President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is flying to St. Petersburg to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as Ankara and Moscow continue their quest to mend fences after their relations hit the rocks following the downing of a Russian jet fighter near the Syrian border that had violated Turkish airspace. A telephone conversation between Erdoğan and Putin broke the ice and the sides agreed to bury the hatchet and revive relations.
At the time, people in the West started speculating that Turkey was starting to veer away from the Western political system and was trying to court new friends in the East.
But this speculation has gained momentum in recent weeks after a band of soldiers affiliated with the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ) led by Fethullah Gülen tried to stage a coup and failed with a massive bloody toll, leaving 240 dead and more than 2,100 wounded. Heeding an appeal by President Erdoğan the Turkish people flocked into the streets, braving tanks, helicopter gunships and F-16 fighters and foiled the coup.
Since then Turks have been asking why Turkey's Western allies have not supported or displayed solidarity with Turkey. Under normal circumstances the Western countries would have applauded a nation for standing up against a military coup and displaying loyalty to democratic values. Not a single Western leader has visited Ankara to offer condolences and display solidarity. This has raised questions in the minds of ordinary Turks about whether or not the coup attempt was supported by the West. Instead of acknowledging the legendarily brave resistance of the Turkish people against the coup, Western leaders have started criticizing the Erdoğan administration for cracking down to weed out the coup plotters in the state system. The image created was that Erdoğan was using the coup to crackdown on his opponents, which was total nonsense. Opposition leaders who had rebuffed Erdoğan in the past first attended a meeting at the Presidential Palace and then on Sunday attended a massive rally that saw 5 million people in Istanbul displaying their support for democracy and those who lost their lives during the coup attempt.
The West does not want to see the realities in Turkey, which is sad. This coupled with claims that some Western elements may be involved in the coup plot have alienated the Turkish people. But despite all these adverse conditions, it would be extremely wrong to say Turkey is prepared to its their back on NATO, the European Union and the United States.
Turkey remains a part of the Western defense system but wants strong ties with its neighbor Russia. We have commercial, economic and energy interests that require strong ties between Ankara and Moscow. We also want to be a part of the Shanghai five. But this does not mean we will give up our NATO membership.
In this new world order, we have seen you should not keep all your eggs in the same basket. So it is normal that Turkey is looking for friends while maintaining its old ties with old friends. Shanghai is not an alternative to NATO and ties with Russia is not and never can be an alternative to our ties with the West, provided they really want us to be a part of their system.