While the ceasefire in Syria that was agreed on by Russia and the US is being successfully implemented, the possible Turkish intervention in Syria that at some point seemed imminent is being gradually pushed aside from the front pages of international media. Yet, everyone understands one thing – without Washington’s approval Ankara would never dare to intervene even if it was supported by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. Yet, those three states have found themselves in no position to embark on a new military adventure due to the dire internal conflicts provoked by the Saudi oil dumping strategy and aggravated by their involvement in the protracted bloody conflict in Yemen.
Under these circumstances in the last few days Erdogan’s rhetorics has been getting less and less aggressive, which is of little wonder since he has managed to spoil Turkey’s with both the US other NATO states in a nick of time. Moreover, there’s a growing dissatisfaction within Turkey with Erdogan’s undeclared war on Kurds that constitute over 30% of Turkey’s population. In fact, a full-scale war on the Kurdish population is being waged now in south-eastern Anatolia, where Turkish soldiers and policemen are getting killed by dozens, while the Turkish president is still trying to deal with Syria’s Kurds who have gained enough power to respond adequately to most any threat. Erdogan’s bet on the Syrian Turkomans has also failed, since they preferred to make peace with the government of Bashar al-Assad, instead of fighting the legitimate Syrian authorities as Turkey’s President demanded them to. Thus, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has put the country he was entrusted with on the brink of disintegration.
And that’s exactly where the effect of Russian sanctions got kicking in, that were imposed by Moscow against Ankara in response to the downing of the Russian military aircraft over Syria. With the vacation season approaching rapidly Turkey will found itself deprived of 3.5 million Russian tourists that were visiting Turkey every year. The panic in the tourism sector of the Turkish economy has been on the rise recently with countless hotels in Antalya, Bodrum, Marmaris and Fethiye being put for sale. After all, Russians are not the only one that won’t go to Turkey this year, since Europeans are going to be repelled as well by the massive exodus of migrants from Syria and Iraq that are being shipped by the EU by the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. It’s just too dangerous to go to Turkey these days. And the fact that ISIS has been planning new terrorist attacks in Turkey doesn’t make it any more attractive for foreign tourists. The agriculture is in a shady state too, since it tasked with feeding tourists and exporting its products to Russia, and none of these options are no longer available. If the political and socio-economic crisis in Turkey will be getting worse, it won’t take long for Erdogan to be impeached. But he will be most certainly be replaced by his faithful ally – Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu or his old contender – the former President Abdullah Gül that is being heavily supported by the US.
Under these circumstance Ankara decided that it will be betting on the EU and Germany in particular. Experts, however, perceive the agreements signed by Turkey and the EU on the way that those actors will be settling the migrant crisis as a case of shamelessblackmail. Yet, it’s unlikely that the proposed solution is going to help, since the silly stubbornness of German Counselor Angela Merkel has alread forced certain EU states to commit a gross violation of international law. Slovenia has almost completely closed its border for illegal immigrants. Now only those in dire need and those who seek asylum directly from the Slovenian authorities will be allowed in. Thus, one of the main transit routes from the Middle East to the EU has been closed. Immediately after the announcement Serbian authorities stated that they are going to close the border with Macedonia and Bulgaria for all those who do not have visas or other documents authorizing their stay in Serbia.
The harsh steps taken by Slovenian and Serbian authorities have become the response to the preliminary plan that was agreed on by the EU authorities and Ankara on March 9. According to this plan, all migrants that will be coming to the EU from Turkey by the sea are going to be returned back, while the EU makes its visa regulations as loyal towards Turks as it can possibly can along with handing over up to 3 billion euros to Ankara. One of the pivotal aspects of this plan is the “one for one” agreement which implies that each illegal migrant in the EU will be replaced by a legal one that will come from Turkey. The influential British Financial Times journal notes that there’s a number of challenges that could jeopardize this part of the plan: the dubious legal grounds, the possibility of a sharp opposition that some EU countries may present, the technical complexity of its implementation and the dire absence of optimism among Europeans at the prospects of accommodating at least 75 million Turks legally swarming the EU states.
Yet, the most serious challenge Erdogan has to face is Russia and its attitude towards him. Can Turkey just lose a country that has literally been feeding it for over 25 years due to the loony fantasies that Erdogan has? The number of those that are going to lose their jobs due to the recent rift in Russian-Turkish relations is estimated in millions. But at this state it’s hard to imagine that sooner or later those two state will sit at the negotiating table. Turkey has not only underestimated the power of Russia in Syria, but has also made a strategic mistake of pushing all in on the West. Now Turkey has an extremely limited range of steps it can make in the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and has nothing up its sleeve to apply pressure on Washington. Unlike Erdogan, Putin is not going to lose his support in the Russian Federation any time soon, since he is perceived as a strong leader that has managed to establish equal footing with the United States.
Of course, it is too early to say anything about the Syrian crisis ending any time soon and to declare Russia the “winner” in this conflict. Moscow was forced to get involved in the war in Syria at the moment when it couldn’t calculate the consequences of this step. It had to bear the burden of the economic crisis, restore Crimea’s economy, deal with the events in Ukraine. But Western experts got it wrong this time – it remained standing strong.
It is no accident the US will keep trying to keep its allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia away from Syria even if the ceasefire fails. After all, NATO and the majority of its leaders have no guts to get in a fair fight. Western powers do fear the escalation of the conflict and a possible clash with Russia, especially against the background of Saudi Arabia is rapidly losing any influence of the situation Syria, while the influence Iran enjoys in the region is increasing daily. The crumbling Wahhabi state is running the risk of provoking a new Arab Spring wave with its fall, but this time it will be directed against the West and its allies.