkey has been hosting leaders of Hamas and claimed the ties with Hamas would be cut. We learn then from independent journalists that actually the ties were not cut. And then right very recently, Turkey announced explorations or some sort of testing with hydropower or something like that in the Mediterranean. It doesn’t give much trust to the eastern Mediterranean neighbors that give reasons for trust. And then we have these countries, in fact, align themselves with Cyprus and Greece. Right. And then we have the flights of Turkish air force over Greek islands that are practically a denial of sovereignty. And this has been done before almost on a yearly, monthly, sometimes weekly basis. But for the first time, there were flights for the first time, I insist, there were flights over Evros, which is at the border between Greece and Turkey on eastern Macedonia, as they call it. Above what? About above Alexandroupolis, which now is an important hub for LNG gas being imported towards Europe from various parts of the world and also and also for American forces concentrated there. So it’s a very sensitive issue. What promises to be, as you said, promised to be the beginning of the improvement of relations. In fact, it’s going to look like it’s going to be even more sensitive than before.
You mentioned Alexandroupolis. And I have a question on natural gas geopolitics in southeastern Europe, because Turkey has hit its Turkey stream, reaching out to Serbia via Bulgaria and also currently delivering gas also in Romania. While Romania insists very much on building of this corridor from Greece via Bulgaria to Romania to deliver some additional gas from southern countries or Azerbaijan. So and in this sense, both Greece and Bulgaria seem to be attempting to be some kind of regional hubs. But what is realistic? Everyone has ambitions, but what will reality show when we look at the map?
The problem with LNG is that the quantities that can be operated are small in terms of hundreds of millions of cubic meters while the necessities are very high. I was just checking. I didn’t know about Greece, it consumes around 6 billion cubic meters of gas per year to function optimally. Bulgaria, as far as I know, around three. Romania around 12. Then sky’s the limit for Turkey. It goes to around 60 to function optimally. If you have a very bad winter, you multiply.
LNG exists in Turkey, two of them, one very close to where I lived in Izmir and one in Istanbul. Greece develops one, maybe another one. Bulgaria, Romania don’t have any LNG. Romania was planning to develop an energy facility in Constanta, but it’s not not yet done. It doesn’t matter how – you need to have pipelines to the north from south from Alexandroupolis to Romania to pass through Bulgaria. And then these are called interconnectors between countries. And this is a program that has been supported by the European Union for ages. One has been built between Bulgaria and Romania. I don’t know about Bulgaria and Greece, but there is one that comes via Turkey through TANAP. The only one comes from Azerbaijan for now. The problem is that in Azerbaijan the technology is in technological improvement, and needs it to increase the quantity. It costs a lot of money and it will take time not overnight. And Turkey consumes 60 billion cubic meters around that figure every year. Imagine that the maximum 16 billion that comes to TANAP is not enough for Turkey, would barely be enough for Bulgaria and Romania together. But there are agreements with Azerbaijan that actually 10 billion stay in Turkey and only 6 billion is exported further to the west. Italy is a big consumer of that same line because TANAP actually crosses through the trans-Atlantic pipeline to Italy. So any other supplier would be very much welcome. The existing pipelines across the entire Mediterranean I think five in total again are very small in quantities. They cannot transfer a lot. So Eastern Mediterranean gas, which promises to cover a lot of the needs, is very important. But here comes Turkey into the play. And they know they can use their blackmail or blocking capacities for that. The easiest way to transport gas is from the basin in eastern Mediterranean, which is shared by Israel, Egypt, Lebanon and so on, and there is also around Cyprus. The easiest way to go through Turkey is through a pipeline that goes on land. It’s easier to put up and so on. But you need to have Turkey fully agreeing to this, which I follow this story and I don’t see full agreement on the Turkish side because they try to impose on each other Turkey, Israel, Cyprus, its own agenda. The agenda of Turkey with North Cyprus is very complicated in the region.
What is the American position on such transport of gas via Turkey from eastern Mediterranean?
Sorry, I didn’t hear the question.
What is the American position on this issue?
To the other alternative we have to pass through the sea. The alternative would be the Met pipeline, which is huge, almost 2000 kilometers that have to cross through from Israel to Cyprus. Greek Cyprus, which is very important. And Greece, maybe. Or Crete and Greece. And the Americans say it’s known it is economically not feasible. It’s politically very sensitive. So instead of that, let’s just support a better transfer of electricity that goes from Africa, Euro-african. I think that’s how it is called Euro-African grill grid. And then the Euro-Asian grid transferring energy. So you produce energy, electric energy with gas in the locations in Africa, the Mediterranean and so on. And then you transfer that via Cyprus, via Crete to Greece and then to continental Europe, which would work, would be fine. Again, Turkey is a problem because they haven’t canceled the deal they made with Libya with, by the way, the government of Libya that is close to the Muslim Brotherhood and the one that is actually also recognized by the international community, including the UN, that divides practically eastern Mediterranean between Libya and Turkey. And any solution, be it gas pipeline or electricity lines, they have to pass through this territory. So Turkey is using its disturbing capacity to disturb these plans. So now the Americans are continuing with supporting Greece, even arming Greece more, Cyprus in their stance together with Israel and Egypt, and preparing for the worst, because the problem, as always, remains in Ankara’s unpredictability.
And if you allow me, finally, there is a little bit of a certain amount of diplomacy going on with regards to Turkey and our region. So last week the Romanian foreign minister and the Polish foreign minister were welcomed by Erdogan in Turkey. And that happened around the same time when the ambassadors of Germany and France were called apparently to Turkey to announce unhappiness over certain Kurdish activity in these countries. So when you look in this kind of mirror, which Turkey is and it is a mirror of Europe, we see our contradictions maybe in Europe openly articulated by Turkish diplomacy. So what do you see in this mirror with regard to both Turkey and the EU?
What happens about the French and the German ambassadors – summoning them to to express disagreement in Ankara – It’s about some demonstrations that were made in Germany and in France by Kurds against the stance of the Turkish government. And it’s routine. It’s not something extraordinary. We shouldn’t look at this event as something extra. It’s a routine in Ankara. Each time the Kurds become active in any form in Europe, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs summons the respective ambassadors to express protests and so on. It happened with the Armenian issue before. It happened with the Greek issue, with the Cyprus issue, with many other issues.
A mirror of Europe is not only Turkey, but Russia, too. These are two actors that explicitly try to use any kind of cracks in the stance of the European Union as a whole, and NATO for that matter, for their own agendas. It’s something that is natural. I don’t see it as something extraordinary if it is understood as a relation of enmity. And here, if we understand enmity between Russia and the Western Bloc, enmity between Turkey and the Western bloc is not really understood in the West. Why? How, all of a sudden? They think it has something to do with this regime because this regime is authoritarian. We tell them to respect human rights and so on, and they don’t like that and they treat us as the bad guys. It is not only about that. It’s about, again, I have to come back to this issue, a very long generational tradition of suspicion against the West, for some even hatred of the West, and determination to act against the Western Bloc and Turkey’s commitments to that bloc, because those commitments were done by Westernizing forces in Turkey, which are not liked anymore, which the majority of Turkish population probably voted again against. And that’s why Mr. Erdogan is beating this drum in preparation for the next election. And the time will come when Mr. Erdogan says, will be even more blunt and more clear for the Turkish public than before. He will just say, do you want to go back to the Western commitments that were lies and so on? Vote for the guy of the opposition. When it comes to the 1 to 1 confrontation at the second round of presidential elections, or vote for Turkey to be independent, to go its own way and not be constrained and so on, and vote for me. And that will be, in my opinion, his final winning card.
But what you say prompts another question, if I may. Our countries – Romania and Bulgaria, mean are on the border with Turkey and have enjoyed very good relations over the last year with Turkey. What is the role which Romania and Bulgaria will play in what is coming and including in understanding the West of Turkish enmity.
Romania and Bulgaria, unfortunately, in my opinion, are not active players in this gambit. They are reactive players. There is a false impression. I consider it a false impression. Both Sofia and Bucharest, that the real politics of Turkish-European relations, Turkish-Western relations, the strings are pulled in the United States, in Washington, to be more specific, in Berlin, in Brussels, why not, but especially in Paris and London, let’s say. And this is a miscalculation, because as it is absolutely natural as all these capitals do their own foreign policies. But Sofia and Bucharest should develop their own understandings, judging very pragmatically.
And what I keep saying in Romanian media is that they should look at the balance of commerce, the commercial balance between Bulgaria-Turkey, Romania-Turkey, and realize that it is negative. Not only that, but that negativity increases. Although Turkey is in a very bad economic situation, somehow it gains more leverage against Bulgaria and Romania in foreign trade. How is it possible when there is now a customs union between Turkey and the European Union? So if indeed the strings are pulled in the European capitals, important European capitals, why don’t you work on that to somehow bring this issue of negative commercial balance with Turkey as the determinant for your foreign policy, that is your foreign policy, not leave issues for others to to lead? I think this is something that I would always analyze, let’s see and talk about, because we also have, as two small countries have our concerns.
If Turkey has its sensibilities and some in the West want to satisfy those sensibilities, we also have our very serious sensibilities. And Turkey is very important for our energy, for security and so on. But I dream of a time when, for instance, okay, Turkey doesn’t have too much grain right now and wants to import from Ukraine. Why not import from Bulgaria and Romania? I wonder what is it that stops them from doing that?
Can Bulgaria and Romania somehow collaborate more boldly on Turkey or on other issues?
First of all, analyzing what they are about? Because there is what I see as a minus for both countries. There are institutes of analysis, think tanks and so on. But the foreign policies of the two countries do not internalize some imperatives that these analyses bring up, somehow establishing dialogues with their own specialists, which exist like you are in Bulgaria, right? Establishing a dialogue not for decision making. I should not be misunderstood, but for inspiration for comparing options, for comparing points of view. And then of course, they are politicians. They decide they are people of responsibility. But to take into account more expertise that is available. And then building on this expertise, building on the conclusions they would draw to initiate dialogue, necessary dialogue at the regional level. And I totally agree with your proposition here to identify regional imperatives, including not only energy needs, which can only be solved regionally at the regional level, definitely, but also concerning patterns of economic development, patterns of economic exchanges, patterns of societal development, because each country has its own pluses and minuses, patterns of developing cooperation in relation correctly with with Turkey jointly, jointly expressing also needs not only responsibility to help and satisfy other sensibilities, but expressing. Our own sensibility is in trilateral format, also in Brussels, also together with Greece, although the dialogue between Greece and Turkey now probably is at the lowest level in history. So, there are opportunities that could inspire.
What are the opportunities for Turkey in the other part of the Black Sea? So in the Ukrainian Russian conflict, I mentioned today the visit that Recep Erdogan paid to Kyiv at the beginning of February. He tried to present himself as a peacemaker during that visit. He tried to persuade the world that Turkey can actually be this middle ground or an area for de-escalation, the place where Russia and Ukraine can actually work out their differences and seek a solution, a peaceful solution. Three weeks after the visit, the Russian invasion began. And so we can say that this part of Erdogan’s ambitions had a failure in the eyes of the whole world. What next for Turkey’s ambitions to be this alternative platform of dialogue? And what moves can we accept from Ankara now when the war is raging? And you mentioned also the question of grain import, which is important for Turkey for many other countries in the global south. So what moves can we accept from Ankara now?
The imperative here is about the Turkish economy, which is very much affected by the errors of its own regime to start with, which I will not discuss now, but also by the war on this background, by the war in Ukraine, it’s imperative for Turkey, for the world to stop, for the current leaders of Turkey to start thinking of economic recovery in the long run. But the dependency is huge, unfortunately, and Turkey was not that much dependent on others for food, for instance, but it became dependent on others for food with energy. 30%, approximately 30% of its energy consumption comes from Russia. So it’s significant. Add to this that the nuclear central power plant Akkuyu is done practically with 100% Russian money, Russian technology, and Russian control. For 15 years, Turkey has to buy quite expensive energy from what will be produced in Akkuyu. But we see when it will be finished, because the deadlines are pushed a lot.
Well, to come back to your question, first of all, Turkey needs peace, but at the same time needs to sell weaponry and it sells weaponry in this case to Ukraine. Not managing to bring peace because never, ever would Mr. Putin acquire to become a NATO member, which Turkey is. Not managing to achieve peace is kind of a leitmotif of the entire foreign policy, Turkish foreign policy and relations separately with Russia and Ukraine, because it cannot. Will they take another approach? I think Mr. Erdogan personally and the other leaders are bold enough to try to squeeze Russia to even more somehow. And they have the leverage. They have the leverage in Nagorno-Karabakh in case conflicts start there. They have the leverage also in all Syria, provided that they don’t start the large-scale incursion in North Syria, but a small-scale one which pushes effectively without making too much noise, but somehow managing to do things behind Russia’s backs and achieve whatever objectives they have. And then to come back to Russia to say, look, you have to do something about this war because we can condition your actions in other parts of the world. Plus, I could even expect how bold Mr. Putin can even cancel the Akkuyu project, to say, look, we don’t have money for this, our economy is in tatters, it’s a legitimate request. Let’s postpone it and we postpone it for ten years, which practically means a big loss of money. The project cost $20 billion. Billions of dollars are very much needed right now. It could be that there are some cards that Erdogan could play, but at this point we don’t see them. And it’s not the time to see them because obviously all sides want the war to continue for various reasons. Russia, because it wants the prices of fuel up and that’s why they continue to be present in Syria. I’m sure that as part of the reasons Ukraine would be the last one to want a peace treaty right now because they want their territory back. The West is aligned with both issues. Nobody actually wants peace, only Turkey wants peace. But it’s not the first time that Turkey wants things that the rest of the world doesn’t want.
And as our time is ending, there is one last question about Erdogan’s future as the ruler of Turkey, because you mentioned a couple of times today that his regime is actually losing its big ground, its huge social ground it used to have, and that the economic situation is definitely not playing on his side. So what moves can Erdogan do in his domestic policies to try to stay in power, which I think is his aim, as in the case of all authoritarian rules? And will this attempt be successful or as far as we can predict it by now?
I love the way you put the question of what to expect in the case of authoritarian leaders. The sky’s the limit. But in this particular case, imagine one scenario, just one scenario. Because of a contextual situation, Mr. Putin decides to recognize the independence of North Cyprus, and that happens before the elections in Turkey. Mr. Erdogan would be hailed as bigger than Ataturk. Almost immediately. There would be some movement toward the annexation, the unification of North Cyprus with Turkey. And then what in fact Turkey manages to acquire in this game is a huge, huge aircraft carrier in eastern Mediterranean from which to practically condition the behavior of many other actors and claim territorial waters extremely valuable from all points of view.
That’s one little thing that could be done because you have two leaders that are cornered and that need each other in various instances. Then other situations: Mr. Erdogan eventually pushing for all out the. War against Syria, against the Kurds in north Syria occupying territories. And that is playing the cards of nationalism. These are extremes. Right. And you may say, oh, come on, this guy is not talking nonsense, but it’s not nonsense when you think that the natural, normal steps to be taken are redressing the economy, improving ties with the West because more than 60% of your produce goes to the Western markets. All doing all that is impossible right now as things look and that story with Mr. Erdogan being capable of 180 degrees turns. I don’t think it works anymore because too many bridges have been blown up. Too many bridges have been blown up, not because the western side would not accept Turkey back in some sort of logic of cooperation. But because it’s very difficult for Mr. Erdogan himself to do that turn in Ankara in relation with the national nationalist majority, with the nationalist elites. It’s very difficult, almost impossible, I would say, to make a U-turn on that discourse, on that engagement in that direction and hostility towards the West. I think they are ready to go to the end in that direction. And this is where it takes when you want to also win elections, some economic measures, last ditch economic measures, maybe a little bit of civil strife to alarmike it happened. It’s not me that is giving these ideas to Mr. Erdogan. They did that in between the two elections of 2015, when they reignited nationalism and anti-Kurdism to win elections, which the AKP lost in June and they regained in November. So it would also be part of the scenario. I don’t think there is a danger for the regime for the next year and I will conclude with this, because even if the AKP is not any more the winning side in the elections as a political party, that would be for the parliamentary elections. Right. And the parliament has practically no power, decisive power in Turkish politics right now. The only thing important is for Mr. Erdogan to win the presidential elections, which he can very well do because of various reasons, some of them underline here, and also because there isn’t apparently at this moment, a counter-candidate capable of beating Mr. Erdogan in a 1 to 1 conflict in the second round.
And I think at this point our cross-border talk is coming to an end. Again, not really optimistic conclusions from the talk, but such as the times in which we are living. Not peaceful times, very turbulent times with many ambitious countries and ambitious leaders like Vladimir Putin in Russia and like Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. Today we had the pleasure to host Draoș Mateescu in our program. Thank you for being with us. Don’t forget to subscribe to Cross-border talks on YouTube to follow us on Facebook and elsewhere. Thank you very much.