Original by Stanislav Stremidlovskiy published by regnum.ru; translation by J.Hawk
Ankara decided to support the “Polish claim” in favor of strengthening NATO’s so-called “eastern flank. According to the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita, during his visit to Ankara Poland’s Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski heard assurances from Turkey’s president Erdogan that the Turks “have an identical position concerning NATO’s role in dealing with threats emanating from the East.” In diplomatic terms it means that Turkey supports Poland’s efforts to ensure NATO forces “have a genuine presence in our part of Europe.”
Warsaw will have to pay for that support. Waszczykowski in turn reassured Erdogan that Poland will support any EU actions aiding Turkey in its fight against ISIS (!) and to reduce the flow of illegal migrants to Europe. The minister even went a step further and said that Warsaw will support the immediate removal of visa requirements for Turkish citizens who want to travel to EU countries freely. Here the head of Poland’s diplomacy used the formula that Poland will support “Turkey’s European course.” However, who in the EU will be fooled by that? The most recent signals from Brussels are not too encouraging, as far as the Turks are concerned. European Commission chair Jean-Claude Juncker emphasized that Ankara must fulfill all the criteria needed for visa-free travel, and these criteria will not be relaxed. Therefore Polish observers’ comments that Warsaw’s support for Ankara within the EU might be as valuable as Turkish support of Poland in NATO seem like overly optimistic saber-waving or perhaps merely reflect well concealed sarcasm.
Both Waszczykowski and the Minister of Defense Antoni Macierewicz have recently been saying many things about “threats from Moscow”, in some cases using terminology straight from a philosophy dictionary. It’s sufficient to remember that Waszczykowski saw an “existential threat” in Russia. But why the escalating rhetoric? Berlin and Washington have already made it clear there will be no permanent NATO bases in Poland, only a few brigades on a rotational basis, and Warsaw seems to have acquiesced. Its vision of “threats from the East” is limited to Poland and to the Baltic States. But now, when answering Turkish journalists’ questions, the Polish diplomat mentioned “the rise of Russian imperialism” in the context of a broad geopolitical space extending from Ukraine to Georgia and Syria, and accused Moscow of having “far-reaching plans” to reorganize Europe in such a way as to leave Poland and Turkey “no seat at the table when deciding international decisions.” One can draw a conclusion that, at least until the NATO summit, Turkish foreign policy problems concerning the Middle East, Southern Caucasus, and Russia, will also be Poland’s problems.
But if Warsaw wants to assume the role of Ankara’s advocate in the EU, it could at the minimum lead to Washington, Brussels, and several European countries turning a deaf ear to its concerns. Erdogan is being subjected to serious criticism, the US president has refused to meet him, Turkish media are being persecuted, Ankara is conducted a two-faced policy concerning Middle Eastern jihadists, the civil war against the Kurds is raising tensions within Turkey and beyond. Six months of Law and Justice rule in Poland, in turn, earned it the reputation of a problem-causing country, especially in Berlin but also in the EU and the US. Should we therefore expect Warsaw and Ankara to become a headache for NATO by acting independently but at the same time remaining under the alliance “umbrella”? This option has been mentioned by a Collegium Civitas analyst Ryszard Zulteniecki, who favors Poland and Turkey developing a closer relationship. He believes that Ankara is currently unbelievably effective as it is “pursuing its objectives practically without NATO or EU resistance”. He views the Warsaw-Ankara alliance as “exotic and risky”, but also promising “a totally new geopolitical situation in Europe,” should it lead to a union between Warsaw, Kiev, and Ankara.
But the problem lies in that the “unbelievably effective” Turkey could use its “partner” to pursue its own objectives, as it has done more than once in the history of relations between the Ottoman Empire and the Polish Commonwealth. For example, already in April 2016 Turkey was being accused of using its Azerbaijani ally against Moscow by provoking a military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey also has an asset in Ukraine in the form of a Crimean Tatar formation which obeys the “mejlis” and is concentrated in the Kherson Region. After Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft over Syria last November, Ankara began to play the “Crimean Tatar” card more actively, while the mejlis tried to make life worse for the Crimeans. One cannot rule out that, on the eve of the July NATO summit in Warsaw, there will occur provocations aimed at eliciting a Russian reaction which in turn will reanimate the claims concerning “Russian threats” on the so-called “eastern flank.”