Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, The University of Tokyo

Every month, another conflict occurs around Turkey. Every time, the same story goes and we are accustomed to it.

Turkey stokes feuds against one after another of its neighbors and deploys military forces across the borders, then abruptly retracts and find other preys somewhere else. Syria, Libya and now Greece.

Outstanding features are militarization of politics and personalization of the military policy.

The dictum “War is a mere continuation of politics by other means” which is ascribed to the 19th century Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, seems well apply to Erdogan’s style of rule.

In pursuing his domestic objective of survival, foreign policy priorities are set in chasing Gulenists to the end of the earth, letting PKK down, keeping Assad out.

Erdogan threatened to flood the EU border with refugees, objecting to the US support to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is the PKK’s Syrian franchise. Turkish military shot down a Russian warplane at the border in November 2015 and then Erdogan seduced Putin by purchasing missile systems.

This year, Turkey shifted its target to its East Mediterranean neighbors by sending Syrian mercenaries into the western Libya and flexing the muscle to Greece on territorial and gas exploration issues.

Erdogan is known for his prowess and ingenuity in navigating the rough sea of the Middle East international politics, finding breakthroughs in many difficult issues in his own interests.

His interests of survival and rise, however, may not always serve the interests of the country.

Turkey’s biggest foreign policy success so far this year is the formation of the broad Anti-Turkey camp in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond, which encompasses Egypt, UAE, Greece, Cyprus, UAE and Saudi Arabia. Even Turkey’s NATO allies France, Italy and Germany have joined this Anti-Turkey circle. Israel works as the linchpin coordinating a broad coalition of countries encircling Turkish zone of influence, and securing the US endorsement to it. 

Turkey once put up the slogan of “zero problem with neighbors.” This slogan is now forgotten, but still remains deep inside the abandoned pages of the website of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to this webpage, “zero problem with neighbors” is “a slogan summarizing Turkey’s expectations with regards to her relations with neighboring countries.” The website declares “Turkey wants to eliminate all the problems from her relations with neighbors or at least to minimize them as much as possible.” Neighbors of Turkey cannot help but yearn for the bygone days.