View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Turk and the Czar

You'll remember that Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a military coup recently. Who was the first to ring him up afterwards? Vladimir Putin.

Turkey is a member of NATO. Its president, the aforementioned Mr Erdoğan, is looked at by the Americans askance. However, he is a key ally in the fight against Da'esh (you know, so-called Islamic State) and buffer against the horrors that lurk within the Middle East. Really and truly, the Americans should have been in there first to congratulate Erdoğan on his survival.

Same applies to the Europeans. For decades, they have rejected Turkish aspirations to the join the European Union. However, they needed Turkey to stop the flow of migrants and refugees and should have been a little more amicable to their eastern neighbour when he emerged from dire straits.

At the end of the day, Erdoğan is not a pleasant fellow, from our perspective. He is an autocrat, suppresses dissent and has for years sought to draw power onto himself. From his perspective however, he feels let down by his friends. The Europeans have been ungrateful for his acquiescence in the matter of the refugees, and so have the Americans. Putin spotted and immediately seized the opportunity, realising that Erdoğan was not flavour of the month in either Brussels or Washington. And he would love nothing less than to take Turkey out of European (and better still NATO) spheres and into his.

Erdoğan and Putin had a major falling out last year, when the Turks downed a Russian fighter jet over the Syrian border. But now it's kiss and make up time.

I don't think either Brussels or Washington have been canny in their dealings with the Turkish president. Whilst disliking him, and I totally understand why, they could have exercised some political expediency to keep him on board.

I do not expect Erdoğan to fall for Putin any time soon. But this is a strong warning, an amber signal, to the Americans and Europeans.


Transocean Winner

That is the name of the semi-submersible oil rig that became stuck fast on rocks off Dalmore beach in the early hours of Monday 8 August. The structure, which weighs in at 17,000 tonnes, was being towed from Norway to Malta, and on to Turkey, broke loose from its tug and was blown ashore in galeforce winds. The tug, Alp Forward, had been experiencing problems controlling its tow for some hours beforehand.

The rig has nearly 300 tons of diesel on board, but no crew. Nobody got hurt. A debate has flared up about having an emergency tug stationed at Stornoway (ours got withdrawn 4 years ago). Meanwhile, the Coastguard have cordoned off Dalmore - its single-track access road is closed to all traffic, and appealed Nosey Nick (Johnny Public in other words) not to venture out onto the cliffs to get a sneaky peek.

The plan is to haul the Transocean Loser (as I call it) off the rocks at the next springtide, which will occur late next week. Let's hope it's a success. I hate to see lovely Dalmore defiled like this.

Image courtesy BBC