Turkey’s position in global diplomacy is becoming increasingly important amid the ongoing Ukrainian war. This can be seen from world leaders who immediately congratulated Erdogan on Erdogan’s victory in the Turkish Presidential Election on Sunday (28/5).
The first country leader to congratulate Erdogan was Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He did not even wait for the announcement of the official voting results before praising Erdogan for his victory, which he attributed to Erdogan’s “independent foreign policy”.
It can be assumed that the foreign policy referred to by Putin is Erdogan’s decision not to sanction Russia after the Kremlin launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine. In fact, Turkey’s allies who sit in NATO continue to impose sanctions on Russia and cut dependence on Russian fuel.
Shortly after Putin, US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron also offered their congratulations to Erdogan.
These two figures actually disagree with Erdogan’s friendship with Russia – and Erdogan’s actions to silence freedom of expression and democratic values during his leadership.
However, Turkey has become a crucial ally for the West, even though it is sometimes difficult and unpredictable.
What makes Türkiye important to the West?
Turkey is an important member of the NATO and Western military alliance.
Erdogan continues to provide military support to Ukraine as do other NATO members, despite his close ties to Russia.
As a result he was able to broker a deal with Russia for Putin to remove the blockade on Ukrainian wheat exports to countries that needed it.
After long deliberations, Erdogan also finally gave approval to Russia’s neighbor Finland to join NATO.
In the past, Erdogan really wanted Turkey to join the European Union. However, now Erdogan is increasingly voicing his dream of “making Turkey great again”.
For him it is important to have a more independent foreign policy. Thus, in recent years, he has created a highly transactional relationship with his allies.
The US government has long been trying to lobby Erdogan for him to agree to Sweden joining NATO given Sweden’s access to the Baltic Sea to fight Russia.
Western countries hope Turkey’s difficult economic situation and the possibility that Erdogan will have to focus on stabilizing his finances and need foreign investment, can be a fulcrum to push forward his approval of Sweden to become a member of NATO.
Türkiye and Hungary are the two countries that still refuse Sweden’s request to join NATO.
Meanwhile, President Macron is worried about the migration of Syrians to the European Union and hopes to get certainty from President Erdogan as soon as possible.
During the migration crisis in 2015, more than a million refugees and asylum seekers – mostly from Syria – made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to the European Union on smugglers’ boats.
To prevent a repeat of the incident, the European Union made an agreement with Türkiye.
They provide huge funds and visa-free access for Turks who want to enter the European Union (although this did not happen after Erdogan jailed his critics and political opponents).
In return, Erdogan will seek to prevent undocumented migrants from leaving Turkish territory and entering the European Union.
However, the overflowing number of Syrian refugees in Turkey has drawn a lot of protests from its residents.
In fact, during the general elections, all political parties promised to provide a solution to the “migrant problem”.
The European Union suspects that there is a possibility that the refugees will be expelled by Turkey and returned to Syria which could put them at risk.
Not only that, Turkey could allow migrant smugglers to return and send ships for asylum seekers and refugees to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
On the other hand, European Union leaders are also being unfriendly to Turkey due to their member, Greece, which is facing disputes with Erdogan over a number of islands in the Aegean Sea.
Meanwhile, Cyprus is still holding grudges after Erdogan came up with a solution that united Greece and Turkey for the territory divided by the Turkish invasion that occurred nearly 50 years ago.
The West used to see Turkey as a strategic country because of its position as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. However, Türkiye’s status has now changed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Few expected such a sweeping policy shift as Erdogan entered his third decade in power. However, Türkiye’s allies are monitoring his decisions closely
Because, whatever Türkiye does will have an impact on them.
Source : BBC