Turkey’s authoritarian president, who plays hardball in domestic and regional politics, has decided to use the same tactics against its Western allies.

Turkey has accumulated various grievances against its NATO allies and has chosen the applications of Sweden and Finland to join the alliance as the proper opportunity to hold all the allies hostage. In addition, only last week Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that the Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis is dead to him as the latter had lobbied for the US not to sell F-16 jets to Turkey.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has scared its Nordic neighbors who now seek refuge and security with NATO, allowing Erdogan to extract concessions from those two countries and the US in return for its consent to lift its objection against the admission of those two countries into the alliance.

NATO does not have a mechanism to expel a member – which some US legislators would have liked to have used against Turkey, but it has rules in place to obstruct the entry of aspiring members. According to the NATO manifesto, all the members have to give their consent for a new member to join.

A delegation from the foreign ministries of Sweden and Finland traveled last week to Ankara to hold a five-hour meeting with Turkey’s Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin, with no apparent result. Incidentally, in recent months, Kalin’s image has been enhanced in foreign policy formulation to the point of overshadowing Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavusoglu.

Before going into the details of the standoff between those two countries and Turkey, we need to pause for a moment to question the wisdom of their application to join NATO.

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Finland has an almost 800-mile border with Russia. Throughout the Cold War era, and even after the fall of the Soviet Union, those two countries’ neutrality has not been threatened. By this move, what they have done is tempt the devil. Although Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov seemed indifferent to the initiative, President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia will take appropriate measures, meaning perhaps, that he will order the moving of Russia’s nuclear arsenal closer to that border.

By the end of June, NATO will be holding its conference in Madrid and its secretary general, Jens Stolberg, anticipates seeing those two countries inducted into the alliance, pending Mr. Erdogan’s permission.

Although Erdogan’s objection hinges on a single issue, deep down he has a range of other issues to be settled. Erdogan accuses Finland and Sweden of harboring the adherent of exiled Turkish cleric Fetullah Gülen as well as the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) sympathizers, and has handed a list with the names of 35 suspects to be extradited to Turkey to stand trial. This demand is a way of expanding Turkey’s authoritarian rule into Europe. The issue is on the top of a laundry list that Turkey has presented to those two countries, which will need find a way to accommodate Turkey’s demands without compromising their democratic values.

But Erdogan has further expectations from a host of other allies. He wants Finland and Sweden to lift the arms embargo which those two have instituted against Turkey, when the latter invaded Syria in 2019, slaughtering Syrian Kurds, who were sympathetic to the US. Erdogan also believes this expansion offers an opportunity for the US to reconsider Turkey’s admission into the F-35 fighter jet program. Next on the list is Ankara’s planned incursion into Syria to once again fight the Syrian Kurds.

As the drumbeats of war are sounding louder and louder on the Syrian border, the US State Department turned the tables and issued a warning to Turkey. The day after Erdogan announced plans for a new incursion there, Ned Price, the US State Department spokesperson said, “We expect Turkey to live up to the October 2019 joint statement, including to halt offensive operations in northeast Syria, and we recognize Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on Turkey’s southern border. But any new offensive would further undermine regional stability and put at risk US forces in the coalition’s campaign against ISIS.”

If Ankara ignores Washington’s warning, there is no one to hold Erdogan’s hand, as Russia is bogged down in Ukraine and besides, turmoil caused in NATO ranks is an indirect help to Moscow.

Although there is no mention of the Armenian-Turkish negotiations, that could also be impacted because they were initiated upon the demand of President Joe Biden. When we see the toughening of Turkey’s bargaining position, we will know where Ankara is coming from.

When asked on May 18 how he would convince President Erdogan to drop his objection against Finland and Sweden joining NATO, President Biden answered, “I’m not going to Turkey, but I think we’re going to be OK.”

But it looks like everything will not be okay, because among other thing, Erdogan savors public attention and wants to be treated by all US officials like he was treated in the Trump era. Erdogan has even complained to reporters that he and President Biden don’t have the kind of relationship he had with Presidents Trump and Obama. “Of course, there are some meetings from time to time, but they should have been more advanced,” he said.

Erdogan would like to get away with murder, in view of the West’s economic sanctions against Russia. Indeed, Turkey’s business community is hard at work at this time negotiating trade deals with their Russian counterparts to replace Western companies, which have severed their relations with Russia.

Erdogan’s macho stand against the West will garner the most dividends on the domestic front. He needed this confrontation to boost his sagging popularity at home in time for the 2023 elections, where his prospects of winning are dimming in light of the runaway inflation.

Mr. Erdogan fails to see the negative, bullying image that he is projecting to the West. Even if he is cognizant of that less-than-complimentary image, he seems not to care.

In an opinion piece written by Joseph Lieberman, the former US Senator from Connecticut, he argues that Mr. Erdogan’s Turkey would flunk the alliance’s standards for democratic governance sought in prospective new member states. The essay, which was published in the Wall Street Journal, warned that Ankara’s policies, including coziness with Putin, had undermined NATO’s interests and the alliance should explore ways of ejecting Turkey.

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in 2019, after Turkey’s incursion into Syria, “Turkey under Erdogan should not and cannot be seen as an ally.”

Despite those characterizations, Ankara has been selling a bill of goods to the Europeans, extending its repressive rule to that continent.

During Erdogan’s rule, Turkey has carried out political activities in Germany and the Netherlands, trying to politicize and mobilize Turkish minorities living in those two countries, over the objections of the respective governments of those countries. It had extended the bloody hands of the deep state and the dreaded secret service, MIT, to commit high-profile political assassinations of female Kurdish leaders in Paris in 2013.

Despite such criminal conduct being launched by Turkey in Europe, Mr. Erdogan has issued this admonishment: “Let me underscore it once again hereby. Those who back and provide every kind of support to terrorist organizations that pose a threat to Turkey should first of all abandon their unlawful, insincere and arrogant attitude towards us. May no one have any doubts whatsoever that we as Turkey will do our part once we see concrete practices indicating such a change.”

Turkey itself is a terrorist state and because of political expediency, has convinced European Union countries to place the PKK on their list of terrorists. Twenty-five percent of Turkey’s population consists of Kurds who have been denied their basic human rights; they have been systematically slaughtered by successive Turkish administrations. Article 64 of the Sevres Treaty (August 10, 1920) promised a homeland to the Kurds within the current territory of Turkey; that pledge has not been fulfilled yet. The Kurds have been subjected to mass murder from the Ataturk era to Erdogan’s administration. The most atrocious mass murders took place in the 1930s in Dersim.

Erdogan himself duped the Kurdish minority by feigning to hold negotiations to observe their human rights and as soon as he was elected with the support of Kurdish voters, he suspended the negotiations and resorted back to the persecution of the Kurdish minority. He even stripped the parliamentary immunity of members including Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag and jailed them. And today, with a straight face, he is accusing Europeans of harboring Kurdish terrorists.

With heavy-handed tactics, Erdogan has intimidated political leaders both in Europe and Russia and has been able to push his expansionist policies.

While Erdogan is playing hardball with the major powers, hopefully he won’t focus on Armenia, which is not in the same league as the latter.

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