UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s visit to Istanbul on 27 September passed almost unnoticed in the European media.
Yet could anything be more interesting than the intrigue that has arisen in relations between the unorthodox British politician and Turkish President Erdoğan? Why, as recently as spring of this year, Boris Johnson got a taste of international stardom, so to speak, with his widely-publicised and lewd poem about the Turkish leader:
By «goat», Johnson was referring to Angela Merkel, who had just signed an agreement on refugees with Erdoğan.
The poem was not simply a product of the poet’s propensity for amusement, but was written for a competition being run by the British magazine The Spectator for the best limerick of the year. And the former mayor and poet actually won the competition. Erdoğan has never been so insulted in all his life, since the Turkish leader is never mocked.
And he did not react to the insulting attack in any way, which in itself was a bad sign for the Englishman. At that time, our poet was the mayor of London and there was no real danger of him meeting with either Erdoğan or Merkel, so he was free to mock them as much as his culture allowed.
But fate had a surprise in store for Boris Johnson. In his new post, he was forced to face the long road to Ankara and a meeting with the Turkish leader, who he called a «wanker» and who is rumoured to be incensed.
To be frank, the meeting was probably not a pleasant one. It is true that in today’s world, Johnson had no need to worry about direct and brutal violence from Erdoğan, both are educated men after all (although Johnson’s poem gives no indication of this), but some other dirty trick in the sophisticated style of the East could not be ruled out. Who knows what could happen to a British minister in a foreign country.
But the minister-cum-poet turned out to be rather resourceful. Johnson revealed that he himself was a Turk, since his great grandfather was the last Minister of the Interior of the Ottoman Empire and was murdered during the Turkish War of Independence. What’s more, it turns out that both his great uncle and his cousin worked in the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is all completely true and there was no way for the Turks to get around Johnson’s bloodline.
They were slightly taken aback by his unexpected revelations, of course, but what can you do? You can’t deride one of your own. The options for revenge, if in fact there were any, remained unused and the visit took place without a hitch. The descendants of the Janissaries made it seem as if they had forgotten all about Johnson’s antics. Incidentally, he promised a lot of things in Turkey and it is entirely possible that these were not meant in jest. Among other things, the minister tried to persuade his Turkish colleagues to sign a «huge trade agreement» with Britain. And why not? The European Union has once again given Turkey the cold shoulder and Britain itself does not want to remain in the EU. It would be like two lonely souls coming together. Free from obligations, the two could form a new relationship. Who knows, anything is possible with these ministers-cum-sonneteers.
It’s going to be interesting to find out what secrets Boris Johnson will reveal about his family tree during his first official visit to Moscow as Foreign Secretary. On the one hand, he doesn’t need to worry about the same kind of hazards he faced in Turkey, but he has nevertheless managed to cause some mischief here. Not so long ago, he suggested that an international investigation be launched into the actions of Vladimir Putin in Syria and declared that «he is in some instances firing the revolver» in the country. Moscow has heard worse, of course, but any arrogance like that leaves a residue.
Will we hear about Boris Johnson’s Russian ancestry this time? There must be a reason why someone chose to call him Boris.
And there is no doubt it would be to the minister’s advantage, since we don’t betray our own either. In fact, if he is almost one of us by blood, we could ask him to take part in the next poetry competition and write a limerick about UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her notions about pre-emptive nuclear strikes.
You never know, he might come up with something amusing.