Author`s name Lyuba Lulko

Is Turkey strong enough to cope with forest fires?

Turkey believes that the response from Western countries to its measures to put out forest fires demonstrated an attempt to make Turkey look like a weak and incapacitated state. The level of mistrust between NATO partners has been rising.

Turkey wildfires exacerbate the split between Turkey and the West

Turkey has been fighting forest fires for six consecutive days. #Helpturkey hashtag was ranked first on Twitter with 2.4 million retweets.

"I want to appeal to all countries that can help us. We are being devastated by 112 fires. The fires that are still burning are very strong. We do not have enough planes to extinguish them. Eight people have been killed, multiple animals have perished in wildfires as well. We have lost our forests. Please help us. Please spread this message. We need our voices to be heard ASAP, we need help from all over the world," a message posted by Danla Bilic, a well-known Turkish blogger said.

Many celebrities and influencers have supported her campaign by sharing the tweet on their social media accounts.

However, neither EU nor NATO countries appear among Turkey's main supporters in its efforts to extinguish forest fires.

Europe prefers to watch Turkey burn

The topic of Turkish wildfires receives an extensive coverage in European media. In particular, the Europeans want to know why Turkey seems to be unable to handle the disaster, even though Turkey sent water bombers to neighboring countries a few years ago.

German publication Süddeutsche Zeitung finds it outrageous that Turkey does not have enough firefighting aircraft ready for action, nor does the country have enough personnel. Inappropriate crisis management and unpreparedness for natural disasters cause nothing but negative reaction in Europe, the publication said, adding that the tanks of Turkish water bombers had not even been loaded with fuel. Turkey relies on the Russian water-dumping aircraft, instead of relying on the ones of its own, the newspaper said.

Authoritative Berlin-based newspaper Die Tageszeitung was horrified to find out that Turkey does not have enough water bombers. The paper quoted the head of the Communications Office of the Turkish Presidential Administration, Fahrettin Altun, who said that the wildfires were started by "terrorists". According to the newspaper, this is being done in order to divert public attention from failed actions of the Turkish government.

On Sunday, August 1, the European Commission sent one Canadair aircraft from Croatia and two Canadair from Spain to Turkey, Crisis Commissioner Janez Lenarcic said. He did not explain which model of the aircraft they were exactly. EU's firefighting fleet includes both the old Canadair CL-215 and the new CL-415.

USA is waiting for Turkey to ask for help

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Twitter that they were waiting for a request for help to come from Ankara:

"The United States understands how devastating wildfires can be for communities, and we offer our heartfelt condolences to the victims and families affected in Turkey," State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Twitter. "We stand with our NATO Ally and are ready to respond to requests for assistance."

The US Embassy in Ankara also set out condolences to firefighters and victims of Turkish wildfires, thus implying dissatisfaction with Ankara's actions.

Vladimir Sotnikov, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Pravda.Ru that the EU and Turkey were "schooling" each other, because Turkish President Recep Erdogan has "special attitude" towards the EU, and even more so towards Greece.

The Germans criticise Turkey for its inability to use fire extinguishing means — this means that Germany, let along the EU in general, is unwilling to help, the expert noted.

According to Vladimir Sotnikov, the most real assistant under these conditions for Turkey is Russia. Indeed, Russia was one of the first to send water-dumping aircraft and EMERCOM forces to Turkey.

"By attracting Russia, Turkey shows its allies that it has other ways to get help. The European Union wants to make Turkey believe that Russia's help is not very welcome, because the relations between Russia and the European Union have been cooling down lately," Vladimir Sotnikov said.

Turkey does not mind to teach its allies a lesson either

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell had a telephone conversation with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Borrell later announced via Twitter that the EU was ready to provide support to the country.

However, Turkey requested assistance from countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Iran. Moreover, Ankara left Greece's proposals unanswered due to "inadequacy of airborne fire extinguishing means."

Fahrettin Altun supports #StrongTürkiye hashtag

"Our Turkey is strong! Any help and contribution with good intentions is a requirement for our national unity. However, from this evening on, the so-called help campaign, which came from abroad and from the unified center, was launched with ideological motives to weaken our state, to weaken the unity of the state and the nation," he said on Twitter.

People responded to Fahrettin Altun's statements.

A user published the following statement: "For those who thought that the country would be captured because of the #helpturkey header, we will say #WeDontNeedHelp, and we will not even ask those friends for their passports at the exit."

"Twitter remains under the occupation of insidious people from FETO. Those bastards have almost established a parallel state there … Our country must urgently put an end to it," another user wrote.

Is Turkey strong enough?

One could praise Turkey for a strong stance on its sovereignty, but a fire department officer of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IMM) told t24.com.tr on conditions of anonymity that "nobody was putting out fires where needed."

"There is no such thing as a crisis center here. The brigades of the Ministry of Agriculture work really badly. Should this continues — I say this openly — Marmaris will burn down completely," he said.

According to Vladimir Sotnikov, when man-made cataclysms, such as fires, occur, the Turks always look to find out if it was a terrorist attack, in particular, an arson attack by militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party.

"If the Turks find out that it was a terrorist attack indeed, it will not be just an international scandal. Ankara will respond to this next challenge accordingly," the expert added.

Noteworthy, Turkey celebrated the 5th anniversary of the failed military coup on July 15.

Nearly 300,000 people were arrested on charges of cooperation with the Fethullah Gülen movement, which the government refers to as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO). About 150,000 civil servants have been suspended or fired. Five years later, mass arrests still occur on a regular basis. On Monday, prosecutors in the western city of Izmir issued warrants for 229 soldiers and cadets. Turkey accused the United States of orchestrating the failed coup in 2016. The relations between Turkey and the West have been in crisis since then.

Turkey wildfires
Topics