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Taking the Biden-Erdogan-Putin global dilemma Sandwich

I am neither a chef nor a hospitality industry expert to quality for the post of a food and beverage manager. But I imagine: “What would I say if I were given a chance to propose a name of a sandwich that symbolizes the most current world political climate painting a picture of the post-Donald Trump United States, the West and East non-extinct volcano relations and Turkey’s ubiquitous dirty hand?”  Would the ‘Biden-Erdogan-Putin dilemma’ suffice?

Dust has settled under the feet of the Brussel’s North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Summit on the heels of the equally involving Group of Seven (G7) counterpart held at Cornwall in the UK. Needless to say, the occasions were crammed with so many “firsts” that one would wonder how efficiently they could deliver in the framework of the economics law of diminishing returns.

On top of that, a European leaders’ summit on their proclaimed “positive agenda” during which they expect a commensurate “positive word” from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was hardly a fortnight away.

At the G7, U.S. President Joe Biden made his first appearance where other members — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom –besides trade, share common values of freedom and human rights, democracy, the rule of law, prosperity and sustainable development.  Besides the Summit, Biden and First Lady Jill Biden have to pay homage to Queen Elizabeth II, still mourning the death of her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburg.

They have also to attend a grand beach reception hosted by U. K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recently married First Lady Carrie Johnson. It is all evidence of the essence of political life practiced in palaces and state houses -– from a funeral service to an entertainment concert on the same day and in the right mood.

The Summit sent different messages to those versed with the G7 in terms of its history, development and challenges. It brings to memory the event of March 24, 2014, when the members cancelled the planned G8 Summit that was due to be held in the Russian City of Sochi and suspended Russia’s membership due to Crimea’s annexation. On that day, angers rose so high that they fell short only of outright permanent expulsion of Russia.

This Cornwall time round, if only Donald Trump had not lost the U.S. presidential poll, the story could have read different. Trump last year postponed the Summit due to his support of Russia’s comeback. He said the G7 was an “outdated group” in need of expansion to bring Australia, India, and South Korea under the fold – of course with Russia’s readmission.  Trump had assured Putin of his plan to invite him at the Summit. But this could not happen. With Trump out of the White House, re-entry doors to the G7 remain closed to Russia. And slowly, the G7 is becoming sort of sour grapes.

Come the NATO Summit in Brussels, this was also the first time “new prefect” for the West, Joe Biden, was meeting members of the fraternity after winning the U.S. elections. To be honest, Trump had done substantial damage to the U.S. reputation, literally dislodging the world power from its central seat on the world affairs arena. Trump was sort of “doing his own thing” in Washington. Biden had to make all these repairs, assuring his people, NATO members and the rest of the world that the U.S. was ready to make a comeback at the lead of global affairs.

Constituting the West bloc of allies led by the United States of America, NATO has no meaning minus the East bloc allies organizing themselves around Russia.  Both sides are a function of World War II after which the world found itself divided into two and the onset of the Cold War.

 Taking a quick look at the West and East relations, the central point at issue between them has been the state of the quantity, quality and use of nuclear weapons.  It is the issue of nuclear disarmament. Those who inquisitively lived with the Cold War will remember brain teasing acronyms like START (I & II), Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty; SALT (I & II), Strategic Arms Limitation Talks; and SORT (I & II), Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty. 

These are rounds of bilateral conferences and their corresponding treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union, which are not the subject matter of this analysis but have a bearing on the kitchen engineering of the Biden-Erdogan-Putin dilemma Sandwich at the global table today. Russia and the United States hold 90% of the world’s entire nuclear weapons arsenal.

Behind all this is power, power, power.  And as of now, Turkey, NATO’s second strongest member in military terms, has acquired S-400 air defense missiles from Russia and is ready to buy more. This why U.S. President had to meet Turkey President Erdogan on the sidelines of the NATO meeting in Brussels and then on to hold talks with and Russia’s Head of State, Vladimir Putin at Villa la Grange in Geneva, Switzerland.

If anything, the Biden-Erdogan meeting did not result in anything tangible for the beleaguered NATO. One can say that besides the two leaders’ first face-to-face meeting, the major issues comprising the Turkey acquisition of S-400 Russian missiles, Turkish human rights issues and U.S. recognition of the 1915 killings of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman rulers as a genocide, were sidelined.

Erdogan told the press he was happy the issues did not arise. It was a real ‘sidelines’ meeting. After all they went to the occasion in the background of Erdogan calling Biden an “interventionist” and Biden expressing Erdogan as an “autocrat”, whose opponents befit support.

In the eyes of Putin, the Geneva meeting with Biden was more of a plus sign. He brushed aside Biden’s charges of him being “a killer with no soul”. He saw in him “an experienced man … (and hopefully) very balanced and accurate…” On the ground between them the threat is after Crimea there are threats to invade Ukraine, meddling with U.S. elections, cyber hacking and arms build ups. The countries see each other face to face in several world conflicts as in the case of Syria.

But as it is generally held in politics that the greater the threat perception the deeper the unity, there is still more that unites than divides the U.S. and Russia — cyber, space and geopolitical threats notwithstanding.  In a joint statement after the talks they referred to what they called “responsibility to our people and the whole world” and commitment to “dialogue stability” and arms control. Both rejected the possibility of a nuclear war.

Biden said there is “no secret code to foreign policy… it’s all about personal relationships … about human nature.” The meeting rose with a message of beginning a strategic dialogue but did not reveal the strategy of the strategy. The story between the U.S. and Russia still remains one of live cyber, space and geopolitical threats.

Finally, when European leaders meet on their “positive agenda” towards Turkey, can they create a miracle that Biden failed to perform? In the eyes of former EU Parliament rapporteur on Turkey and Member of the Dutch Parliament, Kati Piri, it would be a real waste of time if the leaders fail to demand improvement in Turkey’s democracy as a condition of meeting a Turkish request for further trade ties.

Can Turkey come back to the Istanbul Convention? Can it stop ignoring verdicts of the European Court of Human Rights? Can it stop jailing the opposition members? Can it stop transnational abductions and disregard to international laws? The list is too long to produce the required results. The world is indeed in for the Biden-Erdogan-Putin dilemma sandwich.

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.

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