Erdogan is dreaming to revive the Ottoman Empire, but as they rightly say dreams are for the competent and from the looks of it Erdogan may be the antonym of competence. He is sucking up to Putin as his Islamisation of secular Turkey is finding no takers in the western world. However, it is a helpless move on Turkey’s part or else how can one explain building friendship by buying S400s from Russia and in the same breath engage militarily with it on three fronts (be it direct or through proxies). These three fronts are Libya, Syria and recently Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict which is heating up. If we add these up to all the other places Turkey is engaging with an intent of confrontation, it has just taken on more than it can chew. And that is the last position one should be in while eyeing on to Russia with Putin at its helm.
The most recent of the three theaters of conflict among Russia and Turkey is the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Although Turkey has been an enemy of Armenia, give all the historical memory of the Armenian genocide by the Turks, there is also a longstanding border dispute over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Russians have been on the side of Armenia for long and have kept a constant military presence which is 5000 strong with additional weapon and logistics if and when needed. Whereas, Turks have been a longstanding ally of Azerbaijan and recently started military exercises in different parts of Azerbaijan, to which the Armenian government responded by accusing Ankara of undercutting international efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict and posing a serious security threat to Armenia. The secretary of Armenia’s Security Council said on August 2 that Yerevan counts on Moscow’s support in its efforts to counter that threat. The situation has escalated to such an extent that as late as on 27th September, the Armenian side blamed Azerbaijan for attacking civilian settlements and claimed to have destroyed two enemy helicopters and three drones in response. Armenia had declared martial law and total military mobilization. The situation is on tender threads and can escalate to a full-scale war at any time. This confidence on the Armenian side is backed by a promise of Russian support and by the understanding that Erdogan has put Turkey in such a messy situation that it will be pounded blue and black at the hands of Moscow.
The other fronts consist of Syria & Libya. In Syria, Russia supports the ruling secular government of Bashar al-Assad and Turkey supports its own anti-Kurdish proxies. Recently the Syrian Foreign Minister called Turkey region’s main sponsor of terrorism. It is one area where Russia has stood resolute and has succeeded in doing what it intended, i.e. keep Assad in power and not led warlordism to enter further near the southern borders of Russia.
When it comes to Libya, Moscow supports the eastern-based forces of Khalifa Haftar, while Ankara has helped the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) repel Haftar’s offensive. However, Egypt and U.A.E too support Haftar, thus making his case stronger. The recent announcement that both sides are nearer to reaching an agreement and ceasefire in Libya. Showcasing the Russian diplomatic victory in bringing the other side to the table on its terms.
When we look into these three arenas of conflict among Erdogan and Putin, it becomes clear how Moscow has cornered Ankara and is beating it in all these three positions relentlessly. Putin by calmly dealing with Erdogan while keeping the illusion of friendship and defeating him in geopolitical Russian Roulette has showcased that whatever Ankara plans Russia is ten steps ahead and Erdogan’s decision of engaging Putin was hitting way above his position. The problem is that, the Islamic revival agenda that Turkey is pursuing will force him into very obvious and absurd choices and the country will suffer because of the differential between the dream and the capacity of Erdogan and if things go any further ad they are bound to in case of Armenia-Azerbaijan he will be humiliated beyond redemption at the hands of Putin.