Erdogan’s Romance with the Eurasian Coalition Is Bad News for NATO and ‘Israel’
As a blast of late winter weather delayed Angela Merkel's meeting with Donald Trump earlier this week, the German Chancellor refocused her attention on the heated political tussles with Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Before Merkel had the chance to unpack her bags, Erdogan hurled a fresh batch of insults at the European powerhouse.
"Mrs. Merkel, why are you hiding terrorists in your country? Why are you not doing anything?" the Turkish leader asked, referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The escalating dispute between the NATO allies comes as Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany ban Turkish ministers from addressing their country's diaspora ahead of an April referendum that will likely crown Erdogan as the new sultan - giving him vast powers and allowing him to remain in office for more than a decade.
The Turkish diaspora in Germany alone numbers over 3 million people, out of which 1.5 million are eligible to vote in the upcoming referendum - making this the fourth largest electoral unit after Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
Naturally, restrictions on the Turkish government to directly communicate with potential voters have already - in true Erdogan style - caused the leadership in Ankara to lob claims of Nazism, oppressive dictatorships and state-sponsored terrorism.
But the first chapter of this new low in EU-Turkish relations begins with a decision to prevent Turkey's foreign minister from speaking at a Rotterdam rally - just days after Erdogan's latest trip to the Kremlin.
The geopolitical romance
On March 10, Erdogan met with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Moscow, cooking up plans that no one in the west is too thrilled about, and not least NATO.
Turkey, which traditionally served as NATO's southern wing and an anti-Russian fist in the service of the western military alliance, is increasingly looking like an extension of the Moscow/Tehran regional agenda.
Today, the flags of NATO member states, including the US, Germany and the Netherlands, are being torn up and burned in Istanbul's squares. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why lawmakers in Berlin recently called for German troops and jets to leave the Incirlik air base in Turkey. Or perhaps, this is just a prelude to a western-backed, Syria-styled attack on Erdogan's government.
Whatever the case, the soon-to-be-crowned ‘Sultan of the Bosphorus' is not taking any chances. In the hope of avoiding revolutions, civil wars and foreign military interventions, Erdogan is looking to secure Russia's next-generation air defense system - the S-400. The weapon, which carries three different types of missiles, is capable of destroying aerial targets at a short-to-extremely-long range, including ballistic and cruise missiles.
On March 16, Turkey's Defense Minister Fikri Isık announced that "the Russian S-400 system will not be integrated into NATO's missile defense system."
Aside from the S-400 and the Syrian crisis, the two leaders also discussed high-profile infrastructure projects, including the Turkish Stream pipeline.
The construction of the pipeline is expected to begin this year. The project, with an estimated total cost of USD 12.7 billion, would allow Russian natural gas to be delivered directly to Turkey via the Black Sea and on to Greece.
The Turks are also enlisting Russian expertise in constructing a nuclear power plant at Akkuyu - a project estimated to be worth around USD 20 billion.
But even more importantly, Turkey is likely to be integrated into Russia's so-called Mir payment system.
The latter, crafted in 2015, seeks to ensure the sovereignty of the national payment industry and secure the processing of domestic transactions using Russian bankcards - essentially eliminating the US dollar as the international trading currency.
According to Putin, "the boost in bilateral economic ties would facilitate the increase of the share of the national currencies in bilateral transactions. We know that President [Erdogan] strongly supports this... The creation of the infrastructure for Russian Mir payment system in Turkey would be the first positive step toward this goal."
Changing the geopolitical vector
All of the above suggests that the Turks are tying themselves to Russia's economic, political and security infrastructure, changing the geopolitical vector from a Euro-Atlantic to a Eurasian one.
Whether Ankara can cross the finish line is still an open question. But the fact that western politicians can no longer disguise their disdain for Erdogan is very telling. The decision by the Europeans to prevent high-ranking Turkish officials from speaking at rallies across the EU is an indication that things have already gone very far indeed.
In fact, the Eurasian vector is overwhelmingly appealing to Erdogan, especially given his increasingly strained relationship with Brussels and Washington, where Turkey is viewed as a secondary player.
Meanwhile, Russia, China and Iran - who hold the key to the Eurasian gate - are offering Turkey a seat at the main table.
Thus, western efforts to sabotage the Turkish Stream, Russia's Mir payment system, as well as the expanding Moscow-Tehran-Ankara cooperation over Syria, should be expected to intensify.
‘Israel' is knocking on the Kremlin's door
One day before Erdogan's arrival to Moscow, ‘Israel's' Benjamin Netanyahu visited Putin for the third time in less then twelve months, further highlighting the growing sense of panic in Tel Aviv over Iran's ‘entrenchment' in Syria, and the expanding military capabilities of Hezbollah - who are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with the Russians.
Netanyahu's main concerns revolve around the new geopolitical realities in the Middle East, where the resistance axis spans the region from Afghanistan's western border to the Mediterranean, and where Daesh and the Americans have been put on the defensive. In this new reality, Moscow, Tehran and Ankara have emerged as the region's powerbrokers, leading to the realization in ‘Israel' that it's only a matter of time before the issue of occupied land [namely Syria's Golan Heights] is back on the agenda.
As such, Ankara's increasingly cozy relationship with the Eurasian coalition is very bad news for the former pillars of power in both the Middle East and worldwide.
This changing of the guard is particularly scary for ‘Israel'. The joint Iranian-Russia-Hezbollah effort to save Damascus from ending up like Libya's Tripoli sent a strong message of a reliable alliance. The same curtsey extended to Erdogan is still on offer to other regional states, including Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf, prompting Tel Aviv to scramble in an effort to salvage what little remains of the old order.