In the Balkans, Turkey is systematically entrenching itself by increasing its commercial and cultural presence which is evocative of Ottoman rule. In Albania, Turkey is building the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline through the country to supply gas to Europe, and a Turkish consortium is looking to build the nation’s second airport.
He is investing in Kosovo’s infrastructure, building its only international airport, and managing the country’s energy. The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) is assisting the Balkan and Caucasian countries in the fields of industry, agriculture, infrastructure, finance, healthcare, and education.
In addition, Erdogan is blatantly interfering in other neighboring countries - including Afghanistan, Albania, Georgia, and Kosovo - where he is exerting inordinate pressure on their governments to close all schools affiliated with the Gülen movement, threatening to use his economic and political levers against these countries unless they fire and replace the teachers with others who subscribe to his religious Islamist orientation.
Rather than investing in infrastructure, housing, education, and healthcare in the Southeast (Turkey’s poorest region), he is financing foreign projects aimed at influencing and preserving cultural heritage dating back to the Ottoman Empire, further solidifying Turkey’s regional outreach.
Although theoretically Turkey still seeks membership in the EU, the accession process is basically frozen, and Erdogan certainly prefers to leave it that way because he is not willing to reverse course and reinstate freedom of the press and human rights, on which the EU insists as a precondition to discussing accession in earnest. Thus, instead of making Turkey a model of Islamic democracy that meets the principal requirements of the EU, he transformed Turkey into an authoritarian Islamic state that resembles the Ottoman governing style.
Turkey’s role in NATO appears to be increasingly waning as Erdogan continues to gravitate toward Russia, which is considered the West’s staunchest adversary, cozying up to Putin who declared war on American democracy. Recently, he reached an agreement with Moscow to buy the S-400 Air Defense System, and to cooperate in building three nuclear plants – though for civilian purposes they could easily be converted to nuclear weapons production.
This development severely erodes Turkey’s reliability as a NATO member and as a Western ally.
The West must no longer invoke Turkey’s geostrategic importance as an excuse for doing nothing to arrest Erdogan’s adventurism. No punitive action should be ruled out to stop him from further destabilizing the region because of his ill-fated aspirations to resurrect some semblance of the Ottoman Empire and satisfy his lust for ever more power.
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