The Turkish government announced today that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will visit Russia on 9 August, an official state visit. at the highest levels of communication. The announcement was made by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek thusly (translating from the Russian):
“Mr. Ambassador has informed us, that our respected President just confirmed, that on the 9th (of August) he (=Erdoğan) will arrive in St. Petersburg (Russia). Today we find ourselves in the situation where we must, as quickly and expeditiously as possible, normalize the situation and normalize relations (with Russia), which had been disrupted on the 24th of November 2015.”
Everybody knows the backstory: How Turkey shot down a Russian jet over Syria, and the two nations had a terrible quarrel about it. And then suddenly, things changed, and now it is time to be friends again. Quoting Russian Deputy Premier Arkady Dvorkovich, who was tasked with putting together the high-level meeting and its agenda (a process which normally takes months to arrange and organize; so this is very rushed indeed):
“We [presumably he is referring to himself and his Turkish counterpart Şimşek] are meeting on the orders of our leaders for the purpose of setting up the agenda of the talks between Russia and Turkey. It is necessary for us to establish a substantive foundation for the meeting…”
Obviously, like any neighbors who have had a falling out and are now willing to reconcile, Russia and Turkey have a lot of things to talk about. Among the items on the agenda, a few are known already, for example, securing the safety of the skies for airline travel, as well as the safety of tourists. This has been a big issue in the past. Russian tourists crave to travel to Turkey, yet do not want to be stranded and abandoned when they get there; Turkey needs the tourist income; nor does either side want airline travel to become a highly dangerous risk.
Some Backstory, Without a Twist
Political reconciliation between Russia and Turkey began even before the failed coup attempt (July 15) against President Erdoğan. Back on June 27 President Putin opened his mailbox and found a nice letter from Erdoğan, in which the latter apologized for shooting down the plane and killing the Russian pilot, Oleg Peshkov. Erdoğan remembered to seal the letter with a little heart sticker, and even drew a little teardrop over the letter “I”.
Two days later Putin and Erdoğan spoke over the phone and agreed to try to normalize relations between the two countries. The conversation was stilted at first. There were some tears and some reproaches. But then they remembered all the things they have in common, and how they both hate some of the other mean kids in the world.
And then a bunch of stuff happened, including the coup attempt in Turkey. Erdoğan managed to somersault his way out of danger, and stuck his landing. The Turkish leader then proceeded on an epic rampage against his enemies. And in this short amount of time, the vengeful Sultan has removed more kebab than even Ratko Mladić ever dreamed of.
Erdoğan blames primarily the United States and NATO for trying to oust him. Namely, in classic CIA fashion, using a mild-mannered cleric named Fethullah Gülen, as their catspaw. Some people poo-poo this theory, they say Erdoğan is just being paranoid. They believe that the conspiracy must go way deeper than this, circles within circles, and twists within twists, just like some Jason Bourne flic.
On the other hand, Erdoğan is probably right. This was a reasonably straightforward CIA coup attempt. These guys do this as a routine part of their daily job. Okay, so they were just phoning it in this time around, and that’s why it failed. But sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar.
This other piece in VZGLIAD provides some metrics of Erdoğan’s victory-lap rampage:
On Saturday Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım announced that “the number of people arrested in connection with the attempted military coup is 13,002 people. This consists of 1,329 policemen; 8,831 soldiers; 2,100 judges; 689 prosecutors.” [yalensis: er… I added up these subtotals, and I only got 12,949 people, which leaves 53 people unaccounted for??]. Besides these arrested people, the Turkish Minister of Education announced the firing of 15,200 educational workers who are suspected of having something to do with the coup. In addition, the Ministry called for dispatching into early retirement something like 1,577 Deans and Professor of State and private colleges.
This last bit, about the educational purges, reflects the presence, among the coup plotters, of spiritual guides from the Gülen movement, and probably also other radical Islamist groupings who were trying to stir things up.
Ankara has accused a General named Akın Öztürk of being the ringleader of the coup. But says that the coup-makers were inspired by the ideology of Gülen. Meanwhile, Gülen is holed up in safety in the U.S. and is highly dubious that he will be extradited back to Turkey.
Winners and Losers
In addition to the United States, which threw the dice and lost, another big loser here is Europe. That second VZGLIAD piece which I linked, begins with a blistering blast directed by Turkey against the haughty Europeans.
This spat began when Europe (as embodied by Jean-Claude Juncker) emitted a stern warning to Ankara not to restore the death penalty. See, the Europeans were worried about all this rampaging and how Ankara might put to death some of the coup plotters. And Juncker warned the Turks that if they did, then they could say bye-bye to their aspirations to join Civilized Europe as an equal partner.
Turkey shot back angrily: Here is Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu during his interview on the TV channel Haberturk (translated from Russian):
“Europe is not Turkey’s master. We will not permit Europe to speak with us in the language of threats, nor look down their nose at us. If the EU has questions about this issue [of restoration of the death penalty], then we are prepared to discuss them. Already half a century now, they have held us back, at the entry-way to Europe, even though we have always defended European values.
“We have fulfilled all their conditions for removing visa restrictions, we dotted every I and crossed every T. But just look at how they behaved in the past few days. Juncker said one thing in the morning, a different thing after lunch, still a different thing in the evening. The EU representatives may speak with us, they are just not allowed to threaten us.”