“Once again, the Turkish authorities acted in a way that was provocative and completely unnecessary,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman commented after Minister Nikos Dendias’ return flight to Athens from Baghdad on Wednesday was delayed when Ankara would not allow it to cross Turkish airspace. The comment was accurate: The delay was both provocative and completely unnecessary.
Unnecessary, too, were the memorandum between Ankara and Tripoli delineating their maritime zones as if Greece did not exist, the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, the compulsive to-ing-and-fro-ing of Turkey’s exploratory vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the renewed hostilities in the South Caucasus. In Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s thinking, nothing is unnecessary. Everything serves his need for consecutive crises, it happens because he chooses it to happen. But because, sooner or later, the international community will come to understand that Turkey is like a runaway train, we need to look at why Erdogan cannot help but to act provocatively even if this will one day prompt a reaction.
The immediate benefit for him is that by stoking nationalistic frenzy, he disorients his supporters from serious domestic problems and at the same time “eliminates” dissidents who do not dare to speak out against him. His aggressive rhetoric and autocratic actions highlight a lack of respect for his own people and for other nations, with his frequent threats to “teach them a lesson.”
This feverish nationalism is addictive. Erdogan knows that to keep his supporters in line, to control developments, he must keep them in a continual state of excitement. That’s why he cultivates feelings of humiliation and omnipotence among them. He pushes the line that the Turks are victims of injustice while flattering them, saying they are subjects of a great power that will restore their lost empire through conquest.
To maintain this delirium, the Turkish leadership cannot admit any wrongs – not its own, not its ancestors’. That is why it presents the genocide of Christians (Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians) as the defensive acts of an unblemished nation.
Typical of the bully’s mentality is that, while presenting himself as the protector of all Muslims, Erdogan says nothing about the behavior of stronger powers, like Russia and China (especially with regard to the Uyghurs), but continually threatens smaller nations and minorities. He mocks the European Union because he considers it passive. For him, no provocation is unnecessary. It is in his nature.
What is unnecessary and dangerous is the tolerance that the international community has shown him.