Turkey May 2020-December 2022

Written by  //  December 28, 2022  //  Europe & EU, Turkey/Turkiye  //  Comments Off on Turkey May 2020-December 2022

Turkey 2018 – May 2020

Marc Pierini: Understanding Turkey’s Geostrategic Posture
(Carnegie Eu) In the run-up to the 2023 elections, Turkey’s foreign policy will be shaped by domestic politics. To stand a chance of winning, the opposition must unite and put forward a cohesive electoral program.  (17 November 2022)

24-28 December
The Kurdish parties, key to Turkey’s 2023 elections
The role of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is expected to gather around 15 per cent of popular support, and will be crucial for Turkey’s opposition to end Erdogan’s nearly two-decade rule
Turkey, a year in review: Battling both at home and abroad
Turkey has had a rough year, politically, socially, and financially
(Global voices) The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was busy battling both at home and abroad and steered the country into a financial crisis. By some non-state accounts, the inflation has reached 170 percent, and the annual price increase reached 86 percent at the time of writing this story, making future projections look grim for the country of some 80 million people. But it is not just the domestic political scene or the economy that is hurting.
The crackdown on media practitioners and an increasingly restrictive media environment was another grim highlight of the past year. In what critics have described as a boost to systematic censorship and a threat to freedom of speech, with disastrous consequences ahead of Turkey’s 2023 election, in October, Turkish lawmakers approved a law on disinformation. On December 15, Sinan Aygül became the first journalist to be prosecuted under the new law.
The judiciary system also drew public ire. While perpetrators of crimes like child abuse and pedophilia, supporters of hate and violence, and culprits behind the death of a young university student went unpunished, hasty court decisions were handed left and right to imprison or reprimand journalists, level accusations against mayors, as well as sentence one prominent philanthropist to life in prison for bogus charges.
As the country exits a grim year, there is little hope for the year ahead. The country’s young people are particularly unhappy with the status quo.
With just six months ahead of general election in June 2023, it remains to be seen whether the country and its people will witness change and better days ahead.

21 December
As a Turkish court bans Istanbul’s mayor from politics, has Erdoğan miscalculated?
Kemal Kirişci
(Brookings) The decision comes six months ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey, and is widely regarded as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s move to block Imamoğlu from running against him as the rival candidate.
It comes at a time when the opposition — composed of six political parties, referred to as the “Nation’s Alliance” or “Table of Six” — has been unable to agree on a joint candidate. The ruling galvanized the opposition into an exceptional show of unity, expressing support for Imamoğlu. It also led many to frame the decision as politicizing the judiciary and usurping the electorate’s will.
The ruling resembles Erdoğan’s “faux pas” from 2019, when the YSK canceled the initial local election and then Imamoğlu won the repeat election with an even larger margin. However, whether this recent court ruling will backfire on Erdoğan’s prospects of winning the upcoming presidential election will depend on the opposition reaching the necessary compromises and urgently finalizing the nitty-gritty details of preparing for a tough election, including announcing a joint candidate.

14 December
(The World) A Turkish court has sentenced Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu to two years and seven months in prison for “insulting” members of Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council. The court also imposed a political ban, which will prevent him from running in elections for that period of time. Critics say the move is an attempt to weaken opposition against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan before next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections in June.
Erdoğan’s political rival sentenced to 2 years for calling official a ‘fool’ (with audio)
(The World) Today, a Turkish court sentenced the mayor of Istanbul to two years in prison for using the term “fool” to describe election officials. The mayor, Ekrem Imamoğlu, is a political rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Erdogan Challenger’s Political Career at Risk After Court Ruling
Istanbul Mayor Imamoglu sentenced to nearly 3 years in prison
Imamoglu widely seen as the biggest challenger to Erdogan

11 December
Turkey’s Erdogan calls on Putin to establish Syrian corridor
(AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a 30-kilometer (19-mile) security corridor on Turkey’s border with Syria in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan’s office said Sunday.
Referring to Kurdish militants that Ankara considers terrorists, Erdogan reiterated the “importance and urgency” of creating the corridor in northern Syria in accordance with a 2019 agreement between Turkey and Russia, the statement added.
Under a 2019 deal signed with Turkey, Russia promised to establish a buffer zone between the Turkish border and YPG forces that would be controlled by the Syrian army and Russian military police. The agreement was not fully implemented although both Russian and Syrian government forces are present in the border region, as well as some U.S. troops.

8 December
The Turkish connection: How Erdoğan’s confidant helped Iran finance terror
Sıtkı Ayan, the businessman helping Tehran sell oil, dodged US sanctions for years.
(Politico Eu) On March 22 of 2021, several of the world’s most dangerous men descended on Beirut’s historic seaside Summerland Hotel — not to swim in the Mediterranean or explore the sumptuous resort’s “Le Beach Pop Up,” but to talk Turkey.
The meeting was a secret one, between a delegation of senior Iranian military and government officials and a business group from Turkey led by a confidant of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Both sides were keen to deepen their partnership smuggling Iranian oil to buyers in China and Russia to raise funds for Tehran’s terror proxies, according to Western diplomats.
A little more than a year after the meeting, all of the key attendees would find their names on U.S. sanctions lists, with one important exception: Turkish businessman Sıtkı Ayan, a friend of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — the two men attended the same high school — and the man at the center of it all.
The U.S. sanctioned Ayan and his company late Thursday following the publication of this article, reversing months of inaction in the face of reams of evidence detailing the Turk’s dealings with the Iranians, including signed contracts and bank transfers. The U.S.’s reluctance to sanction Ayan, diplomats say, was driven by his close association with Erdoğan.
“Ayan’s companies have established international sales contracts for Iranian oil with foreign purchasers, arranged shipments of oil, and helped launder the proceeds, obscuring the oil’s Iranian origin and the [Quds Force’s] interest in the sales,” the U.S. Treasury, which oversees the implementation of American sanctions, said in a statement.
The case offers a window into the complicated dynamic between Iran, Turkey and the unique and influential role Erdoğan plays in the region as he oscillates from self-interested powerbroker to would-be mediator between the West, Russia and the Middle East, creating dependencies that often leave the United States and other allies with little choice but to let him have his way.

22 November
Turkey hints new Syria offensive; Russia urges restraint
(AP) — Turkey’s president again hinted at a possible new ground offensive in Syria against Kurdish militants on Tuesday, as Syrian forces denounced new airstrikes and Russia urged restraint and called on Ankara to avoid an escalation.
Russian presidential envoy in Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said that Turkey should “show a certain restraint” in order to prevent an escalation in Syria, where tensions heightened over the weekend after Turkish airstrikes killed and wounded a number of Syrian soldiers.
Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces later said fresh Turkish airstrikes on Tuesday struck a base that the group shares with the U.S.-led coalition in the fight against the Islamic State group. The base is just outside the town of Qamishli, 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Turkish border. Two SDF fighters were killed and three were wounded, the group said.
Turkey carried out airstrikes on suspected Kurdish militant targets in northern Syria and Iraq over the weekend, in retaliation for a deadly Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on the militant groups. The groups have denied involvement in the bombing.

1 November
Presidents of Turkey and Azerbaijan split the loot of the 2020 Artsakh War
While Armenia has been licking its wounds of the 2020 Artsakh War, the presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey wasted no time to get together and split with their families and cronies the loot they acquired after occupying the territories in and around Artsakh.
Azerbaijani journalist Ulkar Natiqqizi published an investigative article on October 24 titled: “‘Brotherly’ Azerbaijan and Turkey build lucrative Karabakh business ties.” The piece reveals how the two presidents have divided among their family members and close associates what they plundered from Artsakh.
Natiqqizi wrote, “Companies close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have received at least hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts, particularly in the reconstruction of the territories in Karabakh that Azerbaijan retook in the war… In one large new agricultural complex in the Zangilan region, members of Erdogan’s family are business partners with members of President Ilham Aliyev’s family.”
Related: Turkey’s Overlooked Role in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War – Turkey’s most significant contribution to Azerbaijan’s victory in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War was neither the drones it supplied nor the military advisors it allegedly provided, but three decades of meticulous army building. (21 Jan. 2021)

10 October
Putin, Erdoğan to meet in Kazakhstan
Kremlin spokesman says potential talks between Russia and the West might be discussed during the meeting.
(Politico Eu) Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on Wednesday on the sidelines of a regional summit, a Turkish official told AFP Tuesday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that potential talks between Russia and the West might be discussed during the meeting. The leaders are both attending the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).
NATO member Turkey has so far refrained from joining Western sanctions against Russia and instead attempted to play the role of a mediator, hosting talks with officials from Moscow and Kyiv and arbitrating a grain deal alongside the U.N. to ensure safe food exports out of blockaded Ukrainian ports. It has also supplied drones to Ukrainian forces. But it is also accused of war profiteering, helping others in the evasion of international embargoes for its own benefit.

6 October – UPDATE 24 November
‘Erdogan’s relationship with Putin is part of his game’
(Le Monde) While Turkey is currently playing a useful role as an intermediary in the Ukrainian conflict, the Erdogan regime’s ‘strategic intimacy’ with the European democracies remains limited.
…the question is whether a new intergovernmental framework separate from the EU should include the Turkish autocracy, which positioned itself as the antithesis of European principles and values with its 2017 Constitution and the way its institutions operate.
Macron’s project for a ‘European political community’ stumbles over Turkey – The 27 member states are reluctant to involve Ankara in this project, which is dear to Emmanuel Macron and is intended to broaden dialog with non-EU countries. (7 September)

23 September
‘Europe Should Be Grateful to Erdoğan’
by Burak Bekdil
(Gatestone) Erdoğan is bringing NATO member Turkey more and more into Russia’s orbit.
Turkey is once again blackmailing the U.S. that “it would further deepen its defense cooperation with Russia if Congress blocks its request to buy 40 F-16 Block 70 fighter jets from the U.S.”
“Europe Should Be Grateful to Erdoğan”: The quote is the praise Russian dictator Vladimir Putin bestowed upon Turkey’s Islamist strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Translated into realpolitik, what Putin is saying is: “Russia is grateful to Erdoğan’s anti-Western ideology.” He is right. Erdoğan is bringing NATO member Turkey more and more into Russia’s orbit.
Erdoğan is overtly challenging the alliance of which his country is a member. Here is a brief account of how Erdoğan steered Turkey further away from Western interests, in favor of his Eurasian adventurism, in just a couple of months:
In early July, Erdoğan told a group of top party executives that Putin, during a meeting in Tehran, suggested a deal in which Turkish drone maker Baykar, whose chief engineer is Erdoğan’s son-in-law, cooperates with Russia. “Putin told me that he wants to work with Baykar,” Erdoğan said.
At the end of July, a Russian state-owned company was caught transferring money to a subsidiary that is building a $20 billion nuclear power plant on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, thereby alleviating concerns that the project could be delayed by war sanctions. Rosatom Corp. sent around $5 billion to the Turkey-based builder, formally known as Akkuyu Nuclear JSC.
The beginning of August. Putin proudly announced that the trade between Russia and Turkey doubled in the first five months of 2022, and had surged 57% in the last year. … and on and on

21 September
Can the SCO be Turkey’s alternative to the West?
Erdogan suggests Turkey will seek full membership of the Russia and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation amid strained ties with the West.
(Al Jazeera) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed his NATO-member country’s intention to become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), suggesting Ankara is seeking alternatives to its problematic ties with the West.

20 September
Erdoğan to Putin: Return Crimea to ‘rightful owners’
Turkish leader joins parade of leaders dealing blows to Putin.
(Politico) The Black Sea peninsula should be returned to its “rightful owners,” Erdoğan told PBS NewsHour on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, in comments likely to provoke ire in Moscow.
Asked whether Russia should be allowed to keep Crimea in a negotiated end to the war, Erdoğan said, “These are our descendants at the same time, the people who are living there. If you were to take this step forward, if you could leave us, you would also be relieving the Crimean Tatars and Ukraine as well. That’s what we have always been saying.”
Erdoğan said he had been telling Putin this since 2014. “But since then, unfortunately, no step has been taken forward,” he added.
In the interview, Erdoğan continued to present Turkey, which is a member of NATO, as a neutral party in the Russia-Ukraine war, saying that a conclusion to hostilities would not be reached by “taking sides.” However he also said that Russia’s “invasion cannot be justified.”
Turkey President Erdoğan on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the future of NATO
(PBS Newshour) “In Uzbekistan, I got together with President Putin, and we had very extensive discussions with him. And he is actually showing me that he’s willing to end this as soon as possible. That was my impression, because the way things are going right now are quite problematic; 200 hostages will be exchanged upon an agreement between the parties.”
“When we talk about reciprocal agreement, this is what we mean. If a peace is going to be established in Ukraine, of course, the returning of the land that was invaded will become really important. This is what is expected. This is what is wanted. Mr. Putin has taken certain steps. We have taken certain steps.
The lands which were invaded will be returned to Ukraine.”
Judy Woodruff: Should Russia be allowed to keep Crimea?
“Since 2014, we have been talking to my dear friend Putin about this, and this is what we have requested from him.
We asked him to return Crimea to its rightful owners. These are our descendants at the same time, the people who are living there. If you were to take this step forward, if you could leave us, you would also be relieving the Crimean Tatars and Ukraine as well. That’s what we have always been saying.”

17 September
Turkey Seeks to Be First NATO Member to Join China-Led SCO
(Bloomberg) “Our relationship with these countries will be moved to a much different position with this step,” Erdogan said about the SCO when he spoke with reporters in the city of Samarkand where the summit was held.
Turkey’s Erdogan targets joining Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, media reports say
(Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan said he was targeting membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) for NATO-member Turkey, broadcaster NTV and other media said on Saturday.
Turkey is currently a dialogue partner of the SCO, whose members are China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Turkey and India call on Putin to end war in Ukraine
… Putin also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday to discuss bolstering economic cooperation and regional issues, including a July deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations on Ukrainian grain shipments.
Erdogan called for an end to the war in Ukraine “as soon as possible through diplomatic channels.”

5 September
The Erdogan-Putin duet: Who has the upper hand?
Ambassador Marc Pierini, the author of the recent piece “Understanding the Erdogan-Putin Duet”, joins Thanos Davelis to break down how Erdogan’s balancing act between Russia, Ukraine and the West is benefitting both Turkey and Russia, but why Putin ultimately has the upper hand.

31 August
Insiders reveal how Erdogan tamed Turkey’s newsrooms
(A Reuters Special Report) …the Turkish mainstream media, once a more lively clash of ideas, has become a tight chain of command of government-approved headlines, front pages and topics of TV debate. Interviews with dozens of sources in the media, government officials and regulators portray an industry that has fallen in line with other formerly independent institutions that Erdogan has bent to his will, including, his critics say, the judiciary, military, central bank and large parts of the education system. Government pressure and media self-censorship share the blame, according to the people interviewed by Reuters.
Directions to newsrooms often come from officials in the government’s Directorate of Communications, which handles media relations, more than a dozen industry insiders told Reuters. The directorate is an Erdogan creation, employing some 1,500 people and headquartered in a tower block in Ankara. It is headed by a former academic, Fahrettin Altun.
As Turkey approaches presidential and parliamentary elections, which are due in the course of the next year, Erdogan finds himself trailing in many polls. His unorthodox policy of slashing interest rates set off a currency crisis and inflationary spiral even before the war in Ukraine caused a surge in global energy and food prices. The lira has lost more than a quarter of its value this year and annual inflation is 80%, deepening poverty among Erdogan’s main working-class and lower-middle-class supporters.

30 August
Understanding the Erdoğan-Putin Duet
Marc Pierini
Both Moscow and Ankara are benefiting from Turkey’s mediating role since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Strategically, however, Putin has the upper hand.
(Carnegie Europe) Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Turkey has been pursuing a “balanced approach” to Moscow and Kyiv and is playing a key role in several ways.
It has condemned the invasion and closed the Turkish Straits. It is facilitating a dialogue between the belligerent parties. And it has nurtured and monitored a deal on grain exports together with the UN.
Turkey’s role is welcome as such in the tragic circumstances. Yet, such a balancing act is a costly gamble, not only for Ankara but for the international community as well.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has spared no effort in trying to play a go-between when it comes to Russia and Ukraine: phone calls, visits, facilitation of meetings, grain deal negotiations—including running the deal’s monitoring center in Istanbul and naval escorts for the grain-carrying vessels.
23 August
Turkey’s FM Cavusoglu Claims Several NATO Nations Want Russia-Ukraine War To Continue
(RepublicWorld India) Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu alleged that the US along with some other NATO countries want the ongoing war in Ukraine to continue.
He also accused some western countries of trying to halt the grain corridor agreement which was signed by Russia and Ukraine on July 22. “There are some NATO countries in the West that want the war to continue in Ukraine. I mean not only the United States, but also other NATO member countries. There were those who wanted to sabotage the grain agreement,” Cavusoglu told Haber Global news broadcaster, as per the TASS.
However, the Turkish Foreign Minister further stated that the US was not among those who tried to restrict the grain agreement.

21 August
With nationalism rising, Turkey turns against refugees it once welcomed
Turkey’s growing antipathy toward refugees is starting to resemble the attitudes in the rest of Europe toward those fleeing unrest
(WaPo) The anger has emanated from a public unnerved by a worsening economic crisis, unsettled by claims that immigrants are changing Turkey’s character, and egged on by politicians using provocative or racist rhetoric to capitalize on all the fear. Turkey is the latest European country to grapple with the rise of anti-immigrant politics, but its refugees also face a durable strain of nativism that favors some immigrants — like those from the Balkans — over others, especially from the Middle East.

5 August
(Bloomberg Balance of Power) Turkey’s attempts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine go beyond a delicate diplomatic balancing act. It’s about prestige and strategy for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin are meeting for a second time in less than a month in Russia’s Sochi today to discuss the war in Ukraine. They’ll also hold talks on Turkey’s plans for a military incursion into northern Syria, after they failed to reach agreement on the issue last month.

11 July
Greek PM Mitsotakis Urges Erdogan to Respond to Provocative Map
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to respond to a map next to which his ally, Devlet Bahçeli, posed. The map depicted Greek islands and Crete as Turkish territory.
The far-right nationalist Turkish politician Bahçeli took a picture posing next to the map showing that a large part of Greece belongs to Turkey at a meeting of the Grey Wolves on Saturday.
The Grey Wolves is a nationalist, Islamist, and fascist group considered a terrorist organization across much of the world, and Bahçeli is one of its founders.
Ken Matziorinis reacts: President Erdogan’s coalition partner Bahceli is the founder and leader of an extreme nationalist terrorist organization, the Grey Wolves. They claim that the Aegean Greek Islands including Crete and my father’s island Samothraki should be given to Turkey. Why does Erdogan keep him in his governing coalition? Why doesn’t NATO or the EU take a public stand? What would you do if someone claims that your house belongs to them and keeps threatening you and bullying you to hand it over to them?

8 July
Turkey: Jihad against Cyprus
Turkey is now using the distraction of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a cover to increase its likelihood of officially annexing Cyprus’s north.
(Gatestone) It is not just part of the island country of Cyprus that is being occupied and demeaned. What is being occupied, colonized, and culturally destroyed is a significant part of Western history and civilization. It is part of the “Great Replacement” predicted for Europe but ridiculed as a “conspiracy theory”. One only need look back at the replacement of the Christian Byzantine Empire by the Ottoman Empire and then Turkey, or the replacement of the indigenous Copts in Egypt. With Cyprus and Greece under attack from Turkey, where are the West’s principles, strength and resolve?
Since Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, the island has been illegally and forcibly partitioned in two. The northern part of the Republic of Cyprus — like the rest of the country — had been majority-Greek. Its demographic structure was changed by Turkey when approximately 170,000 Greek Cypriots were forcibly displaced by Turkish troops. This expulsion affected about one-third of the Greek Cypriot population. The occupied part of the island has since been colonized by settlers from Turkey. Approximately 40,000 Turkish soldiers are illegally stationed in the occupied area, making it, according to the UN, one of the most heavily militarized areas in the world. Around 80% of the island’s wealth-producing resources lie under Turkish occupation. (28 June)

27 June – 8 July
Erdogan’s NATO Gamble Paid Off, But Not Without a Cost
(Moscow Times) Erdogan and his team left Madrid with a strong sense of achievement. But the results have not come without cost. Finland and Sweden will not easily forget this difficult experience that came at a critical point in their recent histories, and it will likely erode their support for Turkey’s European vocation. As a country that often complains about the lack of empathy it receives, Turkey should accord Finland and Sweden the same understanding and do its best to mend the damaged relationships with these two prospective NATO allies. If Helsinki and Stockholm are able to understand the deep frustration Ankara has felt with its allies and others in its fight against terrorism, it might be possible to hasten the healing process.
Who are ‘terrorists’ Turkey wants from Sweden and Finland?
Nato has formally launched the process to bring Sweden and Finland into its military alliance. But a key condition for Nato member Turkey is the handover of more than 70 people described by its president as terrorists.
The leaders of the two Nordic nations say they are taking the issue seriously, but ultimately extradition is up to the courts not politicians. So who does Turkey want and could they ever be deported to Ankara?
Sweden and Finland applied to join the West’s defensive alliance after Russia launched its war in Ukraine. Turkey was the only one of Nato’s 30 member states to block their bids until the two Nordic states agreed to a set of demands – including handing over individuals with alleged terror links.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sweden had promised to extradite 73 “terrorists” and had already sent three or four of them. Pro-government Turkish daily Hurriyet published a list of 45 people, including 33 sought from Sweden and 12 from Finland.

What Turkey won with its NATO leverage
By Atlantic Council
The door is back open. After weeks of tension, Turkey finally dropped its objection to Finland and Sweden’s bids to join NATO as the Alliance kicked off its summit in Madrid on Tuesday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan scored a face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden and spurred Stockholm and Helsinki to address his concerns about the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliate, the People’s Defense Units (YPG), while NATO moved toward securing two new members.
Turkey lifts veto on Finland, Sweden joining NATO, clearing path for expansion
Leaders of Turkey, Finland, Sweden held talks in Madrid
Sweden, Finland, Turkey sign goodwill memorandum
(Reuters) – NATO ally Turkey lifted its veto over Finland and Sweden’s bid to join the Western alliance on Tuesday after the three nations agreed to protect each other’s security, ending a weeks-long drama that tested allied unity against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The breakthrough came after four hours of talks just before a NATO summit began in Madrid, averting an embarrassing impasse at the gathering
Go-slow Turkey unlikely to reach Nordics deal at NATO meet
NATO leaders meet in Madrid June 29-30
Ankara opposed Stockholm and Helsinki’s memberships
Turkey ready for months of talks if needed -sources
Stance helped Erdogan’s sagging polls ahead of vote
Erdogan to meet with leaders of Sweden, Finland before NATO summit
(Reuters) Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But the bids have faced opposition from Turkey, which has been angered by what it says is Helsinki and Stockholm’s support for Kurdish militants and arms embargoes on Ankara.

23 June
Diversionary war: Turkey’s actions against Greece are a growing threat to NATO
As the Ukraine War drags on, the greatest threat to Western objectives will not be Russian military capabilities but divisions within NATO. A Greco-Turkish confrontation would threaten to upend the Atlantic Alliance at precisely the wrong time. It must be prevented.
(The Hill opinion) Turkish obstructionism against Swedish and Finnish NATO membership, its limited offensive in Iraq, and its prospective offensive in Syria have grabbed international attention. But more significant is Turkey’s growing diplomatic tension with Greece, an ever-festering lesion that threatens to burst.
Considering Turkey’s domestic situation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States must be wary. Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan could capitalize on international distraction and wage a diversionary war to boost his popularity, a conflict that would disrupt NATO’s cohesion and threaten the alliance.
Washington should act now to resolve the current incarnation of this long-standing Mediterranean dispute.

22 June
Turkey’s Erdogan hosts Saudi crown prince, ending rift over Khashoggi murder
Turkey’s government mounted a global campaign to shame the kingdom’s leadership, a campaign that helped transform Mohammed, Saudi Arabia’s day-to-day leader, into a pariah, isolated and largely confined to the kingdom or travel to friendly, autocratic states.
But Erdogan, who called Khashoggi a friend, reversed course over the last year, in an effort to lure investment from oil-rich Saudi Arabia during a worsening economic crisis in Turkey that has been marked by skyrocketing inflation. In early April, in a concession to the kingdom, Turkey announced that it was ending its prosecution of Khashoggi’s killers, who were being tried in absentia.

23 May
Turkey’s Erdogan threatens new incursion into Syria
(AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened Monday to launch a new military operation in Syria to secure Turkey’s southern border….Erdogan said the aim of the operation would be resume Turkish efforts to create a 30-kilometer (20 mile) safe zone along its border with Syria.

12-17 May
Eric Reguly: Turkey’s threat to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO merely a negotiating ploy, analysts say
Security analysts do not think that Mr. Erdogan is serious about rejecting the applications of Sweden and Finland, which confirmed their intention of joining NATO in recent days. Their applications are expected to be approved at the alliance’s summit in Madrid at the end of June, though the parliaments of all 30 member countries would have to ratify the decision, a process that could take several months (four months has been the quickest time between an application and full membership).
Why Erdogan Is Spoiling NATO’s Nordic Welcome Party
A team player on Ukraine, the Turkish leader is ready to use his leverage before accepting NATO’s newest members.
(Foreign Policy) … As [Steven A. Cook, an FP columnist and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations] explains, though the targets of the Turkish diplomatic tantrum may be Nordic, the audience is likely in Washington.
“It suggests that there’s really something else going on, and what’s really going on, is that there seems to be more opposition in Congress to Turkey’s F-16s.”
Turkey’s pending acquisition of the fighter jets is seen as a consolation prize for being kicked out of the more advanced F-35 program and a reward for its actions in the war in Ukraine, where it has played a role as a diplomatic interlocutor as well as a provider of crucial TB-2 combat drones to Kyiv.
Turkey’s leader opposes letting Finland, Sweden join NATO
(AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that his country is “not favorable” toward Finland and Sweden joining NATO, indicating Turkey could use its membership in the Western military alliance to veto moves to admit the two countries.
“We are following developments concerning Sweden and Finland, but we are not of a favorable opinion,” Erdogan told reporters.
The Turkish leader explained his opposition by citing Sweden and other Scandinavian countries’ alleged support for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers to be terrorists.
He said he also did not want to repeat Turkey’s past “mistake” from when it agreed to readmit Greece into NATO’s military wing in 1980. He claimed the action had allowed Greece “to take an attitude against Turkey” with NATO’s backing.

8 April
Turkey to send case against Khashoggi’s alleged killers to Saudi Arabia
Suspension of trial reflects President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s desire to strengthen trade and political links with Middle East
The move ends any meaningful hope of securing justice and paves the way for a political reset between the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler whose security aides were on trial in Istanbul and who is widely believed to have ordered the murder.
It follows Erdoğan’s attempts to reboot relations with regional rivals, including the UAE and Egypt. The veteran leader faces an election next year in which Turkey’s stagnating economy is likely to feature prominently, and his moves in the Middle East are aimed at boosting trade and investment ties that could ease the downturn.

31 March
Turkey leads pack of countries vying to mediate between Ukraine and Russia
Analysis: the Nato member that arms Ukraine and will not impose sanctions on Russia seems respected enough by both sides to host talks
(The Guardian) The Turks also have a profound sense of what may be at stake. Speaking at the weekend in Doha, Ibrahim Kalin, the adviser and spokesperson to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, spelled it out: “Once this is all over, there will have to be a new security architecture to emerge globally. How that global security architecture will be structured will shape the course of events for decades to come. Every step we take, every move we make to bring an end to this war will have an impact on that new security architecture.”

27 February
Turkey, overseeing passage to Black Sea, calls Russian invasion ‘war’
(Reuters) – Turkey called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “war” on Sunday in a rhetorical shift that could pave the way for the NATO member nation to enact an international pact limiting Russian naval passage to the Black Sea.
Balancing its Western commitments and close ties to Moscow, Ankara has said the Russian attack is unacceptable but until Sunday had not described the situation as a war.
“On the fourth day of the Ukraine war, we repeat President (Tayyip) Erdogan’s call for an immediate halt of Russian attacks and the start of ceasefire negotiations,” presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter.
Fahrettin Altun, Turkey’s communications director, said “we are witnessing yet another war in our region”, and repeated Erdogan’s offer to mediate

3 January
Top Risks 2022
Eurasia Group president, Ian Bremmer, and chairman, Cliff Kupchan
#10 — Turkey
President Erdogan will drag Turkey’s economy and international standing to new lows in 2022 as he tries to reverse his plunging poll numbers ahead of elections in 2023. Unemployment and inflation are high, and the lira is weaker and more volatile, but Erdogan has rejected orthodox economic management. His foreign policy will grow more combative this year to distract voters from the economic crisis.


22-23 December
What’s wrong with Turkey’s economy? ‘Erdoganomics.’
By Asli Aydintasbas
(WaPo Opinion) “Erdoganomics” is a new and evolving science.
It rests on an erratic management of the economy, coupled with double-digit inflation, fuzzy statistics and departure from a rules-based order. The underlying doctrine is that interest rates are the mother of all evil and cause inflation, though conventional economics says otherwise. Under the new discipline, as currency depreciates and citizens flock to convert their savings into dollars, the resulting market volatility can be managed by public threats against the business community, declaring a “war of independence” against foreign enemies and, God willing, a bump in exports.
If all else fails, there is always religion to fall back on. For example, a Koranic verse against usury can be used to bully bureaucrats into lowering interest rates.
This doctrine forms the basis of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s experiment with the national economy — but is politically and economically unsustainable.
How Erdonomics Sank Turkey
Anne O. Krueger
Following years of mismanagement by an authoritarian president, Turkey’s economy is reeling. Without new leadership or a course correction that includes a tighter monetary policy, Turkish households’ economic prospects will continue to darken, and the impact on the country’s stability will become impossible for others to ignore.
(Project Syndicate) Turkey’s economy is in crisis. Inflation is high and rising, economic growth is stalling, foreign-exchange reserves have plummeted, many goods are in short supply or simply unavailable, and low- and middle-income households are increasingly impoverished. With per capita GDP having fallen from $12,600 in 2013 to $8,500 in 2020, Turkey’s 85 million people have faced dimming economic prospects for the better part of a decade.
Turkey’s problems are almost entirely self-inflicted. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has spent years hollowing out the country’s democratic institutions and sowing division within the population to suppress the rise of a united political opposition. Owing to the strong economic performance of previous years, Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been re-elected at every ballot since 2002. But that support has fallen sharply as a result of the deteriorating political and economic situation. Politically, the Erdoğan government has increasingly come to support the idea of a religious state, even though the constitution mandates a secular one, and it has been ruthlessly suppressing journalists and political dissent since a coup attempt in 2016.

18 December
Erdogan’s Ponzi scheme comes apart
Friday’s Istanbul exchange collapse, if not the breaking point, was a warning that madness will overcome method
(Asia Times) There has always been a method to the madness of Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who cut interest rates even while the value of the Turkish lira vanished on foreign exchange markets. The method, however, showed its fragility on Friday, December 17, when the currency traded at 17 to the dollar, about half its November level and one-eighth of its 2014 exchange rate.
Central banks usually raise interest rates when their currency implodes, but Erdogan’s appointees in Ankara did the opposite, accelerating the lira’s fall.
Their method: Turkey’s housing market has provided an inflation buffer for the middle class, while hard-currency export revenues had kept Turkish industry afloat – so far. But these arrangements appear to be disintegrating. On December 17 Turkish stocks fell by 9% before the government stopped trading in equity and other markets.

6 October
US Congress Turns Spotlight on Turkish Extremists Grey Wolves
(Greek Reporter) The US Congress passed an amendment on Tuesday to the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that could affect the status of the extremist group the Grey Wolves, operating in Turkey and occupied Cyprus.
The amendment, introduced by Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV), requires that the State Department send a report to Congress on the activities of the Grey Wolves against the United States and its partners, including an assessment of whether the Grey Wolves meet the criteria to be designated as a foreign terrorist organization.
Greek- and Cypriot-American organizations issued a joint statement welcoming the passage of the amendment. The statement was signed by the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA), and the International Coordinating Committee – Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA).

28 July
President Erdogan’s government is facing increased criticism over its apparent poor response and inadequate preparedness.

4 June
Turkey has discovered more natural gas in Black Sea, Erdogan says
Natural gas discoveries are expected to allow Turkey to import cheaper gas and trim its average annual energy bill, which is about $44bn.

7 April
Ursula von der Leyen snubbed in chair gaffe at EU-Erdoğan talks
The awkward scene played out before a three-hour meeting with Erdoğan on Tuesday where one of the issues raised by the EU leaders was women’s rights in light of Turkey’s withdrawal from a convention on gender-based violence.

20 March
Erdogan Pulls Turkey From European Treaty on Domestic Violence
The move is likely to please President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s conservative followers. He also removed the head of the central bank.
(NYT) Mr. Erdogan’s Islamist-leaning government has sought to recast the debate over women’s rights by supporting traditional family values over equality for women, and by emphasizing women’s role as nurturers of children. Women’s groups counter that violence against women has soared during Mr. Erdogan’s tenure, and they blame his support of traditional conservative values and impunity for perpetrators before the law.
Mr. Erdogan does not face re-election until 2023, but his popularity has fallen amid an economic downturn. Opposition parties are gaining strength, and at this point he would likely struggle to win a presidential election even with his nationalist allies.

25 February
Turkey’s mobsters step out of shadows and into public sphere
After decades in hiding, in prison or keeping low profile, players from a bloody period in the country’s history are now seen as ‘folk idols’ by the Turkish right.
The Turkish mafia’s sudden rehabilitation in public life has taken a hold on the popular imagination. It also suggests a new political climate is emerging in which the state at best tolerates, and at worst, embraces, previously shadowy figures.
… one of the most significant ways in which Turkey’s political alliances were transformed in the aftermath of the coup attempt in 2016 appears to be the rebirth of the Turkish far right as a prominent political force. Having alienated most other potential political partners in the last 20 years, and as the AKP’s popularity continues to wane, the president now has little choice but to stick with MHP if he wants to hang on to power.
The AKP itself is also no stranger to corruption and criminal scandals. The growing prominence of MHP and its unsavoury friends has left some wondering whether Turkey may yet turn into a bona fide mafia state.

16 February
Erdoğan vows to expand fight against PKK after deaths of 13 hostages
More than 700 alleged supporters of Kurdish militants held following failed attempt to rescue Turkish soldiers and police
The deaths have caused shock waves in Turkey, where the government sought to deflect blame for the failed rescue operation and whip up nationalistic fervour with a wave of arrests of members of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic party (HDP) over alleged PKK links.
Opposition parties have accused the government of failing to negotiate a peaceful release, even though they had previously raised the issue of the captured men in parliament.
Turkey has stepped up operations against the PKK since last summer, when it launched Operation Claw-Eagle and Operation Claw-Tiger on suspected PKK installations across northern Iraq, with the cooperation of the area’s autonomous Kurdistan regional government (KRG). According to the conflict monitor Airwars, more Iraqi civilians were killed in 2020 as a result of the Turkey-PKK conflict than at any time since 2015.
More than 700 people have been arrested in Turkey since Monday for alleged PKK support, including the HDP’s provincial and district chairs, raising fears of a new, and possibly final, crackdown on the party.


24 November
Arab states are fighting back against Turkey’s ‘neo-Ottomanism’
By Jake Wallis Simons
(The Spectator) A hundred years ago, the Turkish Republic was founded on secularism. Ataturk banned religion from the public realm, prohibited the Arabic call to prayer, and encouraged men and women to mix. But for years, Erdoğan has done all he can to reverse the Turkish liberal consensus in favour of a new authoritarianism – and is taking on muscular adventurism abroad.
For Israel and the US, Iran is unlikely to be knocked from the top of their worry list. Other countries in the region, however, are less concerned about a Tehran already weakened by sanctions, Covid and an Israeli air campaign in Syria. It is now Ankara that is keeping them up at night.
Across the Mediterranean, Turkish muscle enabled the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord to crush the rebel Khalifa Haftar in Libya, allowing Turkey to gain a foothold in North Africa and lock out antagonists like Egypt and the UAE. And beyond the Aras river on Turkey’s eastern flank, Erdoğan is sitting pretty, with the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh ending decisively in favour of his ally, Azerbaijan – with the help of Ankara’s fearsome drone programme.
In a sign of the times, Pakistan, traditionally an ally of Saudi Arabia, came down on the side of Turkey in the South Caucasus fight. Islamabad laid money on the right horse.
Western powers have reason to be worried about the rise of the neo-Ottoman empire. Not only does Turkey control Europe’s gas supply and migrant flows, its regional meddling profoundly undermines Western interests.
The backdrop to all this is Turkey’s alliance with Qatar. Bonded by their support for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, the two Sunni states are formidable supporters of terror. Senior Hamas operatives are welcomed in both countries, and both also reportedly host Hamas’ command-and-control facilities.
Defence cooperation between Turkey and Qatar now runs deep. They jointly provide cyber security to the oil-rich Sheikdom, and the Turkish armoured vehicles manufacturer BMC is half-owned by a Qatari investment fund.

18 November
Turkey Forges a New Geo-Strategic Axis from Azerbaijan to Ukraine
Taras Kuzio
(Rusi.org) A new informal alliance is emerging in Southeastern Europe, and it is being led by Turkey.
Azerbaijan’s victory on the battlefield against Armenia and the recovery of seven occupied districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh and the southern part of this enclave centred on the important cultural centre of Shusha (Shushi) would not have been possible without Turkish diplomatic and military assistance. Turkey invested in training Azerbaijan’s armed forces according to NATO standards and supplied drones, other forms of military technology and its Syrian proxy forces fighting along the Turkish–Syrian border, copying Russia’s longstanding use of proxy forces in Ukraine and Eurasia. Speaking in Baku on 12 November, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that his country would continue to give its support to Baku for any further steps it would decide to take towards Nagorno-Karabakh.
Turkey as a New Regional Power
Turkey’s new and for the moment putative geopolitical alliance is built on longstanding ties between pro-Western or Western-leaning states in the former USSR who had created the GUAM group in the late 1990s, bringing together Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. GUAM stagnated after the election of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine in 2010 and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili leaving office three years later. Renamed the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, it revived its operations after Ukraine’s 2013–14 Euromaidan Revolution. Ironically, Azerbaijan chaired GUAM in the year it took back much of its occupied territory.

21 October
Fighting rages as Armenia, Azerbaijan engage in talks
After almost one month of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, dozens of civilians and hundreds of soldiers have been killed.
(Al Jazeera) Turkey will not hesitate to send soldiers and provide military support for Azerbaijan if such a request is made by Baku, Vice President Fuat Okaty said, adding there was no such request at the moment.
Turkey has vowed full solidarity with Azerbaijan and has accused Yerevan of occupying Azeri lands.
Speaking in an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk, Oktay also criticised the OSCE’s Minsk group – formed to mediate the conflict and led by France, Russia and the United States – of trying to keep the issue unresolved and supporting Armenia, both politically and militarily.

9 October
Turkey’s Black Sea Gas Discovery May Be Bigger Than Thought
In August, Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan said that the country had made a large natural gas discovery in its waters in the Black Sea. Back then, the estimate Turkey gave was of 320 billion cubic meters of natural gas and said this was its largest-ever gas discovery. Erdogan hailed the find as a historic find that would help Turkey’s energy security.
Turkey currently imports nearly all the gas it consumes.
…after further exploration drilling is completed, Bloomberg’s sources said, the Turkish government is about to disclose a “sizable revision” to the initial estimate.
Champagne tells Turkey to ‘stay out’ of Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict
(Canadian Press) Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Friday he deplores a statement by Azerbaijan’s president that a military solution is the only way to solve his country’s current crisis with Armenia.
The renewed fighting in the decades-old conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh region entered its ninth day Friday and will be a key focus of Champagne’s second overseas trip in less than two months.
Armenia, Azerbaijan agree to ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
Turkish involvement
(AP via CBC) The current escalation marked the first time that Azerbaijan’s ally Turkey took a high profile in the conflict, offering strong political support. Over the past few years, Turkey provided Azerbaijan with state-of-the-art weapons, including drones and rocket systems that helped the Azerbaijani military outgun the Nagorno-Karabakh separatist forces in the latest fighting.
Armenian officials say Turkey is involved in the conflict and is sending Syrian mercenaries to fight on Azerbaijan’s side. Turkey has denied deploying combatants to the region, but a Syrian war monitor and three Syria-based opposition activists have confirmed that Turkey has sent hundreds of Syrian opposition fighters to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh.

8 October
Greece, Cyprus threaten EU sanctions against Turkey over Varosha
Greece says if Turkey does not reverse reopening part of Cypriot ghost town, it may seek to trigger economic sanctions.
The latest move by Turkey risks upending decades of efforts to achieve a political reunification of the island as a federal, bi-communal state.
It is also a slap in the face of the EU, which last week resisted Greek and Cypriot calls for sanctions over Turkey’s hydrocarbon exploration in the region.

2 October
Why Armenia and Azerbaijan Are on the Brink of War
(Foreign Affairs) Turkey sided with Azerbaijan in the initial conflict in the 1990s, and the two countries share close ethnic and cultural ties. Commentators and officials—mostly Turks—describe the relationship as “one nation, two states.” Until recently, however, Turkey’s involvement in the dispute was relatively limited. But as Ankara has adopted a more assertive posture in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it has become more forthright in its support for Azerbaijan.

2 October
Nagorno-Karabakh: Turkey’s Support For Azerbaijan Challenges Russian Leverage
(NPR) As world powers call for peace and the warring parties pledge to fulfill “historic” missions, ordinary people are suffering the most as fighting flared this week in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region on Russia’s southern border. The territory, located in Azerbaijan, is claimed by both Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said Friday it “welcomed” the condemnation of violence by the presidents of Russia, France and the United States. The ministry said Armenia is “committed” to a peaceful resolution and accused Turkey of direct involvement in the most recent hostilities.
Turkey is not hiding its support for Azerbaijan. The two countries have close ethnic and linguistic kinship, while Turkey’s relations with Armenia are burdened by the Ottoman Empire’s 1915 mass killing of 1.5 million Armenians, which most historians and a growing number of countries, including the U.S., consider genocide. Turkey rejects the term.
In a speech to the Turkish Parliament Thursday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed Armenia for the renewed fighting and said, “Our Azerbaijani brothers are now waiting for the day they will return to their land.”

11 September
Eric Reguly: A dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean has brought Turkey and Greece close to war once again. But this time it’s different
Every decade or so, the two countries come close to blows over a disputed hunk of rock or stretch of water in the Aegean Sea and other seemingly insignificant bits of the Mediterranean. There were little skirmishes in 1987 and 1996, either of which could have turned explosive if cooler heads had not prevailed.
This time it’s different, because potentially vast reserves of gas, and perhaps oil, are at stake and every country in the region wants a piece of the action. Many are getting it, but not Turkey. The gas discoveries were supposed to unite the region’s countries, including the Palestinian Territories, and provide them with cheap energy and a steady stream of export dollars. Instead, the fight over hydrocarbon exploration rights has injected another dose of instability into an already volatile region.
Everyone knows the Eastern Mediterranean contains lots of gas; some of it is already being delivered by pipeline to Egypt and Israel, cutting their energy import bills and carbon footprints. History has largely sidelined Turkey. The way the maps of the territorial waters, continental shelves and exclusive economic zones (EEZs) are drawn means that Greece and its ally the Republic of Cyprus have the greatest access to the subsea spoils in the Aegean and huge swaths of the Levantine Sea.

27 August
Turkey Tests the EU’s Resolve in the Eastern Mediterranean
(Carnegie Europe) The contentious issues between leading NATO member Turkey and Western European countries abound: Syrian refugees, Turkey’s maritime boundaries with Greece and Cyprus, drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Turkish military operations in Syria and Libya, and NATO’s missile defense architecture.
Lately, Ankara has chosen to pursue an antagonistic approach, making disruption a major ingredient of its foreign policy. When existing rules do not serve its objectives—as with the dispute over maritime boundaries and drilling permits—Turkey unilaterally creates new rules, in the belief that the other side will bow to pressure.
The reasons for Turkey’s policy attitude are to be found in the country’s domestic political situation.
Opinion polls are bleak for the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which has been in power since November 2002. Since the 2017 change of constitution, the 2018 presidential and legislative elections, and the 2019 municipal election, the religious-conservative party has lost its long-standing political dominance in Turkey.
In addition, a string of misguided economic and monetary policy decisions—especially on interest rates—has put the economy and the Turkish lira in dire straits, despite spending $65 billion in hard currency reserves to buffer the country’s currency.

14 August
Iran and Turkey denounce UAE over deal with Israel
(The Guardian) Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has increasingly styled himself as the Palestinians’ lone regional champion, despite his country having had diplomatic relations with Israel for decades.
After the Trump administration published a “vision for peace” in January, Erdoğan said Turkey would never accept the proposals and accused Arab Gulf nations of betraying the Palestinian cause.
In response to the UAE deal, Turkey’s foreign ministry said: “History and the conscience of the people living in the region will not forget and never forgive this hypocritical behaviour.”

16 July
Five Reasons Why the West Will Lose Turkey
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,647
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Turkey we once knew no longer exists. Despite NATO objections and US warnings, Ankara acquired the advanced S-400 anti-aircraft system from Russia. In response, Washington canceled Turkish participation in the F-35 program. In the latest episode of this saga, a Turkish court sentenced a US Consulate employee to almost nine years in prison for aiding the Gülen movement. President Erdoğan has behaved like a bully toward the EU, weaponizing Muslim refugees and migrants. He has also issued direct threats to Greece and regularly antagonizes Israel.
… First, Turkey is changing fast. The Islamization of the country is a bottom-up rather than a top-down process. Anatolian Turks, who tend to be more conservative and religious, have higher birth rates than the westernized Turks of Istanbul and the Aegean coast.
Second, the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War has led to the dramatic revitalization of the Kurdish Question. In November 2013, the establishment of the Kurdish autonomous region of Rojava sent shock waves through Ankara.
Third, the gradual withdrawal of the US from the Middle East and the subsequent return of Russia have changed regional security dynamics.
Fourth, Turkey’s growing ties with Russia are neither tactical nor coincidental. Geopolitical considerations partly explain Turkey’s departure from its pro-Western orientation.
Fifth, Turkey is becoming an authoritarian country. Turkey has a long tradition of westernization, but it is on a slippery slope where the rule of law is becoming increasingly problematic and the division of powers has grown blurry.

10 July
Erdogan Signs Decree Allowing Hagia Sophia to Be Used as a Mosque Again
The decree came after a Turkish court revoked the site’s 80-year-old status as a museum and is likely to provoke an international furor.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree Friday ordering Hagia Sophia to be opened for Muslim prayers, an action likely to provoke international furor around a World Heritage Site cherished by Christians and Muslims alike for its religious significance, for its stunning structure and as a symbol of conquest.
The presidential decree came minutes after a Turkish court announced that it had revoked Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum, which for the last 80 years had made it a monument of relative harmony and a symbol of the secularism that was part of the foundation of the modern Turkish state.

7 May
Erdogan Faces His Biggest Test of the Pandemic: The Economy
Some are hoping that the coronavirus achieves what some of the president’s advisers have failed to do: persuade Mr. Erdogan to reverse his authoritarian grip over fiscal policy in Turkey.
(NYT) An economic crisis was looming even before the coronavirus gripped Turkey with unexpected ferocity. But the contagion has quickly and ruthlessly laid bare the ways President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has left the economy vulnerable, presenting him with the greatest challenge of his 18 years in power.
The outbreak has exacerbated already high unemployment and inflation, and unified his political opposition. It has raised fresh concerns about Mr. Erdogan’s heavy investment in giant infrastructure projects that analysts have long warned were too costly to sustain.

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