‘Tensions with Athens? Erdogan wants to distract from real problems’
“President Erdogan’s growing international activism is a reflection of personal ambition and growing internal political and economic concerns.” This was stated by Vassilis Ntousas, head of European operations of the Alliance for Securing Democracy of the German Marshall Fund, about the role of negotiator that the Turkish leader has carved out for himself in the conflict in Ukraine.
The mediation attempt between Moscow and Kiev, associated with the iron will to organize a face to face on Turkish soil between Volodymr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin, and the agreement on the export of Ukrainian wheat reached with the decisive intervention of the UN, demonstrate Erdogan’s “desire” to “elevate the role of his country and personnel at a regional and international level”, argues the Greek analyst, according to whom “Ankara is attempting an increasingly difficult balancing act between its commitments towards its Western allies and of NATO, and its links with Russia “.
The main question is how “sustainable” this balancing act is, says Ntousas, highlighting how “Erdogan’s actions and rhetoric should be seen as a way to strengthen Turkey’s role, interests and autonomy of action in a context very difficult region. ” But, with the Turkish lira “sinking” and inflation “rapidly rising”, the expert believes, these actions also serve to “project Erdogan’s image as a mediator and ‘power broker'” with the aim not only to shield Turkey from regional critical situations, but also to support “its political ambitions in view of the upcoming crucial elections in 2023”.
The growing tensions or even the “real, imaginary or invented” crises of Turkey in its relations with Greece, its “old enemy”, may be “an easy way to divert attention from the real economic and political problems that Erdogan and his party are facing “, continues Vassilis Ntousas, while the Turkish leader continues to raise the bar against the Athens government, in a crescendo of tensions fueled by disputes over disputed islands, migrants and gas.
According to the Greek analyst, despite the increasingly harsh tones used by the Turkish leader, “few foresee a real conflict” between the two countries, while “the risks associated with an accident are increasing”. Ntousas invites us to look at the Turkish political context to understand why Ankara is not missing out on opportunities to verbally attack its neighbor, noting that Erdogan “is fighting for his political survival ahead of next year’s elections, while the united opposition takes the challenge more strong to the Turkish president and his party in power, the AKP, for almost 20 years “.
The threats against Greece and the fact of framing it as an “external threat” in themselves touch “real and unresolved issues between the two countries, but they also have the purpose of garnering internal support”, concludes Ntousas, according to whom a risk factor “lies in the question of how much this growing rhetoric and its nationalist overtones against Greece” can change the Turkish position towards Athens in the long term “regardless of who wins next year’s elections, but especially if 2023 will bring a post Turkey. -Erdogan “.