Geopolitics

Turkey: Why The World Should Start To Worry About Erdogan

Op-Ed: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is growing more strident in his rhetoric across the Muslim world, even as he cynically pursues Turkey’s self interest.

Turkey: Why The World Should Start To Worry About Erdogan
Richard Herzinger

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's verbal antics are nothing new to European leaders. Radical rhetoric is one thing, they say, but at the end of the day, the pragmatic good sense that has characterized Turkish foreign policy for so long will prevail.

The problem is that Erdogan's tone is growing ever more shrill, and it looks increasingly as if he might translate words into action.

He has sent a Turkish ship to prospect for natural gas and oil deposits along the coast of Cyprus and threatened Turkish military supervision of the activity: non-stop patrols by "frigates, gunboats and the air force" warned Erdogan. This offers more than hint that the Turkish premier intends to back up his high-flying claims to dominance not only in the Middle East but also in Europe.

Erdogan appears increasingly to be leaving a sensible sort of Realpolitik behind in favor of a self-aggrandizing messianic stance. Since his recent trip to Egypt and Libya, where he was celebrated as a kind of healing force, he has mixed a pro-Islamic democracy message with an ever stronger anti-Israel position.

One result is that Erdogan's sense of international law appears to have morphed into his own definition of what that law is. Turkey claims to have a rightful share in Cyprus's natural gas and oil deposits based in the supposed right of a state – the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – that is only recognized by Ankara.

His approach on the Gaza Flotilla conflict with Israel offers a similar militant will to disparage international law if it shouldn't happen to coincide with his way of reading events.

When trying to get through Israel's Gaza blockade in the Spring of 2010, nine activists were killed by the Israelis on the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara.

Erdogan keeps insisting that Israel must present formal excuses to Turkey and put an immediate end to the Gaza blockade which he says violates international law. The Turkish Prime Minister has even gone so far as to say that Israel's behavior constitutes grounds for war.

Double standard

But not only does Erdogan sneeringly push aside international laws if they don't suit him, he posits himself as guardian of a kind of higher morality among states.

However, even as he denounces Israel's behavior towards the Palestinians in ever more strident tones, he apparently sees nothing objectionable in the fact that for years Turkey has launched attacks against PKK extremists in Kurdish northern Iraq.

And Erdogan recently announced a joint offensive of Turkish and Iranian forces against Kurdish rebels deep inside Iraq. When asked about possible casualties from this operation, he replied coldly: "I'm sorry to say this, but there will be a price to pay."

Erdogan assumes a moral tone even as he preaches a double standard with regard not only to international law, but to human beings. He went so far as to state that Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir could not be responsible for genocide since Muslims, quite simply, did not do that sort of thing. And his government continues to question the Armenian genocide at the end of World War I at the hands of his own people.

Erdogan has been increasingly critical of the bloody repression of Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, who used to be a close ally. Still, he hasn't quite been able to bring himself to call for Assad to step down.

Meanwhile, he goes deeper and deeper in demonizing Israel. In a recent interview with CNN, Erdogan even questioned just how accurate figures were with regard to Israelis who had lost their lives as a result of Palestinian terror attacks. According to Erdogan it was, however, beyond question that Israel had murdered "hundreds of thousands' of Palestinians. With regard to the Holocaust, Erdogan appears to share views similar to those of Iranian president Ahmadinedjad – that Israel uses the Holocaust as an "excuse" so as to be able assume the stance of victim.

Furthermore, according to Erdogan, "Germany alone" should pay for the atrocities against the Jews: neither the Turks nor the Muslims in the region had anything to do with "this problem."

This sort of attitude shows that Erdogan‘s hostility to Israel goes well beyond economic and political disgruntlement. It constitutes the ideological core of his endeavor to present himself to the Arab world as a charismatic spiritual guide and pan-Islamic leader.

And indeed: since Gamal Abdel Nasser, arguably no other political figure has found such broad resonance in the region as Erdogan.

Still his growing irrationality and regional stature should not cover up the fact that he pursues Turkey's interests with an unwavering eye. Even Erdogan's anger at Israel is connected to the fact that Cyprus and the Jewish state want to team up to drill for gas and oil in the Mediterranean. Turkey's confrontation course against Israel will become a European problem -- so Europe would be well-advised to listen exactly to what Erdogan has to say, and assume that he means it.

Read the original article in German

photo - Πρωθυπουργός της Ελλάδας

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Future

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.


But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

commons.wikimedia.org

Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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