In the literature there is a term “smart neutrality” – this expression describes the policy of Kemal in relation to the great powers. It became known thanks to Frank Weber’s book on Turkey’s position in World War II. However, this policy goes a little further. It describes the path that the founder of modern Turkey moved flexibly between the highly conflicting interests of the powerful states of the West, Central Europe and Russia.
Kemal understood the deep error of Turkey, which sided with Germany in World War I and turned against the West. And he invested in a new diplomacy, the essence of which was to be able to take something away from everyone, in fact, giving nothing to anyone except smiles and oriental promises.
It is a policy that Turkey did not participate in World War II, but wanted to join the winning team a few weeks before it ended. A policy that prevailed for decades, right up to the beginning of the 21st century.
Turkey adhered to one version with great success throughout the Cold War. Based on this, Erdogan started and walked during the first decade of his rule, ultimately it was the abandonment of her that brought his country to the most unfavorable point in the last hundred years – in terms of balance with the current great powers, especially with the West, which, in after all, they matter the most in this case.
But there is a deep irony in the story: Erdogan abandoned the policy of “smart neutrality” not because he failed, but because he succeeded. There is no doubt that he has launched his country’s role in the international arena in a way never before. But that was not enough for him. His ambition was not for Turkey to be a predictable factor for great powers, but to become a great power as well. But his successes blinded him. He believed that Turkey could become the equivalent of states such as the United States or Russia.
And the time came when, instead of continuing to maneuver between them within the framework of the Kemalist diplomatic tradition, he wanted to impose himself on them as a participant in the new security architecture. He did it with Syria, with Libya, with Russian missiles, with the F-35 – first when he came as a partner, and then when he indiscriminately despised American reaction. In the end, there is no need for a long analysis of what lies behind all this: this is clearly visible in the images of the palace he built in Ankara, especially from his image on the golden throne on which he is photographed.
He does not dress like a sultan, but is already seated on his throne. No other leader of the 21st century does this. This throne, which Erdogan himself built and which he is overthrowing today.
Now is the time when Turkey is about to commit suicide. Erdogan turned it against the West. He pursued this stubbornly and decisively. He believed that he was equal to the West and could impose anything on him. He played – and already lost. At the same time, his bigotry is such that it threatens his already troubled alliance with Russia when he calls for a review of the straits regime.
Now Erdogan is alone. And it remains to be seen whether he will make the next mistake, which will be fatal for Turkey and which he constantly threatens: to attack Greece. Which is now the new frontier of the West. If he does this, then they will attack him already.