Erdoghan and Putin: The Bully Is Bullied

President Erdoghan's policy of zero problems, so far as Turkey's regional policy is concerned, was a plausible idea. From being surrounded by enemies, to being the friendly, benign big old responsible actor in such traditionally turbulent regions like the Balkans and the Middle East could have been a model for other trouble spots in the world. But it is not, simply because the policy, so much praised by Erdoghan and his AK Islamic party as a model of the friendly, moderate Muslim state, is no more. Those who can point to even one of Turkey's neighbors as being currently friendly to Turkey deserve the Pulitzer prize for investigative journalism. Erdoghan's regional foreign policy is in shambles, and it may be that the only exception is ISIS, a new regional actor, but a very dangerous one.

One should not be a great fan of President Putin of Russia, and yet to view very seriously the Russian accusations about Turkey's complicity with ISIS actions, if not its behind the scenes support for the murderous Jihadists. There are so many reports attesting to that, and while they cannot be verified beyond any reasonable doubt, the extent of them , coupled with Turkish actions on the ground, may indicate that there is no smoke without fire. But the policy of zero problems did not collapse due to the alleged Turkish -ISIS relationships. It has much more to do, with the growing sense, of undeclared, but actual''neo-Ottomanism'' Turkish foreign policy. No one in the Balkans can possibly be fascinated with this aspect of Turkish foreign policy. They have their long historic memories, and long legacies of suspicion and fear do not dissipate only by slogans like ''zero problems''. Nor has ''neo Ottomanism'' ring bells in the Middle East, not in Shi'ite Iran, not in Egypt, whose relations with Turkey are all but frozen, due to the intolerable Turkish support to the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, the mother movement of all the current Jihadist movements of the Middle East, Al-Qa'ida and ISIS with its Egyptian affiliates are included. So , there is so much bad blood between Turkey under Erdoghan and some of its neighbors. Take, for example Cyprus, in which the Turks established an illegal ''independent '' republic, a country which is also under constant Turkish threats regarding the exploration and production of natural gas off its coasts. Take Greece as another example, being a country whose air space is constantly violated by the Turkish air force, something which P.M Tsipras was quick to mention in his unorthodox tweet addressed to his Turkish counterpart. Take Israel , which formally apologized for the unnecessary killing of Turkish Muslim activists upon the Havi Marmara ship which tried provocatively to get to Hamas-controlled Gaza. Apology notwithstanding, Erdoghan did not live up to his commitment to normalize relations with Israel, as part of the deal leading to P.M Netanyahu apology.

Turkish attitudes under Erdoghan were characterized, on too many occasions, by nothing short of bullying, and it is not a problem concerning the personal style of President Erdoghan, rather it is a diplomatic strategy, which seems to have come to its point of complete collapse with the current crisis between Turkey and Russia. Finally, President Erdoghan found his match . Vladimir Putin is a no-nonsense leader, and when spat on the face, he does not think that it is a blessed rain. The Turks acted stupidly when their leadership ordered the shooting down of the Russian aircraft. Be clever, not right, or do not act always as a bully, in short, do not be the Erdoghan of recent years. Too much to expect. It may be that the Russian reaction is way overblown, but it seems , that Putin is engaged in an exercise , the implications of which go beyond one isolated incident. He wants to restore a balance of deterrence with Turkey. If Erdoghan is the ''New Sultan'', why not Putin playing the role of the old Imperial Russia, dealing with its Turkish neighbor?

Erdoghan is an astute politician, and the agreement he signed with Europe about preventing refugees from moving via Turkey to Europe is an indication of that. It is also a European signal to Putin, that the EU is on the side of Turkey, so it shows that the Turks and their allies have still some good cards to play
with. And so does Vladimir Putin. Just imagine, that Russia will curtail or outright stop the flow of natural gas to Turkey, exactly as the winter approaches. Who know, maybe then Erdohgan will buy Israeli natural gas.Not so quickly though, as Netanyahu and Putin seem to have cemented an interesting and potentially significant new alliance.