By Matt Trinder
TURKEY’S embrace of hard power tactics could see it having to face more aggressive neighbours, a leading regional expert told Redaction Politics.
Nicholas Danforth, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, an independent think tank, argued that while a more interventionist Turkey was winning it more diplomatic leverage, such tactics were not without risk for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
This comes as Armenia accused the Turkish military of aiding the Azeri army in its conflict with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region-something which Ankara denies.
Mr Danforth said: “The risk of [the hard power] policy for Turkey is that it will generate increasing hostility from other countries in the region, who will intensify their efforts to work together in countering Turkish aggression.
“This will leave Turkey further isolated and encircled, creating a viscous cycle in which Ankara is tempted to resort to force even more often.”
Many fear Turkey’s support of Azerbaijan could see it drawn into a conflict with regional superpower Russia, which has a military base in Armenia.
A Moscow-brokered temporary ceasefire was declared earlier today after talks, described by Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan as “rather difficult,” but both sides are already accusing the other of breaking it.
Nagorno-Narabakh is officially part of Azerbaijan but run by ethnic Armenians. The two former Soviet republics went to war over the territory between 1988 and 1994, eventually reaching a ceasefire but no long-term peace agreement.
Tens of thousands are estimated to have died. At least 300 people have been killed and thousands displaced in the latest confrontation, which erupted on September 27, with fears the actual number could be a lot higher as the figures have not yet been independently verified.
Erdogan has insisted a lasting peace depends on “Armenians’ withdrawal from every span of Azerbaijani territory.”
In a speech on October 2, he said: “Turkey stands with and will continue to stand with friendly and brotherly Azerbaijan with all our means and all our heart.”
Further examples of increased Turkish involvement in regional affairs include Erdogan’s meddling in the Syrian and Libyan civil wars, as well as his illegal exploration of mineral wealth in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
Mr Danforth added: “Domestically, of course, Turkey’s military interventions have only helped Erdogan.
“Because he controls the media, he can milk them for maximum propaganda value when they’re successful and manage the fallout through misdirection and misrepresentation when they’re not.”
The sale of one of Turkey’s largest media conglomerates, Dogan Media Company, to a pro-government businessman in 2018, was seen by many as Erdoğan’s ruling AKP party’s strengthening its control of the media.
This followed a massive purge of state institutions after an unsuccessful coup attempt against Erdoğan in July 2016.
His grip on power was seriously challenged by military officers, long seen as defenders of Kemal Atatürk’s secular republic, declared after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following its defeat in World War One.
Erdoğan’s crackdown, which included mass arrests and show trials, was heavily criticized by Western politicians and human rights groups.
His vows to tighten government control over social media following alleged insults directed at his family on Twitter in July have added to concerns that further restrictions on free speech are inevitable.
Nicholas Danforth is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow for the Program on Turkey at the Hellenic Foundation for European And Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), an independent, non-governmental, nonprofit think tank, based in Athens, Greece.
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