December 17, 2015

Turkey was right to shoot down Russia's plane -- but neither country deserves full support (Part Two)

Denis TsarevRebel Blogger

In part one, I explained why Turkey was right to shoot down Russia’s warplane in November.

This, however does not mean that Turkey’s government deserves support on most other issues. Erdogan’s rule is in fact little different from Putin’s, and both leaders pursue an anti-Western and expansionist policy.

The main difference is that whilst Putin is mixing nationalism, Christian orthodoxy and nostalgia for the USSR in order to resurrect the old Tsarist/Soviet “empire” and establish a dictatorship, Erdogan is using Islam and the idea of resurrecting the Caliphate to establish an authoritarian religious rule in Turkey.

In the summer of 2013, when Erdogan was Turkey’s prime minister, the government violently dispersed pro-secular protesters, most notably at the Taksim square in Istanbul. These protests were largely a response to the growing Islamisation and authoritarianism in the country.

Islam has become a dominant factor in Erdogan’s policy. For example, since 2002, 17,000 new mosques have been built in Turkey.

Other anti-secular policies include regulations on alcohol, a ban on public kissing, the abolition of the ban on wearing head-scarfs in public, Erdogan’s call to “raise a religious youth” and many others.

To impose Islamisation upon Turkey, Erdogan needs to suppress its secular and pro-Western opposition, which requires a transformation of the democratic system into an authoritarian one. For this reason, he conducted the judicial reform in 2014, removing pro-secular officials and political opponents. Intimidation and imprisonment of journalists, censorship, fraudulent elections, and now his efforts to replace parliamentary government with an executive presidency, all constitute a transformation to a dictatorship. In the conflict in Syria, moreover, Erdogan is bombing one of his main political opponents, the Kurdish fighters.
All these policies are similar to what is going on in Russia: imposing an anti-Western and anti-secular ideology and building of a dictatorship that precludes any opponents from influencing the autocrat’s decisions.

Putin and Erdogan, before the shooting of the SU-24, had very close ties and exceptionally friendly relations. They met very frequently, and even as late as September of this year, Erdogan visited Moscow for the opening of one of the biggest mosques in Europe, where the two leaders, along Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine, praised each other and talked about developing strong economic relations.
Both leaders have resorted to very similar strategies in building their political systems. Particularly in 2014, after Erdogan suppressed the protests and became Turkey’s 12th president, many observers accurately compared Erdogan and Putin, underlining their hostility towards the West and their methods of establishing autocracy.
Economic relations also contributed to the two countries’ closeness. Turkey is the second largest importer of Russian natural gas in Europe after Germany. In addition, Putin was planning to build a gas pipeline to Europe through Turkey instead of Bulgaria. Roughly 3 million Russian tourists have travelled to Turkey annually in the past years. Russia had previously imported a considerable amount of fruits and vegetables from Turkey.

By banning trade with Turkey, Putin is not only hurting Turkey’s economy, but Russia’s own. The food prices in Russia have been rising rapidly in the last year (over 17%) mainly because of Putin’s ban on EU food imports to Russia, his long term mismanagement of a corrupt economy, and the expenditures on the war in Ukraine and Syria.

After banning Russians from travelling to Egypt after the recent Airbus crash, the ban on travelling to Turkey leaves Russian tourists only to the more expensive countries, which many of them cannot afford as the rouble falls. The resulting bankruptcies of many travel businesses in Russia, constituted a major blow to the Russian economy and job market.

Putin’s imperialist ambitions, his impudent violation of Turkish airspace, and the sanctions he imposed against Turkey, his former close ally, are contributing to Russia’s isolation and economic collapse. We in the West can only watch these two anti-Western autocratic states hurting each other, and hope they will be replaced by secular, peaceful and civilised governments.

Russia is an aggressive neo-Soviet regime, headed by an unpredictable and hostile leader with nuclear weapons. At the same time, Turkey's transformation into an openly religious Islamist and anti-Western power, whilst being a NATO member, would be disastrous.

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commented 2015-12-22 17:17:13 -0500
Denis – I agree, that Turkey was right to shoot the Russian plane down, for the reasons that you mentioned.
commented 2015-12-22 17:04:29 -0500
How can anyone with their head screwed on right say Turkey was right to shoot down Russian fighter?

Turkey – a NATO country risked WW3 by shooting down the Russian jet which did not threaten Turkey.

It should be clear that we need to kick Turkey out of NATO and ally with Russia & Syria to wipe out ISIS.
commented 2015-12-18 12:25:47 -0500
We do not need to choose between the two to prefer one or the other. Giving too much power and international influence to either regimes is dangerous and wrong, and both of them should be opposed. Speaking strictly pragmatically, if the West resorts to decisive actions, there is more and faster potential for change and European integration in Turkey, than with Russia. The opposition to Erdogan and the pro-Western forces are stronger in Turkey than the opposition to Putin and the pro-Western forces in Russia. If we act decisively we have more control to change Turkey, and stop its path for Islamisation, than we have control over Putin’s Russia. And do not forget as well, that Putin is supporting radical Islamists in Russia as well, including Kadyrov, one of the wealthiest men in Russia, who openly praised the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks. Putin supports Iran and Palestine too. The image that Putin creates that he is a fighter against Islamism and terrorism for European values is completely false: he is an unpredictable, corrupt and cynical leader with his own agenda, which is basically to extend his corrupt mafia rule under a mix of ideologies, be it leftism/Marxism or nationalism/orthodoxy. All that said, however, if the West fails to change Turkey, and will let it be completely Islamicised, then, surely it should be out of NATO, no question about that.
commented 2015-12-17 18:23:36 -0500
Sorry, I meant to say kick them from NATO. I would go to bat for Poland any day of the week, but not Turkey. Let Putin take the whole damn country if he wants it.
commented 2015-12-17 18:17:32 -0500
Hell no. I hate Putin but I’d pick him over Islamist Turkey any day. To hell with Turkey and high time to toss them from the UN.
commented 2015-12-17 17:08:16 -0500
Denis – I sent your articles to a co-worker who hails from Russia, and he said that he agrees with you 100%. He told me if he had to pick a side, that he would pick Turkey, because he said that Erdogan is less dangerous than Putin.