Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has continued his pro-Russian statements during a Balkan tour that started on Tuesday, criticizing European countries which have imposed sanctions on Russia.
At a press conference before leaving Ankara, Erdoğan told reporters that Turkey did not have a problem with its supply of natural gas, so it would not resort to the kind of measures pursued by European countries, claiming that “Europe has reaped what it has sown.”
“Of course, Europe’s attitude towards [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, the imposition of sanctions, has inevitably brought Putin to the point of saying ‘If you are doing this, I will do that,’ and Mr. Putin uses all the means and weapons at his disposal,” Erdoğan said.
Unlike Erdoğan, who made a point of expressing his worry about expected troubles in Europe this coming winter, pro-government media outlets seem happy with the situation. The state-run Anadolu news agency often reports the complaints of European citizens, particularly in Germany, saying that the Europeans won’t know how to get through the winter. The pro-government media also claims that more than 1 million Europeans will come to Turkey to spend the winter.
Increasing electricity prices are also emphasized in the news stories, with the headlines frequently saying, “Europe will get cold this winter.”
At a joint press conference held after meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on Wednesday, Erdoğan said he did not believe the Ukraine war would end soon and that those who had underestimated Russia had made a mistake.
“Russia is not a country to be underestimated. Russia has now cut off natural gas to Europe, and prices suddenly rose. Now everyone is wondering, ‘How will we get through this winter?’ Why didn’t you think of that before?” said Erdogan.
Erdoğan also accused the European leaders of a lack of foresight, saying, “When everyone attacked Putin, Russia was going to use all the means and weapons at its disposal, it was that simple.”
Erdoğan, who met with Croatian President Zoran Milanovic on Thursday, claimed that Putin was right in saying that grain shipments were being made to rich countries.
“While sanctions against Russia continue, the fact that grain shipments to the countries that came up with these sanctions also disturbs Mr. Putin,” Erdoğan added.
Erdoğan, who will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation heads of state summit in the Uzbek city of Samarkand September 15-16, said he would speak to Putin about increasing the number of countries to which grain shipments are sent.
NATO member Turkey previously announced that it would not participate in the sanctions imposed on Moscow by the United States and European Union due to its dependence on Russia for natural gas and also because it’s a favorite destination of millions of Russian tourists.
Erdoğan also announced that Turkey would veto the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland, both of which had applied to join the bloc following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. As a result of US initiatives, Turkey, Finland, and Sweden during a NATO summit in Madrid signed a memorandum to address Turkey’s concerns, paving the way for Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership.
Erdoğan continued his harsh rhetoric against Greece while in the Balkans, claiming that Greece had occupied some unspecified islets in the Aegean and was involved in abusive actions against Turkish jets. Erdoğan also frequently mentions in his speeches that the US is arming Greece against Turkey.
Political observers believe that Erdoğan hopes to increase his approval rating and break the increasing influence of the opposition by means of a military operation in Syria before the elections in 2023. He, of course, needs Putin’s approval to carry out such a military operation in Syria.
Opponents in Turkey are worried that Russia, which had previously tried to meddle in elections in the US and UK, will interfere in the elections in Turkey in favor of Erdoğan. It is clear that Putin would not want Erdoğan to lose the election and be replaced by an opposition that could establish better relations with the West.
Journalist Adem Yavuz Arslan, a writer for the Belgian-based Tr724 news website, claimed that Erdoğan, with his anti-Greece and pro-Russia rhetoric, wants US President Joe Biden to think he needs to meet with Erdoğan during the United Nations General Assembly later in September.
Nordic Monitor this week published a report released by global money-laundering watchdog FATF that said both Iran and Russia have tapped into Turkey’s banking system to bypass sanctions imposed by the US and its Western allies.