Not since Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus has Ankara been so internationally isolated.
Last week, Washington slapped Turkey, a fellow member of NATO, with CAATSA sanctions for purchasing, receiving and testing Russian S400 missile defense batteries. Meanwhile, the EU hit Ankara with moderate sanctions of its own, a move akin to a final written warning before more hard-hitting measures are taken.
The decline of Turkey’s international standing comes despite Ankara being able to boast of recent military successes which should have propelled the country’s status upwards.
These military triumphs include Turkey’s involvement in the Nagorno Karabakh crisis between the Turkish-speaking Azerbaijan and Ankara’s historical foe, Armenia. The conflict ended with important territorial gains for Azerbaijan thanks to Turkish military aid and, reportedly, the deployment of mercenaries from Turkey’s Syrian proxies.
Turkey is scoring another military success through its support of the Tripoli-based government in Libya led by Fayez al-Arraj. With Turkey sending arms, drones and battle-hardened Turkish-backed Syrian fighters, the internationally-recognized Libyan government managed to resist the onslaught of General Khalifa Haftar, who controls much of the country and is supported by Russia, Egypt, France and the UAE.
In Syria, Turkey maintains a legion of proxies consisting of extremist Islamic Salafi fighters, Turkmen militants and other anti-Assad forces. Through these units, Turkey has managed, after several interventions, to entrench itself in areas such as Afrin, Al-Bab, Azaz, and Jarabulus to the west of the Euphrates, in Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn to the east, and in Idlib further south.
Not only does Turkey now have a say in the future of the country, but it has also prevented the emergence of a Kurdish statelet by its border.
Yet, despite these military victories, Turkey finds itself with few international allies.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was warned repeatedly of the consequences for procuring the S400s, the activation of which could risk the leaking of important Nato security data. Yet Ankara did not listen and instead decided to test the S400s against U.S. made F16s.