(Washington, D.C.) — This week, with Turkey simultaneously playing host to negotiations between Russia and Ukraine while attending discussions to extract concessions over Sweden and Finland’s NATO applications, the Turkish Democracy Project (TDP) has called for a firm stance from NATO members against Recep Erdogan’s pattern of coy brinkmanship and underhand courting of Vladimir Putin.
On Wednesday, Turkey played host to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, with Ankara nominally seeking to advance discussions to secure the export of Ukrainian grain currently blockaded by the Russian navy. With the Turkish economy already spiraling out of control – inflation is currently at 73%, a 23-year high, while food prices have risen 91.6% year-on-year – Erdogan has a vested interest in the release of Ukrainian grain. The Turkish President also has a further ulterior motive in hosting talks: with Turkey planning to launch a new cross-border offensive in northern Syria against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a move which requires Moscow’s tacit approval.
Also this week, Turkey will be attending talks in Brussels with Swedish and Finnish officials, as well as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, to discuss Ankara’s objections to the Nordic countries’ bids to join NATO. With no other members of the alliance seeking to block the move, Erdogan has officially explained his obstinance as motivated by concerns about Stockholm and Helsinki’s support for Kurdish separatists. But experts have noted Ankara’s established pattern of providing diplomatic cover for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who stands to benefit from the Nordic countries’ diplomatic isolation. Erdogan’s assistance to Moscow has also included a refusal to join international sanctions as well as an open invite to Russian oligarchs to relocate to Turkey.
Commenting on Ankara’s unreliable foreign policy, Ambassador Mark Wallace, CEO of the Turkish Democracy Project said:
“President Erdogan has perfected the art of virtue signaling to NATO allies while substantively supporting Vladimir Putin. Some of the ships that are presently bombarding the Ukrainian coast are ones that Erdogan himself allowed to slip through the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits before invoking the 1936 Montreux Convention, meaning Ankara is now making a show of unpicking a blockade it helped to create. Meanwhile, the Turkish President sows discord at a time of existential crisis for NATO. NATO must stand firm against President Erdogan, who ultimately needs the alliance more than it needs him.”