‘Too late for Erdogan to recover from his disastrous policy’

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's President Vladimir Putin © Murad Sezer
President Erdogan could have been remembered as an important statesman of this era, said political writer Dan Glazebrook. However, the Turkish president preferred a disastrous policy and threw all his chances away, he added.

On Monday, the Kremlin received an apology from Turkey's President Recep Erdogan over the death of a Russian pilot. The serviceman's jet was downed by Turkish war planes over Syria last November.

Michael Maloof, a former Pentagon official, commenting on what could have been behind Turkey’s apology, said “it was geopolitical reality.”

“Coming unexpectedly as it did; that was a good gesture. It is going to be interesting to see what the Russian response will be, whether they are going to reopen trade relations and also tourism,” he told RT.

“Erdogan has realized he has isolated himself pretty much in the region. You can see him reaching out right now to the Israelis; you can see him trying to mitigate things with the Americans. So it is going to be interesting to see how far he goes, but there clearly is a continuing problem in the relationship,” Maloof said. 

Erdogan’s apology was a good step, “a good effort” in an attempt to improve relations with Moscow, Maloof said. However, it will be a long process as there are issues that continue to “strain the relationship” between the two states and will they have “to be worked out.” Among those he named Turkey’s continuing “support for the jihadi Salafists in neighboring Syria; the differences between Moscow and Ankara over Syria itself,” as well as “the pressure coming in from the Saudis.” It is going to be a long drawn out process – I don’t think it is going to be something immediate. 

It took Ankara seven months to apologize for the jet incident. Political writer Dan Glazebrook explains the timing of the announcement by Turkey realizing that the Syrian government will not be removed.

“It has finally dawned on them that the Syrian government is not going away; Assad is not going to go away; that the whole plan to destroy the country along with Britain and the US and the Gulf allies is in tatters and the Syrian government is going to survive; Assad is going to survive. And if they want any kind of role in shaping the future of Syria and any kind of influence there and to avoid the last of their proxy groups getting wiped out, then they are going to come to some sort of accommodation with Russia,” he said. “Their whole attitude towards both Russia and Syria has been utterly self-defeating. It is absolutely clear that the long-term economic and geo-political and strategic logic for Turkey in its relations with Syria and Russia would be to have friendly relations with them,” Glazebrook told RT.

The analyst suggests that Erdogan could have been pressured by some other parties to apologize. 

“The shooting down of the airplane itself, and then the actions that followed, and the desperate attempt a couple of months back to try and pressure NATO forces to send in some sort of ground force; or their suggestions that Turkey and the Saudis might send in their own ground force – these were really indicative of last-ditch desperate efforts. And those were the last –ditch efforts and they came to nothing,” Glazebrook said. 

If Erdogan had played his hand differently, he could have been remembered as a major important statesman of this era, the analyst suggests. Before 2011, he recalled, the Turkish leader “was rallying people against Israel’s policies in Palestine; remember the events of Davos – when he walked out during the Israeli President speech…”

“He has thrown that all away, and it is too late for him to ever recover from this. But at least he is making some attempt now to go back on his disastrous policy,” he concluded.

Boaz Bismuth, journalist and former diplomat told RT that business and economic interests are very much likely to be among the reasons that made the Turkish leader – described by insiders as a very proud man – send an apology to the Kremlin.

“Turkey under Erdogan – the biggest success was the national feeling. Turkey was successful, the growth was sometimes 7.5 percent; Turkish people had money in the pockets. That is also important,” he said. “In order to continue and satisfy your people, you need also business to go on.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.