There is a power play between the EU, Russia, China and the US in Africa, with Turkey adding even more oil recently. All these countries know that the coming century will be Africa. Another demonstration of the power game can be witnessed in the Saharan country of Niger. Niger is playing chess pieces into the hands of Turkey in a very old and great geopolitical game. But to understand this complex situation between Turkey, France and Greece, we need to understand the decades-old ones Greek Turkish Conflict.
Understand the conflict between Greece and Turkey
“We may come suddenly one night,” Turkish President Reccep Tayyp Erdogan said during his visit to Teknofest, the country’s biggest tech event, in the northern city of Samsun.
“Coming Suddenly One Night” is a line from a love poem written by a romantic poet Umit Yasar Oguzcan, which was later composed into a song by Rustu Sardag and sung by Emel Sayın. This line entered Turkish political discourse after radio commentators and writers used this line to refer to Turkey’s illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus.
Erdogan used this line to threaten Greece against fortifications of Greek islands closer to Turkey than mainland Greece. France backs Greece and says it must secure its islands, including tourist hotspots Rhodes and Kos.
Tensions are rising in the eastern Mediterranean, with Greece warning a Ukraine-like conflict is possible after Turkey threatened military action against it. A number of disagreements between Turkey and Greece date back long, including airspace borders, natural gas, maritime rights and the sovereignty of the Aegean islands.
Turkey’s agenda behind the Bayraktar deal with Niger
As you can see, Turkey’s economy has been in the doldrums for two years. Turkey is grappling with an economic crisis fueled by Covid-19 and further worsened after the West sanctioned Turkey for violating the F-35 manufacturing program.
Erdogan sees possible potential for reviving the economy through his only salable Bayraktar drones, which are in the news after Azerbaijan used them against Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The conflict between Turkey and Greece is centuries old and Turkey sees Greece as a formidable enemy backed by France and Russia. To weaken Greek influence, Turkey is playing its own game against France in Niger by selling the Bayraktar drones in the name of fighting terrorist groups. According to the official statement, the drones will be used against Islamic State and al-Qaeda-backed terrorist groups currently based in the border triangle between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, which also makes up much of the Sahel region.
More recently, Greece has begun to challenge Erdogan’s power in the region, which was shaken by Erdogan repeating his veiled threat and declaring that Turkey could “come all of a sudden one night” in response to what he claimed was from Greece supported hostilities France.
At a press conference in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, Erdogan said: “If I were to say that we could suddenly come one night [it means] that when the time comes, we may suddenly come one night.” (see)
Turkey’s diversionary tactics
As we can see, Turkey is fundamentally uneasy about France’s backing of Greece. France’s debacle in Africa’s Sahel and the declining popularity of French-backed Barkhane forces in the region have presented Turkey with an opportunity. Just a few days ago, large-scale protests broke out in Niger, demanding the withdrawal of 3,000 French Barkhane troops from Niger. These protests have been highlighted by accusations against the Barkhane forces of siding with Islamic Jihadi extremists in the region. Proceeding from this event, Turkey takes advantage of the same, using its diversionary tactics to keep France occupied in Africa by supplying Niger with the necessary arms. It does this because when the time comes for a conflict or small-scale war between Turkey and Greece, France will be busy in Africa and will not openly help Greece.
The astute Erdogan knows that France is currently struggling with its sluggish economy and employing it in Africa will help Turkey stand a chance against Greece.
Also read: Russian-backed citizens of Niger take to the streets to protest “pro-jihadi elements” in the government
The geopolitical game is more complicated than it looks and Niger needs to understand that it is just a pawn in the hands of Turkey. The Bayraktar drones are a pile of junk, as the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict proves. Erdogan is weaker than ever and just trying to play around with the situations to rally support in his favor like he did in Libya and Syria.