On February 10 President Erdogan of Turkey insulted the United States, but it was not surprising that Washington failed to reply to his arrogant offensiveness because he is a treasured tool in its relentless anti-Russia campaign. In the context of the US-supported Kurds in the area of Kobani in northern Syria, whom Mr Erdogan’s army is illegally bombarding with massed artillery, he demanded of the US «How can we trust you? Is it me that is your partner or is it the terrorists in Kobani?»
The only US response came in the feeble words of Defence Secretary Ash Carter on being asked by a reporter if he had «any reaction to President Erdogan’s comments yesterday about America contributing to a pool of blood by supporting Kurdish fighters in Syria?» Instead of putting Erdogan in his place and saying he is a dangerous buffoon, Carter replied that «obviously Turkey is a good and longstanding ally of the United States. We’re not going to agree with them in all matters. We staunchly agree with them, and always have, that we oppose terrorism in any form... we also continue to work very closely with Turkey».
Of course Washington is going to work closely with Turkey. After all it was President Erdogan who ordered the shooting down of a Russian aircraft last November, and Washington can rely on him to indulge in bombastic confrontation against Russia at the drop of a fez. Following the terrorist bombing in Ankara on February 17 Russia «expressed its deep condolences to the people of Turkey» but the response from the Turkish government was that they were «warning Russia once more: if these terror attacks continue, they will be as responsible as the YPG [the US-supported Kurdish militia group in Syria which combats Islamic State fanatics and which has emphatically denied being involved in the bombing]».
It is embarrassing for Presidents Obama and Erdogan that their aims are so divergent: Mr Obama wants to overthrow Syria’s President Assad, presumably in the same fashion as he facilitated the murder of Libyan leader Gaddafi in 2011 («We came, we saw: he died» in the laughing words of Hillary Clinton) and to destroy Islamic State barbarians. On the other hand, Erdogan’s aim is to divide and suppress the Kurdish people, especially the fifteen million Kurds in Turkey, because they have the temerity to seek a voice in their own region.
Mr Erdogan’s antics on the international stage have caused unease for many months, and his recent US-directed display of irritation was no more bizarre or malevolent than any of his other actions. At the end of January he again claimed that a Russian aircraft had violated Turkish airspace and threatened «consequences». Even the western media did not follow up on this allegation, because it was so obviously untrue – but neither did any western media report that «Turkish Air Force fighter jets violated Greek airspace 22 times on Monday February 15, according to a news release from the Greek General Staff».
Greece is a member of NATO, but not an important one because it is not in favour of confronting Russia, with which the Athens government prefers cooperation and trade. So when Greek airspace is violated by Turkish fighter aircraft there is no reaction from the United States. When Secretary of State John Kerry was in Athens last December a reporter asked him «does Greece have the right to protect its borders? And I’m talking about violation of Greek airspace, just like in the case of Turkey. Or are there two standards in this?»
Kerry is essentially a decent man, and is usually straightforward, but could only reply that «Well, no, of course there shouldn’t be two standards... I simply encourage Greece and Turkey... as NATO allies... to work together to maintain good neighbourly relations».
Turkey will never try to maintain good relations with Greece, because Erdogan knows very well that he can insult, confront and threaten it as much as he likes without US or NATO disapproval.
Neither will there be the slightest reproach from Washington when Erdogan manages to achieve his most important personal objective, which is to replace his country’s system of parliamentary government with an all-powerful executive presidency. This, indeed, is the reason for all his bluster and arrogance.
Most members of Erdogan’s deeply Islamic Justice and Development Party are in favour of their leader becoming Turkey’s supreme ruler. If they manage to sway things in the present parliament, they will alter the Constitution so that «the head of state would have the power to issue executive and legislative decrees, which effectively would mean that both the executive and legislative powers would be concentrated in the president’s hands. Parliament would retain its legislative function, but the president would have veto power over the laws it passes... The president would appoint the ministers and half of the members of higher courts, and would have the power to dissolve parliament».
Some western media have noted this markedly authoritarian ambition and in January The New York Times stated that «Mr Erdogan, who is pushing to imbue the largely ceremonial presidency with sweeping executive powers, told reporters that ‘In a unitary system [such as Turkey’s] a presidential system can work perfectly. There are already examples in the world. You can see it when you look at Hitler’s Germany’... Mr Erdogan did not elaborate, but his comment raised the question of why the leader of one of the world’s most influential countries, an American ally and member of NATO, would mention Hitler in the context of his own tenure».
President Erdogan is backed enthusiastically by his prime minister, Mr Davutoglu, who visited Kiev on February 15 to highlight Turkey’s anti-Russia posture. It was unfortunate but amusing that Mr Davutoglu met with President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk at the very time that «Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has asked Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to resign, saying he has lost the support of the governing coalition».
Yatsenyuk – «Yats», to use the affectionate diminutive bestowed on him by the US State Department functionary Victoria Nuland who said before Kiev’s US-supported coup of 2014 that «I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience» to be the US frontman in the replacement regime – is a spent force, and neither he nor his equally corrupt president will last much longer in power. But they and their successors will continue to be sword-bearers in Washington’s anti-Russia campaign – and will in consequence be as benevolently regarded as the energetically erratic Erdogan.
Erdogan is out of control to the point of verging on derangement, but that means nothing to Washington which is not choosy about who it selects as allies, just so long as they are anti-Russia. The US, however, should bear in mind the old adage that «He who sups with the devil should use a long spoon».