How strong is Turkey

Turkey first : Why Turkey feels strong

If the EU had hoped to be able to stop the Turkish gas search in the Mediterranean around Cyprus with its sanctions against Ankara, then it was mistaken. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu said that his country will step up research into gas stocks under the sea floor in response to the EU measure.

Ankara also remains calm in the dispute with the USA over the delivery of a Russian air defense system to the NATO state Turkey. Ankara sees itself as having greater leverage in the dispute with its western partners.

The tough course in dealing with the traditional allies in Europe and America corresponds to Recep Tayyip Erdogan's worldview. Although Turkey has concluded political and military alliances with the West, "we see that the greatest threats come from there," the President said a few days ago.

Under his government, Turkey's self-image has changed: from a loyal partner of the West to an independent regional power with the determination to assert its own interests - if necessary against the objections of the USA and Europe.

Murat Yetkin, a respected Turkish journalist and author of the news blog "Yetkin-Report", speaks of a "redefinition of relations with the US and the EU". Yetkin emphasized Erdogan's sentence about the “threat” from the West should be taken seriously: Many Turks are of the same opinion. And like Erdogan, they are of the opinion that the West had a hand in the attempted coup three years ago.

In any case, Turkey sees itself in the right in the dispute with the EU over the gas off Cyprus. According to Ankara's understanding, parts of the sea areas in which the Greek island republic, which belongs to the EU, wants to search for gas belong to the continental shelf of Turkey, others to the territory of the Turkish Cypriots.

Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said he did not take the EU's sanctions seriously - including a cut in financial aid for the coming year from 400 million to 250 million euros. Turkish drill ships near Cyprus are escorted by warships.

Ankara feels very safe in the Cyprus dispute for two reasons. First, Europe is unlikely to risk a military conflict over Cyprus, says expert Yetkin. Second, the European Union depends on Turkey's cooperation on the refugee issue.

"The EU needs us when it comes to refugees and other issues," stressed Cavusoglu on Tuesday. "They will come to us and talk, there is no getting around it." The EU sanctions on Cyprus are therefore "worthless".

In response to the decision of the Europeans, Turkey wants to send a fourth ship into the waters around Cyprus after sending three research and drilling ships.

The Erdogan government also believes it has good cards in hand when it comes to the differences with the USA over the delivery of the Russian S 400 air defense system to NATO member Turkey. With its geographical location between the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Middle East, the country is important to America's security interests.

In Syria, the US Department of Defense fears that the Turkish army will invade the area where American soldiers are deployed. Erdogan is therefore betting that Donald Trump will still prevent the threatened economic sanctions.

However, for the US, the S 400 debate is not just about Turkey. Yetkin quotes an American informant as saying that other NATO members could also be interested in the Russian system. If Turkey gets away with sanctions, its example could set a precedent in the Western alliance.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page