Author Topic: Turkey  (Read 110169 times)

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GPF: Turkey's Ambitious Plans for Africa
« Reply #301 on: September 22, 2021, 07:15:51 AM »
September 22, 2021
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Turkey’s Ambitious Plans for Africa
Ankara hopes to secure a foothold in areas once ruled by the Ottomans.
By: Abubakar Alhassan

For years, Turkey has pursued an ambitious agenda, expanding its influence in countries and regions formerly under Ottoman control. It may not be able to absorb these regions as part of its territory as its predecessor once did, but it is increasingly defending its economic, political and strategic interests in areas far beyond its own borders, including in parts of North Africa and the Horn of Africa. Here, Turkey’s goals are wide-ranging. It needs to secure access to vital maritime routes through the Red Sea and to energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. With economic expectations among average Turks rising, Ankara also sees these regions as a gateway to emerging markets and resource hubs in the Sahel – which can encourage further economic growth. But it also faces a number of constraints, particularly competition from its rivals in the Middle East, that may limit its influence in the Arab world.

Turkish Imperatives

Turkish history seems to give its leaders good reason to set their sights high. The Ottomans, after all, oversaw an empire that, at its height, ruled parts of Europe, the Middle East and North and East Africa. This effectively gave the Ottomans control over many of the world’s most important trade routes and some of its most resource-rich regions. However, the empire crumbled in 1918 after the First World War, in which it backed the losing side, and its territories were divided among Britain, France and Russia. Following the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, Turkey seemed to accept its fate as a far more modest power, but memories of its past glory never faded completely.


(click to enlarge)

One of Turkey’s biggest sources of strength is its control over the Sea of Marmara, which effectively gives it control over the Bosporus, a critical waterway separating the European and Asian parts of Turkey and connecting the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea. Access through the strait is key for the transportation of oil, wheat and other goods to Europe from Asia. It forces Black Sea coastal countries, particularly Russia, to avoid direct confrontation with Turkey, or else potentially lose their ability to conduct trade with Europe through the Mediterranean.

One of Turkey’s biggest weaknesses, however, is the presence of countless Greek-controlled islands that lay in the Aegean Sea beyond the Sea of Marmara and another critical waterway, the Dardanelles. These islands could restrict Turkey’s access to major sea lanes, making the country vulnerable to a possible blockade or even an attack by other maritime powers. Its other major weakness is its lack of domestic energy resources that could sustain its industrial power ambitions, making its economy highly dependent on energy imports. This is why Turkey has in recent years become increasingly forceful in asserting its claims to hydrocarbon deposits in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey and the Black Sea
(click to enlarge)

Turkey in North Africa

Turkey’s expanding interests in the Mediterranean led to its growing involvement in North Africa. Ankara relies primarily on political engagement to increase its influence there. Though it has a naval presence in the Mediterranean, the Turkish navy is weak compared to the navies of other global powers that patrol the sea. It’s currently undergoing an ambitious modernization drive, but any progress will be slow, especially considering Turkey’s weak industrial base and procurement budget. Moreover, many of its Mediterranean rivals have the backing of more powerful allies that can help defend their competing claims in the sea. Greece, for example, has maritime defense pacts with France, Italy and Egypt. Thus, Turkey’s current operational capabilities are mostly limited to the Aegean and southern Mediterranean.

Since it can’t rely on brute force, Turkey is attempting to expand its influence by taking a page out of the Ottoman playbook. After the Ottomans seized control of parts of North Africa in the 15th century, they relied, at least in part, on local proxies to maintain power. (It also helped that the Ottomans had a comparably powerful navy.) Today, Turkey is trying to build leverage in the region by supporting allied Islamist regimes – some of which rose to power following the Arab Spring, a series of pro-democracy uprisings across the Arab world. In Egypt, for example, Turkey provided financial and technical support to help bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power in 2012. In Tunisia, it provided funding and other support for the Islamist Ennahda party, which won a parliamentary majority in 2011. These moves alarmed its geopolitical rivals, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which see Turkey’s attempt to spread its brand of political Islam to the Middle East and North Africa as a threat to their monarchical systems and leadership over the Sunni Muslim world.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE responded by forming a strategic alliance, at the center of which was a united foreign policy that strived to alienate their main rivals: Qatar, Turkey and Iran. Saudi Arabia and the UAE viewed these countries as threats to their interests – including their desire to stop the spread of democracy in the region, which could lead to the election of Islamist regimes like the Muslim Brotherhood. In Egypt, they took advantage of the Brotherhood’s inability to consolidate power and the worsening economic and security situations in the country, all of which eventually led to protests calling for the ouster of the Brotherhood-led government. The demonstrations culminated in a coup in 2014 led by then-Egyptian army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who received financial support from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Saudis and UAE deployed the same tactics recently in Tunisia, where protests erupted in July over the economic crisis that has proliferated under the Ennahda-led government. Following the demonstrations, the country’s president, who was supported by the Saudis and UAE, suspended parliament and dismissed the prime minister.

The Saudis and UAE fear Islamist groups like these, when put in positions of power, could provide a safe haven for Islamists and terrorists groups closer to home, particularly in Yemen, where Riyadh is already at war with the Iran-backed Islamist Houthi rebels, who seized the capital, Sanaa, in 2015. Turkey, on the other hand, viewed the elections of Ennahda in Tunisia and Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as an opportunity to gain a foothold in strategic countries along the Mediterranean coast.

Turkey in the Horn of Africa and Sahel

Turkish influence has also been growing in the Horn of Africa. The Horn of Africa is adjacent to one of the busiest trade routes in the world, from the Indian Ocean to Europe through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, passing the Bab el-Mandeb strait between Djibouti and Yemen. This means, if it wants to control its fate, Turkey will likely eventually have to maintain a robust naval presence here to secure the passage of its commercial and military vessels from the Middle East and Europe to North Africa in addition to power projection in the Horn of Africa.

The Red Sea
(click to enlarge)

Despite its current limitations, Turkey is attempting to lay the groundwork for such a force. For example, it tried to revive the Suakin port, a defunct commercial and military base along Sudan’s Red Sea coast. Suakin was a major port for the Ottoman Empire when it ruled Sudan in the 15th century. However, after Sudan’s military ousted pro-Turkish leader Omar Bashir following widespread protests against his autocratic rule, the new Sudanese regime suspended the revival project in April 2019. The new regime did not want to be viewed as puppets of Ankara. Nevertheless, Turkey and Sudan still have warm ties, and the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to boost cooperation in banking, energy and defense in August 2021.

Ankara has had to focus mostly on soft power to advance its interests in the Horn of Africa, but even this approach has its limits. Turkey has prioritized trade and investment relations with the region’s largest economy, Ethiopia, with Ankara being the third-largest foreign investor in the country behind China and Saudi Arabia. But when Turkey tried to wield its influence and offered to mediate a border dispute between Ethiopia and Sudan, presenting itself as an alternative to the U.S. in the Horn, Addis Ababa rejected the offer.

Somalia represents the only success story so far for Turkey in the region. Ankara is the dominant foreign actor in Somalia and has been able to ward off attempts by the Saudi-UAE anti-Turkey alliance to displace it. Ankara's extensive economic aid to Somalia when it was facing a devastating famine in 2011 earned it goodwill in the country. Ankara used this political capital to support local allied groups, particularly Islamist groups. Turkey opened a military base in Mogadishu in 2017, the largest of its kind outside of Turkey, to train Somali troops. It has also established a firm foothold in Somalia’s airports and seaports, which it views as critical for power projection across the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Thanks to its efforts, when the UAE made financial overtures to try to convince Somalia to cut ties with Turkey and Qatar, the Somali leadership refused.

Nevertheless, Turkey's economic problems are still a major constraint on its actions in the Horn. Its main problem is that its currency, the lira, is in continuous freefall, resulting in rapidly rising inflation. Turkey’s adventurism has also made it the target of U.S. and EU sanctions. In October 2019, Ankara launched military offensives against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in Syria. It also detained an American citizen whom it accused of supporting a 2016 failed coup against Erdogan. And its illegal gas drilling in Cypriot waters prompted sanctions from Brussels. Western sanctions directly affected Turkey’s steel and aluminum industries. Exports plummeted, and the Turkish lira fell by 10 percent.

The prolonged economic struggles have alarmed investors, who worry about political interference affecting monetary policy as well as the country’s rising foreign debts. This is a problem for Turkey because it needs outside investment for its industrial economy. Erdogan has therefore been trying to improve ties with the U.S and other geopolitical rivals, notably the UAE, to regain the confidence of investors. Erdogan held a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in June, during which he declared a new era of relations based on positive and constructive ties with Washington. He also said in August that Ankara wants to have a good relationship with the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

And this is where the Sahel enters the Turkish strategy. Turkey sees the Sahel as a place to expand trade and acquire natural resources needed for its industries. While Turkey’s motives are primarily economic, its strategy includes a significant security and military component. This is necessary because any foreign actor hoping to engage with Sahel countries must gain influence and trust by proving it is capable of helping them address their security challenges. Turkey can do this because of its growing defense industry.

Turkish Military Influence in the Sahel
(click to enlarge)

Turkey’s strategy in Somalia provides a blueprint for how Ankara plans to pursue its interests in the Sahel. In short, the Somalia model consists of propping up allied local groups. Turkey hopes to take advantage of growing anti-French sentiment and France’s shrinking presence in the Sahel to present itself as an alternative security partner. It could then use its newfound political capital to partner with local groups and flood markets with Turkish-made weapons and other goods. Such partnerships would also help Turkey access and secure the region’s rich natural resources for its industries. These extractive projects also attract the interest of insurgent and criminal groups, so they often require a strong security component. This is why Turkey pursued military cooperation agreements with Sahel countries like Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.

Turkey’s ability to wield influence in West Africa and the Sahel is significantly constrained by established powers in the region such as the U.S., France and China. Then there are emerging powers in the region like Russia, which has already deployed mercenaries to support friendly regimes and protect the Kremlin’s interests. Ankara hopes to counter this by calling on Islamic solidarity. The majority of the citizens in the region practice Islam, so it would bankroll projects casting Turkey as the custodian of Islamic culture, like building mosques and hospitals in Sahel states like Mali and Niger. This would help Ankara build close ties with local communities, contrary to Moscow’s elite-based diplomacy, which focuses on close ties with incumbent national leaders.

Turkey’s broad strategy in Africa is focused on recreating a neo-Ottoman sphere of influence in North and East Africa. Turkey is eying energy exploration and vital sea routes for trade with sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel, where it hopes to secure raw materials to bolster its ailing economy and eventually become a leading industrial power. However, Turkey must overcome its ailing economy, relatively weak navy and the activities of its geopolitical rivals in these areas.

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GPF: Turkey & Russia
« Reply #303 on: September 29, 2021, 05:31:36 AM »

September 29, 2021
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The Same Old Song in Russia and Turkey
Bilateral ties follow a predictable pattern.
By: Ekaterina Zolotova
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are meeting Wednesday to address their usual topics of discussion: bilateral relations, the situation in Syria, and the like. But the mood before the meeting was overshadowed by Erdogan's recent statements to the United Nations about not recognizing the results of legislative elections in Crimea and upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Add to this the fresh tensions in Syria and the sudden refutation of a number of Russian COVID-19 vaccines and you have a much more fraught meeting between the leaders of these historically competitive yet closely intertwined states.

Areas of Conflict

The history of Russian-Turkish relations is never boring, even if it’s predictable. Periods of hostility give way to periods of friendly agendas and active dialogue, after which they again plunge into a period of misunderstanding. In 2015, for example, Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 aircraft. Tensions flared, then gave way to active cooperation and ended with the construction of a large gas pipeline, the delivery of S-400 air defense systems, the launch of construction of a nuclear power plant and an overall increase in bilateral trade.

Russo-Turkish Economic Relations
(click to enlarge)

The complexity of their relationship is rooted in several regions in which their interests collide. First, access to the Black Sea and its adjacent straits, over which Turkey's sovereignty has been established, was always imperative for Russia. These straits are an essential artery that provides access to the Mediterranean. They can play an important logistical role in Russia’s Syrian operations and, by extension, the advancement of Russian interests southward. The fact that Moscow can use them only with Ankara’s permission obviously raises tensions.

Second, Turkey's presence in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, where it is cultivating ties with Azerbaijan and to a lesser extent Georgia, rankles Russia, which sees this area as its own sphere of influence and a vital buffer for its southern borders.

Then there is Syria, an important albeit new area in which Turkey and Russia have diametrically opposing interests. Ankara’s efforts to pacify the northern Kurdish areas of Syria directly confront Russia’s support of the Syrian government.

In Libya, Russia and Turkey also find themselves on opposite sides – Russia would like to have control over local oil fields, which would allow it to control the supply of resources to the European Union and other countries and generally strengthen its presence in the Mediterranean Sea, while Turkey is expanding its presence into Libya’s exclusive economic zone and looking for ways to gain access to energy supplies. Initially, Turkey supported the Government of National Accord as Russia spoke with the Libyan National Army, under the command of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and sent about 2,000 fighters from private military company Wagner. (Although in March both of Libya’s governments transferred their powers to the next interim government, which was able to unite the conflicting parties, the differences between Turkey and Russia remain.)

A potentially new area in which Turkey and Russia will be at odds is Afghanistan. Russia is interested in ensuring the security of its buffer zones in Central Asia and preventing the spread of terrorism and extremism into the post-Soviet republics. Turkey is looking to be a mediator and an important partner in the region.

Some of these areas of conflict are pronounced now more than ever. In Syria, for example, Moscow has repeatedly accused the Turks of non-compliance with the Sochi agreements to stabilize the situation in Idlib and arming terrorists, and Turkey often expresses its dissatisfaction with bombing civilians and supporting the Assad regime. More, in a meeting in September with Syrian President Bashar Assad, Putin criticized the presence of “foreign forces” in Syria – a thinly veiled dig at Turkey. A few weeks earlier, Russia conducted several strikes on militant targets in Idlib, one of which killed three Turkish soldiers. It’s little surprise, then, that just before Wednesday’s meeting with Putin, Erdogan sent additional troops to northwest Syria to remind Russia just how much weight Turkey can throw around during negotiations.

Things are also particularly dicey in the Caucasus, where Moscow was concerned over recent Turkish-Azerbaijani exercises in Lachin region, near disputed Nagorno-Karabakh, and was displeased with Ankara’s participation in Turkish-Azerbaijani-Pakistani drills in Azerbaijan.

Bound Together

Even so, don’t expect much from Wednesday’s meeting. In fact, that their imperatives are so different means there can be little compromise on the Idlib crisis, Nagorno-Karabakh and a number of other issues. Indeed, even if Moscow and Ankara sign some kind of agreement that in one way or another limits the country's actions in these areas of conflict, they are almost always violated, often right before the next meeting. Moscow isn’t prepared to concede its position either in Syria or in the Caucasus, and neither is Ankara.

Meetings like this, then, are important for a different reason. Dialogue and process are important for Turkey and Russia, especially as they bind the countries to each other. The two countries understand neither of them alone can decide the fate of Syria. Neither has the money to do so in a place with so many other competing players like the United States and Iran. And besides, Turkey and Russia have been engaged in Syria for six years and have managed not to instigate a war between them.

Similarly, it’s all but impossible to find a compromise in the Caucasus, Central Asia or the Black Sea, where neither side is ready or willing to pay the price of displacing the other. Turkey cannot close the straits for Russian ships, for example, and Russia cannot stop gas supplies without extreme escalation – doing so would hurt themselves as much as the other. Both know they can continue to pursue their own policies in these regions simultaneously and mend the wounds as they happen.

Hence their history of uneasy cooperation. Russia and Turkey are cooperating more effectively and deeply than they were just a few years ago. They are linked by the supply of the S-400 air defense system, the Turkish Stream pipeline, the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which is extremely important for an energy-deficient Turkey, Russian tourists at Turkish beaches, and Russia's food imports from Turkey.

Expect much more of the same song and dance. The heads of state meet on an unresolved issue, one pokes the other right before talks take place, they negotiate, then they sign an agreement they have no intention of honoring. It’s ironic that this process more often than not actually deepens ties.

A referral is the best compliment.

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Turkey-Ukraine cooperation
« Reply #306 on: November 03, 2021, 06:08:01 AM »
   
The Geopolitics of Crimea
Russian control has never been uncontested.
By: Ridvan Bari Urcosta
GPF

Cooperation between Ukraine and Turkey is intensifying. Just a few days ago, the Ukrainian military used Turkish-made drones to strike fighters in Donbass, a disputed region in the eastern part of Ukraine that is supported by Russia. Meanwhile, Turkey and Ukraine announced they would create a facility near Kyiv to maintain, repair and modernize combat drones. Caught literally in the middle is the Crimean Peninsula.

Russia has long claimed Crimea as being in its sphere of influence, using the peninsula to increase its strategic depth, improve its position in the Black Sea and provide a strategic location for sophisticated military bases. In 2014, it dispensed with appearances and straight up annexed the region. Yet, despite Moscow’s influence there, history shows that maintaining permanent control is difficult because doing so brings it directly against Turkish interests.

Expanding to the Sea

To understand Russia’s options in Crimea, we need to examine the geopolitics of the peninsula. Extending off a thin isthmus from mainland Ukraine, Crimea sits in the middle of the Black Sea. It covers approximately 10,000 square miles (26,000 square kilometers) and is home to roughly 2.5 million people, many of whom recently migrated to the area from other parts of Russia. Its subtropical climate produces mild winters compared to the rest of Eastern Europe, its harbors secure against major storms, and its mountains have shielded it from invaders (and are now a great location of air defense installations).


(click to enlarge)

Over the years, Crimea’s natural defenses attracted just about every Eurasian and European power, which would leverage their positions to create favorable maritime security and commercial environments. The Greeks occupied the peninsula as early as the 7th century B.C., creating a hub for cultural and economic exchanges between Eastern Europe, the Eurasian nomadic world and the ancient Greco-Roman world. Centuries later, the eastern part of Crimea and the Kerch Peninsula would be home to a strong Greco-Scythian state known as the Bosporan Kingdom, which controlled one of the most important chokepoints in the region. Along with the southern portion of Crimea, this kingdom became part of the Roman Empire and, later, the Byzantium Empire. But only the Crimean south was controlled by the Roman Empire, and the geographic division of the region would influence power struggles there for centuries to come – between the Romans, the Byzantines, the Goths, the Huns, the Khazarians, the Vikings, and so on. Naturally, this dramatically affected the cultural and religious composition of the peninsula, though Catholics and Orthodox Christians would eventually emerge as the two most significant practitioners. (Islam would come a little later.)

By the 1400s, the Mongolian Empire had taken control of much of Eurasia. One of its constituent parts, the Crimean Khanate, ruled the lands from Moldova to the North Caucasus, Crimea and the entire modern Ukrainian coastline. Its rulers repeatedly laid siege to Moscow, even destroying it in 1571. Russia fought back, expanding to the south and southeast with mixed results. By the 18th century, the Russian Empire was eager as ever to destroy the khanate and gain access to the Sea of Azov and eventually to the Black Sea. The khanate, however, was the main source of the Ottomans’ military presence in Eastern and Central Europe. This laid the groundwork for the ensuing Russia-Turkey rivalry over the coming centuries.

As the Russian Empire grew more powerful, it came to understand more intimately the geostrategic importance of Crimea and its role as the main obstacle in its expansion into the Balkans, Caucasus and what we now call Ukraine. Similarly, the Ottomans came to realize their entire strategy in the Black Sea, the Caucasus and the Balkans rested on Crimea. The last chance Turkey and its Crimean allies had to stop Russia’s advance came with the Swedish invasion of Russia. Russia defeated Sweden in the Battle of Poltava in 1709, so Crimea and Istanbul, worried that they would be the next targets of Russian expansionism, preemptively declared war on Russia in 1710. Crimean Khan Devlet II Giray constructed an alliance with Sweden, a small fraction of pro-Turkish Cossacks and the anti-Russian faction of Poles. They defeated Russia at the Battle of Pruth in 1711, and as punishment, the Ottoman Empire, already in control of the Kerch Strait, deprived Russia of access to the Sea of Azov.

Turkey and Russia went to war again over this area in 1768. This time, Crimea, the Ottoman Empire and Poland lost and were immediately absorbed into the Russian Empire. The Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca in 1774 gave Russia full access to the Black Sea and rights to Russian merchant fleet to pass through the Turkish Straits. Russia annexed Crimea in 1783. The gateways to the Caucasus and the Balkans were opened.


(click to enlarge)

What Russia Can’t Afford

But Russia’s domination of the Black Sea was never uncontested. By the middle of the 19th century, Russia had penetrated deeply into the Balkans and Caucasus, thanks to its possession of former Ottoman territories and the Crimean Khanate (now southern Ukraine). Moreover, the Russian navy became much stronger than Turkey’s in Sevastopol. European powers found this imbalance in power concerning, so they partnered with the Ottoman Empire to successfully defeat Russia in the Crimean War of 1853-56.

World War I gave the Ottoman Empire another opportunity to retake control of Crimea and Sevastopol from Russia. The peninsula was an important stop for the Germans who were invading Russian territory. Germany needed an ally, a state that could prevent Russia from dominating the Black Sea. The presence in the Black Sea could have allowed Germany to control Russian merchant ships because the main flow of Russian exports went through the straits. On the eve of World War I, more than 60 percent of Russian grain exports went through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. In other words, Germany needed Turkey. Russia declared war on Turkey, and Moscow ended up controlling Crimea after the Entente lost.

The peninsula was similarly important in World War II, situated as it was on the route to the oil-rich Caucasus. It was also a valuable aviation base. Losing Crimea would mean that the Soviet Union would lose the ability to raid the Romanian oil fields, and the Germans would have been able to strike at targets in the Caucasus. Russia thus bogged down German troops throughout the war and secured the land after its conclusion.

One of the most pivotal decisions on Crimea came in 1954, after Josef Stalin died, when new Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea to Ukraine. But the region still retained importance to the Soviet regime. In the Soviet era, the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol was responsible for the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. Migration escalated the ethnic tensions, which were often based on a particular group’s attitude toward Russia’s role in Crimea. The future of Sevastopol became a highly contentious issue, too. (Pro-Russian officers threatened to use weapons if the Black Sea Fleet transferred to Ukraine.) Only in 1997 did Ukraine and Russia reach an agreement regarding Sevastopol. Kyiv made multiple concessions, the last of which occurred in 2010, when Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych extended the Russian presence till 2042. In 2014, after the Ukrainian revolution, Russia annexed Crimea and attained full control over the peninsula and Sevastopol. Unfettered control over Sevastopol allowed Russia to establish uninterrupted communication lanes between Russia and Syria during the active phase of the Syrian campaign. Moreover, the Black Sea became the main base of the 5th Operational Squadron, which is operating in the Mediterranean near Syrian shores.

Crimea’s geostrategic position gives Moscow both defensive and offensive advantages. Defensively, it would be next to impossible for an enemy to carry out an assault on Russia's southern borders without destroying its military assets in Crimea. It has one of the strongest concentrations of military forces in Eurasia along with Kaliningrad. Both regions are key to Russia's defenses in the west, one in the south and the other in the north.

Russian Military Presence in Crimea, 2014 & 2018
(click to enlarge)

Offensively, Crimea is an important source of power projection in the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. Possession of Crimea and Abkhazia gave Russia the biggest share of the Black Sea coastline of any power in the region. Before this, its coastline was more or less equal to that of Georgia or Romania. More, the fleet in Sevastopol is the main source of Russian defense against NATO warships. In case of military conflict with Ukraine and NATO, Russia could initiate offensive operations using its Crimean assets along the more than 500-kilometer Ukrainian shore on the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to cut western supply lines to Odessa or even to Romania. It could also block NATO warships at the entrance to the Black Sea (i.e., the Bosporus Strait) using Russian warships and air defense systems stationed in Crimea. Moscow could also impose a blockade of Ukraine and even penetrate into its southern regions and support military formations in the Moldovan breakaway region of Trans-Dniester.

For Russia, another benefit of controlling Crimea is that, with a population of more than 2 million ethnic Slavs, the peninsula helped improve Russia's demographic situation. Its annexation ensured that the population balance in the country, especially relating to non-Slavic groups in the North Caucasus, stayed in Moscow's favor.

Nearly eight years since Crimea's annexation, there is still a possibility of further escalation of conflict. Turkey supports the Crimean Tatars on the peninsula, with whom it shares ethnic and religious ties. It also provides military and economic support to Kyiv, acting as a counterweight to Russia. For Ankara, the entire northern Black Sea region with Crimea at the center is key to its security. If Russia were to occupy Odessa, it would amount to a return to the 18th century when Turkey lost key parts of its foothold in the region and a path was opened for Russian expansion into the Caucasus and the Balkans.

Russian influence in Crimea has strengthened, but Russia continues to fight for Crimea in other ways. Crimea remains unrecognized by many states of the world, which creates additional pressure on the introduction of Russia's foreign trade. Social and economic issues, such as water supply and the development of the region in general, require immediate solutions, large financial investments and effective projects – none of which Russia can really afford right now. But it can’t afford to ignore Crimea either.

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Biden- Turkey
« Reply #308 on: December 03, 2021, 03:01:35 AM »
In fairness to Biden, Turkey presents a hideously complex problem.

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/17987/biden-agenda-turkey

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Erdogan may not be in power forever
« Reply #309 on: December 18, 2021, 08:21:56 AM »
Lira collapse
The Turkish lira plunged this week to a new record low of nearly 17 to the dollar, as concerns snowballed over President Erdogan's risky monetary policy. He believes in an unorthodox approach that higher rates cause inflation, rather than prevent it, but despite the beliefs the annual figure reached 21.3% alone in November. Soaring inflation has had devastating impacts on Turkey's import-reliant economy, while sharply eroding Turks' earnings and savings.

Analyst commentary: "Last week's apparent relative stability of TRY was artificial and non-sustainable. Now we see the build-up pressure unfolding, driving lira weakness to the next level," Commerzbank said in a research note. "Ultimately, the CBRT needs to show the market some sign of caring about taming inflation," added Henrik Gullberg, a macro strategist at Coex Partners. "What we have seen so far is not enough to stop the rout."

The latest crash followed the central bank's fourth market intervention in two weeks, though the currency continued sliding into the weekend. Under pressure from Erdogan, Turkey's central bank  slashed its policy rate by another 100 basis points to 14% this, marking the fourth cut since September. Prior to the news, the S&P affirmed Turkey's long-term foreign currency rating at B+, but revised its outlook to negative on an uncertain policy direction.

Next steps? The unconventional monetary policy has seen the Turkish lira lose 40% of its value against the dollar since September, making it one of the worst performing investments in the world. Meanwhile, Erdogan has fired three central bank chiefs over the last two years due to disagreements over monetary policy. Brawls and fistfights have even broken out among lawmakers in the Turkish parliament as the opposition fight the government's handling of the economy.

================

Also see:

https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/turkey-halts-all-stock-trading-currency-disintegrates-central-bank-powerless-halt-collapse?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=363
« Last Edit: December 18, 2021, 08:27:18 AM by Crafty_Dog »

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GPF: Erdogan's Last Stand
« Reply #310 on: December 23, 2021, 02:35:21 AM »
December 23, 2021
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Erdogan’s Last Stand
The Turkish president is taking a big gamble through his unorthodox financial policies.
By: Hilal Khashan

Turkey is in deep financial crisis. Inflation reached 21.3 percent in late November and is expected to hit 25 percent by the end of December. Estimates are that average inflation will reach 10.8 percent in 2022 and 5.1 percent in 2023. The value of the country’s currency has also plummeted throughout the past year. Many blame the crisis on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s insistence on lowering interest rates. While major central banks around the world are aiming to raise rates to curb soaring inflation, Erdogan stands alone in his pursuit of a low interest policy. He has also sought financial managers who align with his views, firing three central bank governors in the past two years and replacing his finance minister just a few weeks ago. He has essentially declared war on the international financial system, and as he faces election in 2023, his unprecedented policies will come under more scrutiny.

‘Evil’

Earlier this month, the central bank lowered the interest rate to 14 percent after slashing it from 19 percent to 15 percent between August and November. These changes came at the behest of the president, who has described interest rates as “the mother and father of all evil.” In an apparent plea to his conservative religious base, he has portrayed interest rates as un-Islamic.

Erdogan is aware of the potential political risks of heavy government management of the economy. Turkey has a long history of centralized control of the economy, which began with the country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. As a populist leader, Ataturk charted a certain course that was followed by subsequent leaders, including Erdogan. Unlike Ataturk, however, Erdogan is justifying his moves on religious grounds. Defending the decision to cut rates, Erdogan recently said, “As a Muslim, I will continue to do what is required by nas,” referring to Islamic teachings.

Erdogan believes his approach will help promote growth. He has argued that Western investment banks would be the primary beneficiaries of high rates, which would increase the public debt and budget deficit. Economic experts have dismissed Erdogan’s policies, but the president insists that reducing rates will curb inflation – contrary to classical economic theories.

Turkey's Falling Currency Value and Rising Inflation
(click to enlarge)

Erdogan is also unconcerned about the lira’s precipitous fall, believing that a competitive exchange rate will encourage investment and create more jobs. Earlier this week, the Turkish central bank introduced measures to try to prop up the currency, which increased in value by 30 percent on Monday. But ad hoc measures like these are not viable as a financial policy. A similar strategy was tried by Prime Minister Tansu Ciller in the 1990s, when the interest rate hit 500 percent, and by Erdogan’s Justice and Development party (or AKP) in 2002, when it hit 50 percent.

Economic Reforms

Turkey’s economic success in the AKP’s first decade of governing, which began in 2002, was partly due to the party’s sound policies. After the 2007-08 global financial crisis, many investors wanted to avoid the U.S. market and sought new places to store their money. Much of it went to emerging economies like Turkey. The funds were concentrated in the construction and tourism sectors – with government cronies profiting handsomely. But by 2015, Western economies had recovered from the recession, and funds began to flow back to developed countries and out of emerging markets, which contributed to Turkey’s currency crisis.

The Turkish economy, whose nominal volume is around $800 billion, depends heavily on imported raw materials to manufacture goods. Top imports include organic chemicals, mineral fuels, iron and steel, pharmaceutical products and electrical machinery. In 2020, imports exceeded $220 billion, and exports totaled $170 billion. A central part of Erdogan’s economic plan is to reverse this trade imbalance by 2023.

His approach to the financial crisis echoes Prime Minister Turgut Ozal’s policies of the 1980s. Ozal devalued the lira, encouraged an export-oriented economy, did little to stop prices from rising and supported free market policies. He transformed the Turkish economy and was lauded by experts. He succeeded because of Western backing, as well as the army’s pledge to contain public protests against his financial measures. Erdogan has the full support of the military too.

However, he faces certain obstacles. Erdogan and his family have been criticized for their alleged corruption. The truth is that financial corruption is rife among Turkey’s political class. Former President Suleyman Demirel spent time in prison for embezzling millions of dollars. Prime ministers Mesut Yilmaz and Tansu Ciller faced accusations of stealing public funds. Family members of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, who was forced to resign by the military in 1987, also came under fire for siphoning public money. The army charged former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes with corruption and cronyism, leading to his execution in 1961. In Turkey, corruption is often enabled by populist politics, which has stultified democratic transition and complicated structural economic reforms.

Erdogan’s Political Future

As Erdogan faces reelection in 2023, one of the most important groups of voters will be young Turks, 9 million of whom will be eligible to vote. Youth unemployment in Turkey is the fourth highest in the world at about 25 percent. Many young Turks who are employed are not paid well and want to emigrate. This will be a tough demographic for Erdogan to win over.

Turkish Opinions on Economic Conditions and Employment Status
(click to enlarge)

Although Erdogan is Turkey’s longest-serving public official since the country’s founding in 1923 (he’s even surpassed Ataturk by four years), his staying power is a result more of the opposition’s fragmentation and less of his own political competence. Senior AKP members have already warned him that his unorthodox financial policies and public disaffection are encouraging the opposition. Erdogan, however, has failed to take heed, believing his working-class base will support him regardless of how much the lira is worth. But public support for the AKP has dropped from 40 percent in 2018 to 30 percent today and is likely to keep falling if the government fails to curb inflation.

Turkish Opinion of Economic Management
(click to enlarge)

Working together in 2019 municipal elections, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Good Party (IYI Party) defeated AKP candidates in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, Turkey’s three largest cities. They hope to expand their alliance to six parties and unseat Erdogan in 2023, or in a snap election while the economic crisis is still severe. The fractured opposition has little in common beyond wanting to overthrow Erdogan and the AKP, and will likely return to political wrangling if it ousts him, especially since it wants to undo the presidential system that was introduced under Erdogan and reinstate the parliamentary system, which accentuated Turkey’s ideological and ethnic divisions.

Turkish Elections 2018 & 19
(click to enlarge)

For Erdogan, what’s at stake in the upcoming vote is not just reelection but also his legacy as Turkey’s longest-serving leader and as the architect of Turkey’s economic power. His strategy of diversifying the economy through the import-substitution model aims to achieve economic sovereignty. Whether he will succeed is still up for debate, and the voters will have the final say in 2023.

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GPF: Turkey in the Balkans
« Reply #311 on: February 03, 2022, 03:47:15 AM »

    
Turkey Struggles, Even in the Balkans
Ankara’s power is shaky in friendly states ripe for influence.
By: Francesco Casarotto
Now is an interesting time for Turkey, a historical powerhouse that can’t quite live up to its current expectations. That’s not because it isn’t trying. It wants to expand its influence in the lands once part of the Ottoman Empire, and in that regard, it has been fairly active lately. After a strong but unsuccessful push for expansion in the Mediterranean, Libya and, to a lesser extent, Syria, Ankara is now setting its sights on a smaller, more vulnerable region close to home: the Balkans. The current political crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina – where the government of a majority ethnic Serb area recently adopted a non-binding resolution that could lead to its withdrawal from key state institutions – is for Turkey an ideal opportunity.

Interests

Turkey’s interest in the Balkans is explained by the region’s proximity to Istanbul, a strategically located economic engine that also serves as Turkey’s gateway to the rest of the world. The city straddles the Sea of Marmara, which connects the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea – and therefore, the Mediterranean – via the Bosporus and the Dardanelles straits. The Bosporus is an essential maritime chokepoint for oil transit and for grain shipping, particularly for inland countries with Black Sea coasts such as Ukraine and Russia. Control of the Bosporus is an essential source of Turkish power. However, the Marmara also borders the Balkan peninsula, so any destabilization of the Balkans is a direct threat to Turkish power. This is precisely why Ankara has a vested interest in preserving the stability of the region – and doing so without the help of other outside powers.

Turkey and the Black Sea
(click to enlarge)

And plenty of those powers have long been interested in the region. The Balkans sits at the crossroads of Christianity and Islam, and its strategic location by the Adriatic, the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black seas has always made it an appealing hub for projecting power even farther afield.

The Ottoman heritage, responsible for establishing and spreading Islamic communities present in the territory, represents a tool for Ankara to influence the regional dynamics. In particular, Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo are the countries that historically are the ones with closer relations with Ankara.

The Ottoman Empire, which initially spread Islam in the Balkans and thus gives modern-day Turkey its Islamic bona fides, took control of the region in the 14th century. It maintained that control in what it called the “millet” system. This system consisted of decentralized administrative entities based on religious creed, with religious chiefs sitting at the head of each millet. In this way, freedom of religion was relatively respected, even if Muslims were given more breaks than their Christian counterparts. The system also granted the existence of different identities in a relatively small territory, something that persists still today, even as Ottoman control ended in the 19th century.

Limits

Well-positioned though Turkey may be to project power into the Balkans, there are several things that limit its ability to do so. Ankara may have free trade agreements with several Balkans countries, including Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, but in truth it hasn’t been able to economically penetrate as much as it wants to. It isn’t a leading trade partner of any country in the region – not even for the non-EU Muslim-majority ones. Turkey may be the second-largest investor in Kosovo and the fifth-largest in Albania, but it is only 13th in Bosnia, outranked by countries like Germany, Italy and Austria. Turkish standing is even less favorable in Balkan EU members such as Slovenia and Croatia or non-Muslim-majority countries such as Serbia and North Macedonia. Traditional powers such as Germany and Russia tend to have more economic influence.

Turkey's Trade Share in the Balkans | 2020
(click to enlarge)

More, Turkey’s own economic problems have prevented it from adventuring abroad. In December, inflation reached 36 percent. The lira has consequently fallen in recent months, reducing purchasing power for consumers and sparking popular protests against the government. Put simply, what economic resources Ankara does have are focused on solving domestic problems. Turkey cannot compete with other countries that can offer more favorable terms for economic cooperation.

Turkey’s economic constraints also have hindered Turkish security and military operations that would otherwise enable it to expand its sphere of influence. In 2018-19, Turkey was extremely active in theaters like the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya and Syria. But as its economy crumbled, it was forced to scale back its operations.

Given its economic and security limits, Turkey has more recently been forced to rely on softer power – namely its cultural ties to the Balkans. Since the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Turkey has positioned itself as the patron of Muslim communities in the Balkans. For instance, several branches of the Yunus Emre Institute, which aims to promote the Turkish language and culture overseas, are present in the Balkans, especially in the Muslim-majority countries.

Another powerful tool for shoring up cultural influence is the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), an organization managed by the Turkish Ministry of Culture that funds cultural and educational efforts in Turkic communities. Unsurprisingly, TIKA is also present in the Balkans and has been particularly active in the restoration of Ottoman-era religious and cultural monuments.

Soft power has limits too, of course, and cultural influence does not automatically translate into deeper power projection overall. Even so, cultural ties remain the most efficient tools at Turkey’s disposal to try to shape the future of the region.

Opportunities

However, the current political crisis in Bosnia gives Turkey an opportunity to strengthen its political influence in the Balkans. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara will push to host talks between representatives of the three constituent communities – Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks – to resolve the political impasse and avoid the disintegration of Bosnia. And given the common cultural heritage of Bosniaks and Turks – for instance, many Bosniaks migrated toward Turkey during the Ottoman era, so many Turkish citizens today have Bosniak origins – Turkey is in a strong position to mediate.


(click to enlarge)

What’s more, traditional extra-regional power brokers like Russia, the U.S. and the EU that could challenge Turkey are disinterested or distracted. EU enlargement into the Balkans is gridlocked. The U.S. has put on the table sanctions against the Bosnian Serb leader, but not much else. And Russia’s attention is concentrated on its borderland. If Turkey managed to fill the vacuum and present itself as an effective political mediator, it could reestablish its political leverage in the region and parlay it into greater influence.

Further facilitating Turkey’s potential as a mediator is that local players, namely Serbia, are not opposed. Erdogan has recently discussed the issue with his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, and both pledged to intensify diplomatic talks to resolve the crisis. This is somewhat surprising, because Ankara and Belgrade typically stand on opposing sides of the barricade on these issues. Serbia, due to ethnic ties, is a firm supporter of the Bosnian Serbs who are trying to gain independence from state institutions. Turkey, on the other hand, is the patron of the Muslim Bosniaks and opposes the secessionist forces. At the moment, however, Serbia welcomes Turkey’s mediation offer because Belgrade seems unwilling to support Republika Srpska’s secessionist sentiments. Any change in the status quo in Bosnia and Republika Srpska could trigger massive instability in the region that would be damaging for Serbia. Belgrade also does not want to bear the financial responsibility for Bosnian Serb independence, even if it could be executed without major unrest. To be economically viable, Republika Srpska would need to integrate with Serbia. The annexation of the republic would be an economic burden that Belgrade cannot afford at the moment, given the fragile economic situation. Finally, explicit support for the secessionist Serbs in Bosnia risks alienating Serbia’s other regional and European partners, with potentially high costs in terms of diplomatic and economic ties. This is why Serbia welcomed Turkey’s offer to mediate. For their part, the Bosnian Serbs don’t have much choice but to follow the lead of Belgrade, their only patron.

The Muslim Bosniaks also will likely accept Turkish mediation in order to prevent Bosnia’s fragmentation. They know that, in the event of Bosnia’s breakup, they will be encircled by the newly independent Republika Srpska and Croatia, once again presenting the security dilemma that defined the first phases of the Bosnian War in the 1990s, when Bosniaks saw Serbs and Croats trying to carve up the country. Turkish mediation is therefore their most obvious insurance against such a scenario.

For Turkey, growing its cultural and political influence in the Balkans is a necessary but insufficient first step toward fully restoring the influence Ankara had during the Ottoman Empire. So long as Ankara’s economic footprint in the Balkans remains modest and its use of force to back up its moves is constrained, Turkey will fall short of its ultimate goal. But right now, cultural and political influence are the only tools Turkey has at its disposal to shape the region. Noting that its options are limited does not mean Turkey has lost interest in the Balkans. On the contrary, as an emerging power, it is fair to expect more Turkish efforts to shape the future of the region.

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Re: Turkey
« Reply #312 on: February 28, 2022, 09:03:28 PM »
Pressure To Punish Russia Puts Turkey in a Tough Spot
6 MIN READFeb 28, 2022 | 21:16 GMT




(Turkish Presidential Press Office via Getty Images)

Driven by its need to keep stable relations with Russia, Turkey will resist pressure to join NATO’s isolation campaign against Moscow in response to the Ukraine invasion. Turkey’s historically strained relations with Russia are facing a new test as Russian military forces invade Ukraine and Ankara’s Western allies line up to isolate and punish Moscow. But Turkey is reliant on Russian tourists, energy and good diplomatic relations; it’s also still interested in diversifying defense ties away from NATO. This has left the country hesitant to embrace the West’s sanctions strategy, with Ankara so far avoiding direct cuts to Russian economic ties. On Feb. 27, Turkey said it would enact provisions of the 1936 Montreaux Treaty that allow it to block its key straits to countries engaged in battle. Ankara, however, also stuck to the stipulations of the treaty that allow Russian warships to pass to return to base, which — combined with the fact that the Russian ships needed for the invasion were already in place — renders the move ineffective in changing the dynamics of Moscow’s ongoing military campaign. Unless Moscow directly provokes Ankara in some way, the measures Turkey takes against Russia will likely continue to remain largely symbolic.

Turkey and Russia have deep economic and defense ties. In 2020, Russia was Turkey’s 10th largest export market. Russia also provided the third-largest market for Turkish imports that same year. In addition, Russians made up 4.7 million of the 24.7 million tourists who visited Turkey in 2021. 21% of Turkey’s overseas construction activity takes place in Russia, and 64% of the country’s imported wheat comes from Russia. Turkey has also purchased the Russian S-400 missile system to diversify its defense sector.

Turkey’s ties with Ukraine are smaller than those it has with Russia, but remain important to Ankara. Ukraine was the 20th largest export market for Turkish products in 2021, while just over 2 million Ukrainians visited the country in 2021. Ukrainian wheat made up 13.4% of all Turkish imports. Turkey has also sold its Bayraktar TB2 UAV combat drones to Ukraine and, in February 2022, agreed to co-produce them with Kyiv.

Under the 1936 Montreaux Convention, the Turkish Straits are to remain open to commercial and military traffic. But the treaty allows Turkey to block military traffic during wartime, which it did during World War II to keep Axis ships from attacking the Soviet Union, as well as during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War to keep large U.S. ships from entering the Black Sea.

In an effort to both avoid Russian retaliation and showcase its independence from NATO, Turkey will not fully block Russian military activity in the Black Sea, cut off economic ties to Russia, or join in on Western sanctions designed to block Russian business internationally. In 2015-16, Russia enacted sanctions on Turkey after tensions flared over the two countries’ backing of rival factions in the Syrian civil war. As part of the sanctions, Moscow suspended its visa-free travel program in Turkey, which ultimately led to a collapse in Russian tourism that has only recently begun to recover. In October 2020, Russia also bombed a Turkish-backed proxy force in northwestern Syria’s Idlib province in retaliation for Turkey’s involvement in the Azeri-Armenian war that year, demonstrating that Russia will respond to actions in one theater with retaliation in another. Turkey’s food and energy prices have been rising as well, with the country’s annual inflation rate now nearly 50% — making Turkey even more vulnerable to restrictions on Russian exports of wheat and energy.

In Syria, Turkey backs rebel groups that guard some 1 million refugees the Turkish government does not want to take in. Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s government, meanwhile, remains backed by substantial Russian and Iranian forces able to conduct a fresh military operation that could displace those Turkey-backed forces.

Turkey is relying on a strong tourism season this upcoming summer to help rebuild its foreign currency exchanges and restore a key economic sector, which took a substantial hit during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Any loss in Russian tourism would worsen Turkey’s economic outlook by harming its vital tourism sector and weakening its access to foreign currency.

In January, Turkey had to cut energy supplies by 40% to its industrial zones because of a gas interruption from nearby Iran. This cut impacted Turkey’s manufacturing sector, a key area of economic strength, and has made Ankara more risk-averse to future interruptions.
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, Western allies will likely ratchet up their sanctions pressure and economic isolation of Russia and try to corral Turkey to join the campaign. But unless Russia itself provokes Turkey, Ankara is unlikely to shift its strategy. While the West sanctions Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle, Turkey will likely resist calls to join Western sanctions by cutting its substantial economic ties with Moscow. Ankara will also likely resist calls to cut all defense ties with Russia, such as by dismantling the Russian S-400 missile system Turkey took delivery of, for fear that such a move will undermine Turkey’s drive for independence from Western influence.
However, Turkey’s calculation about joining the Western-led isolation campaign would change in response to potential Russian provocations, whether those are accidental strikes on Turkish shipping in the Black Sea, harm to Turkish civilians abroad, or a fresh flare-up of fighting in Syria between Turkish-backed rebels and Russian troops.

On Feb. 24, a Turkish-owned ship was damaged in the Black Sea by a projectile. Turkey did not immediately assign blame, but the attack highlights the risks to Turkish shipping in the region as fighting continues. Should Russia clearly be responsible for a future attack, Turkey could fully close the Turkish Straits or impose sanctions of its own on Russia.

Errant air defense and fighter jet missiles have the potential to travel hundreds of miles off target and strike neutral civilian areas, ships or aircraft. If Turkish civilians are caught up in an incident like that and Ankara blames Russia, it could bring Ankara closer to the West’s isolation campaign.

As Syria and its allies carry out provocative moves near Turkish-controlled territory to remind Ankara of their capability to rapidly escalate, rising food prices will increase instability in both Turkish-controlled and government-held Syrian territory, potentially spurring offensives by rebel groups against Syrian government forces designed to force Damascus to increase aid. However, such attacks could escalate and draw both Turkey and Russia in on opposite sides, spurring Turkey to move closer to the Western isolation campaign of Russia.

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GPF: Turkey walks tightrope in Russia-Uke war
« Reply #313 on: March 02, 2022, 07:06:29 AM »
March 2, 2022
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Turkey Walks a Tightrope in the Russia-Ukraine Crisis
Ankara is trying to keep its options open.
By: Hilal Khashan

The war in Ukraine caught Turkey unprepared. It came amid Turkey’s grinding economic crisis, currency meltdown and attempts to reformulate its regional policy, in part by restoring ties with countries like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Israel. But Turkey’s relations with the West are also in need of a reboot. The war has put Ankara in a challenging position, caught ill-prepared to deal with Russia’s resurgence as a global power and its impact on Turkey’s own assertion as a Black Sea heavyweight. Its economic ties with Moscow have hampered its ability to express its opposition to the war and Russia’s objectives there – namely, to restore the status quo ante, shattered by NATO’s eastward expansion, and to renew imperial Russia’s territorial hold over the Black Sea basin, an area that was under Ottoman control until the late 17th century.

Turkey’s Dilemma

Despite being a historical adversary of Russia and supporter of Ukraine, Turkey finds itself in a complicated position. It has developed significant military and economic relations with Kyiv. The two countries established the Black Sea Shield for aviation industries, and Ukraine produces the engines for Turkey’s ATAK-2 attack helicopters, scheduled to become operational in 2023. But Ankara also cooperates with Russia on vital economic issues and security arrangements in Libya, Syria and Azerbaijan. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has worked to repair relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin after years of tension, and in 2017, Turkey purchased the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system. The trade balance between the two countries favors Russia, whose 2020 exports to Turkey neared $18 billion, compared to $5 billion in imports, which included 10 million metric tons of Russian wheat. Moscow also invested in huge Turkish energy projects, including the Akkuyu nuclear plant in Mersin and the TurkStream pipeline, which will transport natural gas to Turkey and Europe.

Erdogan even offered to mediate the Russia-Ukraine crisis – though Putin seemed uninterested. Turkey didn’t want to see the conflict descend into an all-out war because it would require Erdogan to make choices that would reveal his government’s precarious position. Turkey worries about the crisis’ impact on its mutual understanding with Russia on the South Caucasus, Syria and Libya. Erdogan also doesn’t want to jeopardize Turkey’s vital economic ties with Russia by coming down too hard on Moscow, fearing the U.S. could reach a deal with the Kremlin without Turkey. Ankara doesn’t trust its Western allies who, for years, ignored its interests and national security concerns, even expressing outright hostility.

The Black Sea Basin

(click to enlarge)

Turkey is thus crafting an ad hoc foreign policy, one that expresses solidarity with Kyiv and condemns the unjustified aggression against it while at the same time keeps its options open. It would be risky for Turkey to, say, close the Bosporus Strait to Russian naval vessels per the 1936 Montreux Convention, as requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Even in war, the convention entitles Russia to return its ships from the Mediterranean to their home bases in the Black Sea. Turkey, however, decided on Tuesday, apparently after consultation with the U.S., to restrict movement of warships through the Bosporus and Dardanelles for all countries. It will only allow vessels to return to their bases in the Black Sea – meaning Russia cannot bring its Baltic and Pacific fleets to the sea.

Russia’s Threat

Turkey plays a critical role in counterbalancing Russia’s influence in the Black Sea basin, the Caucasus and Central Asia. In the Caucasus, it sided with Azerbaijan in its successful campaign against Armenia in the recent Nagorno-Karabakh war. In the Black Sea basin, its partnership with Ukraine has grown significantly since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, which Ankara condemned. In fact, after a 2020 meeting with Zelenskiy in Ankara, Erdogan called for an end to Russia’s occupation of the peninsula and the reinstatement of Kyiv’s sovereignty over Donetsk and Luhansk. Their cooperation on the military front includes Turkey’s building of four corvettes for the Ukrainian navy and supplying other hardware, including cruise missiles and Bayraktar drones, which have proved effective in the fight for Donbass.

Turkey sees Russia’s expansion in the Black Sea basin – which also includes its seizure of Abkhazia from Georgia in 2008 – as extremely problematic. In the current Ukraine conflict, the Russians advanced in the Sea of Azov and nearly captured Kherson on the Black Sea coast. If Russia succeeds in becoming the dominant power there, it would end the balance of power with Turkey that has been in place since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. Turkey is thus bracing to become a minor Black Sea power if Russia prevails.

Still, Turkey was the only NATO country that managed to help Ukraine develop its military capabilities without instigating a confrontation with Moscow. The West should have perceived the extent of the Russian threat and seized the opportunity to channel more military assistance to Ukraine via Turkey – but it didn’t. For the U.S., the Black Sea is vital because of the six coastal states, three (Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria) are NATO members and two others (Ukraine and Georgia) are Western-friendly nations. Russia’s advances there weaken NATO and compromise its southern flank. The U.S. realizes that Turkey’s role in halting Russia’s encroachment is critical, so mending relations between Ankara and the West is essential. But Turkey’s neutrality in this conflict will irreversibly undermine the entire Western alliance.

Overhauling Turkey’s Foreign Policy

Most Western countries regard Turkey’s foreign policy objectives, especially in the eastern Mediterranean, as problematic. Even Ankara’s past secular governments experienced tensions with Western countries. Following Turkey’s invasion of Northern Cyprus in 1974, for example, the U.S. Congress imposed a three-and-a-half-year arms embargo on Turkey, despite its essential role in defending NATO’s southern flank. Ankara also has grievances against Washington, mostly because it supported Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria and did not repatriate Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the 2016 failed coup. In 2015, NATO failed to back Turkey after it shot down a Russian fighter jet that violated its airspace. France dismissed the idea that NATO should defend Turkey against Russia, and many Western officials even demanded that Turkey be expelled from the alliance. Turkey’s improved relations with Russia upset the U.S., which removed Ankara from the F-35 fighter program and imposed sanctions on its defense industry after its purchase of S-400s.

Now NATO is demanding that Ankara fully endorse its anti-Russian policies, though the U.S. and its European allies were also uninterested in Turkey playing mediator between the two sides. They want Turkey to take an unequivocal position. It will be difficult for Turkey to resist demands to close its airspace to Russian aircraft, since most European countries have already done so. Even Switzerland has adopted the European Union’s sanctions on Russia, making it increasingly impossible for Turkey to claim neutrality in this conflict without inviting the wrath of the West.

Erdogan is still somewhat reluctant to stand against Russia because he sees Turkey as vulnerable and isolated in Europe. For years, Turkey failed to convince the West that it’s critically important to European security. It correctly predicted the Russian threat to Eastern Europe, which explains why it fostered close cooperation with Ukraine. It can play a decisive role in checking Russia’s intrusion in the Black Sea basin but still must work closely with NATO.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will probably shelve or at least postpone U.S. plans to withdraw from Europe and the Middle East to focus on the Pacific. Putin’s ultimate objective is to pressure NATO to withdraw from the 14 countries that joined the alliance after 1997. If Russia prevails in the war, it will reshape the entire continent – an unacceptable outcome for NATO. Putin’s expansionist Black Sea policy will reorient Turkey’s policy toward the West. Ultimately, the two sides need each other.

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Gatestone: Turkey busts a move for Cyprus
« Reply #314 on: March 11, 2022, 06:43:05 AM »
I'm guessing Turkey feels pretty useful in the Uke-Russia war right about now and figures this is a good moment to bust a move.

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/18228/turkey-cyprus-agression

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Turkey against Sweden and Finland into NATO over Kurds
« Reply #316 on: May 18, 2022, 07:59:47 AM »
D1

Turkey's President Recep Erdogan is still trying to shake more Kurds out of northern Europe, including nearly three dozen that Turkey wants repatriated from Sweden and Finland. "So you won't give us back terrorists but you ask us for NATO membership?" Erdogan said on state TV Wednesday. "NATO is an entity for security, an organization for security. Therefore, we cannot say 'yes' to this security organization being deprived of security," he said. Reuters has more.
=================================

GPF

Ankara has reportedly outlined its requirements for accepting new members into NATO.
By: Geopolitical Futures

Possible opening. According to a Bloomberg report, Turkey is making several demands before it will accept NATO membership for Sweden and Finland, both of which officially submitted their applications on Wednesday. The report said Ankara wants European countries to lift restrictions on the export of weapons to Turkey. Ankara is also demanding that the United States readmit Turkey into the F-35 fighter jet program and lift sanctions that were imposed because of Turkey’s acquisition of Russian S-400 missile defense systems. Ankara also insists, according to the report, that Sweden and Finland denounce not just the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) but also its affiliates, including the Syrian-based People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2022, 01:29:28 PM by Crafty_Dog »

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Stratfor: Turkey against Sweden and Finland into NATO over Kurds 2.0
« Reply #317 on: May 20, 2022, 12:15:08 PM »
Turkey's Risky Strategy of Blocking Finland's and Sweden's NATO Membership
5 MIN READMay 20, 2022 | 17:21 GMT





Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 18, 2022, at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 18, 2022, at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara.

(ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Ankara's strategy of delaying Finnish and Swedish membership in NATO to wrest concessions from Helsinki and Stockholm could jeopardize arms deals and aid packages for Turkey from NATO members. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to veto Sweden's and Finland's efforts to join NATO in a bid for a foreign policy win he can display to Turkish voters increasingly skeptical of his government. To this end, Erdogan has objected to the two Nordic nations' entry into the trans-Atlantic alliance because of their support for Kurdish separatist organizations, and because they have prohibited arms exports to Turkey on human rights grounds. Erdogan has said he cannot accept new NATO members backing policies he deems anti-Turkey, even though Finland and Sweden both have banned the most militant Kurdish group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), from operating on their territory.

Turkey joined NATO in 1952; under Article 10 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty that founded the alliance, any country can veto a new candidate's membership.
Sweden and Finland, each longtime neutral countries, have recently ended their nonaligned foreign policies in reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sweden banned the PKK in 1984, and Finland followed suit after a 2002 EU ban. Even so, the PKK has managed to fund-raise and organize activities through shell organizations or partners thanks to lax enforcement of European bans. The People's Protection Units (YPG), a key Western ally in Syria against the Islamic State, is a PKK splinter group that Europe and the United States have not banned. This angers Ankara, which considers the YPG and PKK the same organization.
Sweden and Finland banned arms exports to Turkey after Turkey made an incursion in Syria in late 2019 to battle the YPG during an abortive U.S. withdrawal.
A Map of Nato Expansion
Turkey will prevent Sweden's and Finland's rapid accession to the NATO alliance as Ankara seeks concessions from them. On May 18, Turkey blocked a rapid vote to allow the formal beginning of the accession process and is poised to continue doing so as it awaits concessions from Stockholm and Helsinki. Though this delay was unpopular with other members of NATO, neither Sweden nor Finland is under imminent threat of Russian military aggression, giving Turkey some time to delay the process while it negotiates with the pair. So far, no NATO member has floated the possibility of punitive measures against Turkey, preferring to focus on a diplomatic solution to maintain alliance cohesion amid its newfound purpose in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

Sweden will struggle to accept Turkey's demands, in part because the Swedish government includes members of parliament of Kurdish descent. Sweden has also softened its stance on the PKK after a 2020 inquest cleared the group of involvement in the 1986 killing of former Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme.
Far fewer Kurds call Finland home, but Helsinki's long-standing commitment to human rights shapes its arms export policies, complicating ending its arms export ban to Turkey amid Ankara's controversial military operations against Kurds in Iraq, Syria and Turkey.
Turkey is unlikely to permanently block the two countries' NATO accession given the substantial pushback Ankara would endure from the rest of the alliance for doing so. Turkey's role in NATO is already controversial some alliance member countries. Turkey has come close to war with fellow NATO member Greece in the past over ongoing territorial disputes in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. If Turkey permanently blocked Sweden's and Finland's accession to the alliance, countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany could respond with punitive measures like sanctions, reduced defense ties and questions over Ankara's place in the alliance. That kind of pushback could destabilize Turkey's already frail economy and undermine Erdogan's current foreign policy of reaching out to former rivals to build up trade links and offset some of the economic pain at home. It would also play into the hands of the Turkish opposition, which would use it to reinforce public perceptions of Erdogan as erratic and ineffective.

NATO has never ejected a member; what this process might look like is not specified by the alliance's founding charter.
Even a delayed accession process could harden anti-Turkey sentiment in Europe and the United States, delaying or disrupting aid and arms deals. As Turkey drags out the process, some — including Turkey critics in the U.S. Congress — will want to pressure Ankara to drop its veto. Congress might be tempted to block U.S. arms deals, such as a potential sale of F-16s to Turkey; it might also enact new punitive measures against Turkey, such as sanctions over the government's human rights record. EU politicians could question the annual 6 billion euros (about $6 billion) the bloc sends to Turkey to support the 4 million refugees living in the country and the billions of euros it gets from the EU budget as an EU candidate country. Activists meanwhile might call for a boycott of Turkish goods throughout the Continent.

Turkey's defense industry is already sanctioned under the U.S. Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which went into effect after Turkey took delivery of the Russian S-400 missile system in 2020. Congress also remains critical of Turkey's refusal to recognize the World War I-era widespread killings of Armenians as a genocide, and some in Congress see Ankara as undermining U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Syria by targeting the YPG.
The European Union imposed sanctions on Turkey's energy industry in reaction to Turkey's aggressive drilling off the coast of Cyprus, which the European Union saw as a violation of Cypriot sovereignty. The sanctions had only a minor effect on Turkey's overall economy, and did not stop Turkey from drilling in the disputed waters. The European Union also remains concerned about the authoritarian drift of the Erdogan government, though it has yet to impose sanctions over that issue.

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GPF: Turkey may expand buffer zone in Syria
« Reply #319 on: June 04, 2022, 01:16:13 PM »
GRAPHICS
Turkey May Expand Buffer Zone in Syria
1 MIN READJun 3, 2022 | 20:35 GMT



On May 23, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to militarily expand Turkey's buffer zone along the Syrian border. Since then, the Syrian cities of Manbij, Tal Rifaat and Kobani have emerged as possible targets of a new Turkish operation. Controlling these cities — which are held by the Kurdish-dominated, U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces — would help Turkey secure a 30-kilometer (about 18.64-mile) deep buffer zone between Syrian government-held territory and Turkey's border. Ankara hopes to use this buffer zone to resettle up to 1 million Syrian refugees, block Kurdish militants from entering Turkey and entrench Turkish influence in Syria for years to come.

=============

Looks like Trump's instincts in getting us out of there were correct?


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GPF: Turkey's tangled search for a balanced foreign policy
« Reply #320 on: August 19, 2022, 01:17:14 AM »
August 18, 2022
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Turkey’s Tangled Search for a Balanced Foreign Policy
Next year’s presidential election will determine the future of the country.
By: Hilal Khashan

Turkey is at a crossroads. Russia’s war on Ukraine and the standoff between the U.S. and China in the South China Sea gave Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the impression that the world is witnessing a reconfiguration of international balances. He aspires to place Turkey at the center of the emerging world order. Erdogan’s perceived opportunity coincides with a severe economic crisis at home, with runaway inflation and mounting opposition threatening his reelection bid next year. Erdogan’s plan for transforming Turkey into a power hub is ambitious yet risky because it does not consider how other countries might respond to his stated objective or the possibility of losing the election.

Political and Economic Evolution

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the Turkish Republic in 1923 and sought to dissociate it from its Ottoman past. He distanced Turkey from the Middle East and aimed to make it a secular European country. He raised the slogan of “peace at home, peace in the world,” which became the dictum guiding Turkey’s foreign policy.


(click to enlarge)

The end of the Cold War enabled Turkey to reformulate its foreign policy to achieve geostrategic depth. The collapse of the Soviet Union ended the danger on its northern border and allowed it to act more freely. In 1991, Turkish President Turgut Ozal granted the Islamist parties freedom of political action. He began implementing an ambitious economic reform project to transform Turkey into a dynamic and affluent country. Ozal realized that the concept of a national economy based on the local market was no longer viable. He also attempted to break the military’s monopoly of political power and restore respect for religion within society. The old Turkish foreign policy, under the control of the military establishment, was unrealistic because it assumed the country could join the European Union. It bet on the possibility of becoming part of Europe because of Turkey’s pivotal role in NATO and close ties with Israel.

In 1996, Necmettin Erbakan, leader of the Islamist Welfare Party, became prime minister. The following year, he proposed establishing an economic group of eight emerging Muslim countries. He left office before he could translate his wish into a reality. Since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) rose to power in 2002, Turkey has abandoned its voluntary isolation from its Middle Eastern surroundings, rid itself of the illusion of joining the West, and looked toward the East, where it shares historical experiences, customs and religion. Erdogan appreciated the importance of the Arab region, viewing it as a natural arena for Turkish foreign policy involvement. The geostrategic impact of the Arab world lies in the fact that events in it cross political boundaries to reach the Caucasus, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The centrality of the Arab region lies in the phenomenon of the Arab Afghans who fought the Red Army in Afghanistan during the 1980s and the influx of thousands of non-Arab fighters to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State and other jihadist movements.

Erdogan’s Strategy

Erdogan is developing a third direction of foreign policy. His approach rests on the premise of harmonious diplomacy that establishes multidirectional relationships based on concord, not contradiction. He hopes the plan will promote Turkey’s political independence without favoring one party against another. The current Turkish foreign policy rests on strengthening relations with the major countries in the West and the East. It seeks to establish flexible and multidimensional alliances that avoid dependence on a dominant ally, taking advantage of global polarization to balance its relations. Since the outbreak of Russia’s war on Ukraine, Ankara has been keen to play the role of facilitator between Kyiv and Moscow while maintaining good relations with both. The context of Turkey’s emerging foreign policy relies on the application of soft and hard power, depending on the situation.

In dealing with Greece in the Aegean Sea and the Cypriot exclusive maritime economic zone, Erdogan adopted a resolute naval policy. Turkey’s uncompromising position on the Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) and its military component, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), view them as extensions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It ignores the U.S. perception of them as essential allies in the defeat of the Islamic State. This disagreement between Washington and Ankara contributed immensely to the souring of their relations since 2015. Erdogan once claimed that the U.S. armed and protected them and turned the region into a “pond of blood.”

Erdogan reasons that the more independent Turkey’s military policy becomes, the more independent its foreign policy becomes. Furthermore, the more experience Turkish security institutions have in foreign operations, the more active Turkey will be in foreign policy. Turkey’s new orientation in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean focuses on calming tensions and crises and accelerating the normalization of relations with countries of the region. Ankara will continue to expand its influence in every corner of the world, emphasizing the Turkic-speaking countries.

Russia and Ukraine are two essential business partners for Turkey. Since Turkey is the world’s third largest wheat importer, its economic ties with Moscow and Kyiv – the leading grain exporters – are critical. In addition to natural gas from Russia, which accounts for 45 percent of its domestic needs, Turkey’s top imports from Ukraine include iron, steel and cereal. During his participation in the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in March, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy noted that Ankara had a pivotal role to play in mediating the Ukraine war. He lauded Turkish efforts to bring delegates from Russia and Ukraine to negotiate an end to the conflict.

Africa has also become a significant focus of the strategy of extending Turkish influence since the AKP came to power, with Erdogan visiting more than 30 African countries since 2003. Numerous summits have been held since 2010 to enhance sustainable development and integration. The latest high-level conference took place in Istanbul in December 2021. Turkey is trying to give the impression that it is an emerging country less threatening than China. It also distances itself from the old colonial powers by employing a Third World discourse of cooperation that appeals to Africans. Relations between Turkey and African Union countries have developed amazingly, and the volume of trade has increased fivefold, from $5 billion to $25 billion. Turkey has also established 43 embassies, and Turkish airlines has linked Istanbul to many African cities.

Turkey is also trying to extend its space and influence in the Sahel and sub-Saharan countries, using the soft power policy it skillfully applies. Turkey plays on the religious factor in countries with strong Islamic traditions. The Turkish Religious Affairs Authority has spearheaded this policy for several years, and it plans to fund the construction of mosques and engage in charitable works. However, Turkey is far from being an active player in the economic development of the Sahel countries. While the European Union pumped more than $8 billion into the region from 2014 to 2019, Turkey spent only $61 million.

Erdogan’s Challenges

According to public opinion polls, Erdogan faces a tough challenge from the opposition in next year’s presidential elections. Current polling shows he will lose his bid for another term. Opposition to Erdogan mounted during Istanbul’s 2013 Taksim Gezi Park protests against his autocratic rule and failure to stop inflation. Since then, the economic situation has worsened, and inflation rates hit a record high. In 2019, the ruling AKP lost the most prominent cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, to opposition candidates.

Turkey's Falling Currency Value and Rising Inflation
(click to enlarge)

Turkey’s isolation, both regionally and internationally, peaked by 2020. It had grave issues with the West and lost many friends in the Middle East because of its support for groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Erdogan wanted to dismantle the anti-Turkish alliances, especially the bloc of Egypt, the Emirates, Israel and Greece in the eastern Mediterranean, to end his isolation in the region. He decided to return to the “zero problems with neighbors” policy to boost the flagging Turkish economy, which itself had emerged as a formidable political opponent ahead of next year’s presidential election – a vote that will determine the future of Turkey.

Eastern Mediterranean Hydrocarbon Reserves: Overlapping Claims
(click to enlarge)

Erdogan is trying to secure sufficient dollars to cover the growing deficit in Turkey’s current account. Turkey needs the Gulf oil countries to pump in urgently needed investments to lift its economy out of recession. The difficult economic situation prompted Erdogan to take the initiative and open up to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates after years of bitter hostility. The UAE pledged to invest $10 billion in Turkey, while Erdogan asked for a $20 billion bank deposit from the Saudis.

The normalization of relations with the Gulf states and Israel and the efforts made in Ukraine will not be enough to polish Turkey’s image abroad. Europeans view Erdogan as an authoritarian and belligerent leader who cannot be predicted or trusted. Turkish attempts to court Egypt are just a tactic, not a strategic choice. Erdogan has not abandoned his expansionist tendencies. To regain trust, Turkey would need to return to its actual size, rid itself of the illusion of re-establishing the caliphate and give up its imperialist ambitions. Former President Turgut Ozal considered Central Asia Turkey’s main field of operation, through which it could convince the West of its importance. Islam represented the most effective tool in Turkish foreign policy in Central Asia, but the growing Islamic trend of the AKP threatened its countries. The rulers of Central Asian countries, except for Azerbaijan, were not enthusiastic about cooperation with Turkey.

Turkey presently seeks friendship with all countries. But it is inherently unstable because of the scramble for power within its fragmented political landscape and the claim that Erdogan’s presidential system led to the rise of personal diplomacy. One of the opposition’s complaints against Erdogan is his assurance of maintaining a proper balance between security and democracy. In reality, his leadership could lead to an imbalance favoring autocratic rule under the guise of national interest.

Erdogan is executing a plan that, if successful, would strengthen Turkey’s international standing. He has not undertaken such a proactive diplomatic endeavor in more than a decade. Erdogan is using the zero-problems policy as a lifeline to help him in next year’s elections, which coincide with the centenary of the founding of the Turkish Republic. The presidential elections, which will also measure voter satisfaction, will determine the identity of the political system and the economic project to extricate the country from its stagnation. The opposition wants to quit the Middle East and re-position Turkey with the European Union.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2022, 01:19:40 AM by Crafty_Dog »

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Erdogan all over the place
« Reply #322 on: September 12, 2022, 08:20:32 AM »
A Desperate Erdogan Cozies Up to Iran and Russia
by Hany Ghoraba
IPT News
September 12, 2022

https://www.investigativeproject.org/9257/a-desperate-erdogan-cozies-up-to-iran-and-russia

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Gatestone: Turkey w Putin
« Reply #323 on: October 25, 2022, 02:59:42 AM »
The Putin Pawns in the NATO Alliance? How the West Emboldens Erdoğan's Aggression
by Burak Bekdil  •  October 25, 2022 at 5:00 am

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Turkey's Islamist President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been militarily threatening a fellow NATO ally, Greece, using increasingly threatening language. He also proudly announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised him to make Turkey an international natural gas hub, therefore selling his gas via Turkey, avoiding Western sanctions.

What does Erdoğan get in return? Huge American (and other Western) pats on the back.

Erdoğan, while explicitly threatening a NATO ally, has a plan to seriously undermine Western sanctions on Russia.... The project will enable Turkey to store Russian gas in Thrace and sell it to willing European buyers. This will effectively kill Western sanctions on Russia. Turkey will earn transit fees from every cubic meter of Russian gas sold to European buyers. A win-win for two autocrats.

What was the U.S. administration's response to all that? Approval for fighter jet sales!... An earlier version of the bill had linked the sale to the condition that Turkey would not use the aircraft against Greece.

Erdoğan is now hopeful that Congress should give the green light to the F-16 deal before the end of the year.

What other insane, anti-Western moves should Erdoğan make before U.S. President Joe Biden understands that Turkey's Islamist autocrat is a Putin pawn inside the NATO alliance?

Or is Biden a Putin pawn as well?

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In a similar vein, Turkey as gas hub
« Reply #324 on: October 25, 2022, 08:45:22 AM »
Turkey as a gas hub. Iran has unveiled plans to increase natural gas exports to Turkey over the next six months. In a recent meeting between the National Iranian Gas Co. and Turkey’s state-owned BOTAS, the two countries agreed to coordinate on projects relating to gas exports to Turkey. Ankara hopes supplies from Iran will help it become a major hub for natural gas.

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GPF: Turkey-Libya
« Reply #325 on: October 26, 2022, 08:49:34 AM »
Turkish expansion. Libya and Turkey signed two agreements on Tuesday that will help implement a 2019 deal in which Ankara laid claim to large and potentially gas-rich areas of the eastern Mediterranean, angering Greece, France and the European Union. Another deal signed by Libya and Turkey on Tuesday aims to increase the capacity of the Libyan air force using Turkish expertise. Ankara continues to expand its regional presence while other players are preoccupied with the Ukraine conflict.

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Re: Turkey
« Reply #327 on: December 22, 2022, 07:09:13 PM »
December 22, 2022
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Turkey’s Struggle to Define Itself
Ankara’s shifting priorities have blocked its ability to establish a national identity.
By: Hilal Khashan

In June 2023, the Turkish people will head to the polls to choose their next president. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) will face stiff competition from a coalition of six opposition parties, led by the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Erdogan is promising voters that, if he is elected, Turkey will become one of the 10 most advanced countries in the world within the 21st century. The CHP, meanwhile, says it has an ambitious economic plan of its own that will spur growth as Turkey heads into its centennial.

But Turkey is unlikely to become an economic powerhouse unless it meets another pressing challenge: forging a national identity that reconciles Islam and democracy and incorporates its diverse religious and ethnic populations. Turkey must streamline its foreign policy, devise a realistic approach to its ties with Europe, and let go of its elusive goal of joining the European Union. It can rise as a significant power only if it makes peace with itself before engaging the outside world.

Fascination With Europe

Turkey’s relations with Europe were shaped early on by the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 and the subsequent wars with European empires as Ottoman armies penetrated the eastern regions of the Continent. The Ottoman Empire grew to become a leading power in Europe, but its failure to capture Vienna, the capital of the Habsburg Austrian Empire, in 1529 ultimately led to its gradual decline in Europe. It didn’t play a role in the Renaissance or the Industrial Revolution – which transformed Europe socially, economically and militarily – and instead emerged as the sick man of Europe. Its restive Christian populations in the Balkans led in the 19th century to its demise, which was aggravated in the next century by the rise of irredentist nationalism. Ottoman Turkey remained impervious to the 1848 anti-monarchical revolutions that spread from Sicily to France, the German states, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Though the revolutions failed, they planted the seeds of liberalism and democracy that eventually pervaded Western and Central Europe.

However, Turkey and Europe drew closer, politically and economically, under the leadership of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. To highlight Europe’s importance to Turkey, 16 out of the 26 ambassadors he assigned to foreign missions served in key European capitals. In 1959, Turkey applied for associate membership in the European Economic Community, the predecessor to the European Union. They signed the Ankara Agreement in 1963 as a framework for cooperation and Turkey’s accession to the bloc. In 1987, Turkey officially applied for membership, and two years later, the bloc confirmed its eventual accession. In 1996, Turkey was admitted into the European Customs Union.

But membership has remained elusive. Turkey tried to convince Europe that the entire country, not just Istanbul, was part of Western civilization and deserved to join the EU. The Europeans, however, considered Turkey part of West Asia. They believed Turkish democracy was superficial and were critical of its treatment of minorities.

The Europeans don’t want Turkey to become an integral part of the West. Former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing publicly admitted as much, saying Turkey did not belong in Europe. But they also don’t want to see it achieving economic independence or emerging as an economic force. Expressing her exasperation with the stalled accession process, former Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller said the Europeans didn’t want Turkey to join the bloc because it was a Muslim country.

Internal Tensions

The country also experienced tensions within Turkish society itself. This was in part a result of Ataturk’s effort to build ties with Europe by introducing laws that would shift Turkey’s orientation from the Middle East to Europe. To that end, he changed the weekly holiday from Friday to Sunday and discarded the Arabic alphabet in favor of the Latin alphabet. Secularism in Turkey thus developed not as a historical process of modernization but as a Kemalist endeavor to create a new state religion guided by a sacred ideology.

Ataturk disconnected Turkey from a millennium of Islamic cultural heritage, viewing its Arab neighbors as inimical. For decades, the authoritarian imposition of secularism fostered cultural estrangement, creating a profound identity crisis and generating public pressure to broaden religious freedoms. The Turkish military dominated government institutions for eight decades and controlled the country’s foreign policy, promoting an association with the secular West. It curbed the role of religion in public life instead of simply separating politics from religion as Western democracies had done.

Religious Groups in Turkey

(click to enlarge)

But these efforts failed to dislodge Islam from the public sphere. In 1970, Necmettin Erbakan founded the Islamic-oriented National Order Party, which was banned by the government a year later because it promoted values incompatible with the state’s secular orientation. Its successor, the National Salvation Party, was established in 1972. The CHP and the military’s attempts to impose secularism on Turkish society created a severe ideological schism that has yet to be resolved. Turkish governments can neither abandon Europe nor ignore Islam. Ankara hasn’t made a convincing claim that it can act as an intermediary between East and West, having failed to embrace Western civilization and its core values.

Turkey's Ethnic Composition

(click to enlarge)

Unpredictable Foreign Policy

Turkey’s struggle to define itself also extends to its foreign policy, which is inconsistent and often unpredictable. It combines Turkey’s five political constants: NATO membership, Black Sea security, imagined European identity, strategic partnership with the U.S., and pan-Turkism. But these are sometimes conflicting. Turkey frequently encounters problems with its NATO allies, especially France and Greece, over Cyprus, resources in the Eastern Mediterranean and islands in the Aegean Sea.

Ankara also has complicated relationships with other foreign actors. Though it has bouts of cooperation with its historical rival Russia, tensions inevitably arise. Following the 2011 Arab uprisings, which Turkey supported, Ankara portrayed itself as an ally of the protesters with a staunch anti-Zionist policy line. However, as its grew more isolated from the Arab region, Turkey signaled to Israel that it was ready to restore ties. Concerned that he might lose next year’s election, Erdogan recently asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to host a summit with the president of Syria to facilitate the repatriation of 3.5 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey, where anti-Arab sentiment is rising.

Whereas Europe controls the scope of its relations with Turkey, the situation is different in Turkey’s relations with the Middle East. Here, Ankara has emerged as the third party in many of the region’s conflicts. Under the AKP, Turkey became entangled in Arab affairs, driven by both ideology and domestic interests. After defeating the uprisings and reasserting power over their domestic affairs, Arab regimes were alarmed by Erdogan’s intrusive approach. Since coming to power in 2003, he predicated Turkey’s relationships with its Middle Eastern neighbors on the ability to wield power, maximizing its material capabilities and building alliances. Ankara uses brute force to pacify the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, while applying a soft power approach elsewhere in the Middle East. In Central Asia, he presented Turkey as a partner but curtailed its influence in the region – except in Azerbaijan, which Ankara backed in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Its lack of consistency reflects its divisive domestic politics.

Potential vs. Reality

Upon its founding in 2001, the AKP sought to resolve Turkey’s identity crisis by combining elements of Islam, modernity and secularism. The AKP hoped to reconcile Turkey’s cultural identity, rooted in Islam, with its geopolitical identity, rooted in Europe, to energize its economy and repair its relations with Europe.

Over the past few years, however, its economy has hit a snag, and its relations with Europe have deteriorated even further. Religious differences aside, Turkey’s economic potential might be its biggest barrier to joining the European Union. Its population of 85 million people would make it the most populous member state. Its growing labor force, exceeding 34 million people, is Europe’s third largest. Some 800,000 students graduate from Turkish universities annually, giving its labor force the skills needed to work in a modern economy. The country’s well-developed economic infrastructure includes 55 civilian airports, two of the 10 largest airlines in Europe, an advanced railway system, and developed marine transportation facilities.

The Middle East, meanwhile, is witnessing a deescalation of tensions and shifting its focus to economic cooperation. Rather than waste more time waiting on EU membership, Turkey needs to reinvent its national character and integrate its ethnic and religious minorities. It cannot develop without making peace with itself and shifting its focus away from rectifying past injustices.

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RANE: Turkey blocking Sweden and Finland
« Reply #329 on: January 20, 2023, 04:32:18 PM »
As Elections Near, Turkey Will Still Block Sweden and Finland's NATO Aspirations
5 MIN READJan 20, 2023 | 16:39 GMT




A breakthrough in NATO accession negotiations between Turkey and Sweden and Finland is unlikely before Turkey's national elections later this year, hampering the U.S. sale of F-16s to Ankara and reinforcing those in the West questioning Turkey's place in the military alliance. Political calculations in Turkey are slowing negotiations between the country and would-be NATO members Sweden and Finland, as Ankara redoubles its call for Stockholm and Helsinki to take politically difficult (and legally questionable) steps to target individuals on their soil whom Ankara accuses of supporting Kurdish militancy. On Jan. 16, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan added a fresh demand: Finland and Sweden must extradite some 130 publicly unnamed individuals before the country's parliament would ratify their accession to NATO. The comments came just days after Turkey demanded that Sweden prosecute protesters who hanged Erdogan in effigy during a protest. After that incident, Turkey canceled a visit by Sweden's speaker of parliament, Andreas Norlen, to Ankara. Despite the Turkish demands, a Swedish prosecutor said that there would be no investigation into the incident, which Swedish politicians said was protected by the country's free speech laws.

Both Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO in the spring of 2022, just weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine shifted their neutral stances on East-West confrontations. But Turkey objected, citing alleged Swedish and Finnish political support for groups like the Kurdistan Workers' Party (better known by its Kurdish initials, PKK), and demanded the two Nordic countries take stronger steps against the group before Ankara would support their accession to the alliance (which requires unanimous support from all members). Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials, AKP) is using the issue to win over nationalists in the upcoming national polls — which are likely in May, though they are currently scheduled for June — in which the AKP is competing with opposition parties for the nationalist vote to control parliament.

NATO states like the United States have informally committed themselves to defending the Nordic countries' borders regardless of their status as NATO members. This has diminished the urgency of bringing the two nations into the alliance, giving Turkey time to drag out the accession process in the pursuit of concessions.

Because of their constitutional systems, the Finns and Swedes will be unable legally to take further steps against public expressions of support for Kurdish militants, while Turkey is unlikely to step back from its maximalist demands so long as they benefit the AKP's political strategy ahead of the elections. This makes a breakthrough before the Turkish national elections unlikely. Finland and Sweden both already outlaw the PKK as a terrorist organization, but as constitutional democracies, they are unable to take further steps demanded by Turkey, like prosecuting individuals for general pro-Kurdish, anti-Turkish sentiment — sentiments only growing stronger because of Turkey's obstruction of the ongoing accession process. Meanwhile, dropping its demands ahead of the national elections without these major Nordic concessions could cost the AKP swing voters. Such voters could switch to the opposition nationalist Iyi Party, abandoning the AKP and its ultranationalist ally the Nationalist Movement Party, which is struggling to stay above the 7% electoral threshold needed to enter parliament.

Turkey has not always provided specific names for extradition, causing some observers to speculate Ankara wants to use the issue as a talking point for domestic politics rather than a major attempt to force a sentiment change in Finland and Sweden.

In December 2022, a Swedish court blocked the extradition of Bulent Kenes, a Turkish journalist demanded by the Turkish government because of his alleged ties with the now-outlawed Gulenist government. Kenes accused Erdogan of demanding his extradition because he was a known opposition journalist rather than having a specific, strong case against him.

The United States is likely to keep its upcoming F-16 sale to Turkey tied to the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO, while Turkey's blocking policy will also reinforce general Western sentiments that Ankara's policies are undermining the effectiveness of the alliance. In the long term, this will translate into greater political pressure for the United States to try to force Turkey to shift policies and better align with the alliance. In January 2023, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Biden administration was preparing to notify Congress of a long-sought F-16 sale to Turkey to modernize the country's air force, but that the sale would be contingent on both congressional approval and Turkey's acquiescence to the Nordic countries entering NATO. In Congress, Sen. Robert Menendez — who often delays arms sales through his position as chairman of the Armed Services Committee — also threatened to hold up the sale based in part on Turkey's position regarding accession and because of Ankara's human rights record. Such positions appear likely to harden if, after the elections later this year, a breakthrough on the entry of the Nordic countries to the alliance still does not occur.

Turkish-Western ties are also strained by other Turkish policies, including its relative neutrality on the Russia-Ukraine war, where Ankara has so far refused to enact sanctions against Moscow to avoid hurting Turkey's unstable economy. Turkey and the United States have also long been at odds over Washington's close relationship with the Syrian Democratic Forces, which use Kurdish fighters Turkey accuses of being terrorists; Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system; and Turkey's general human rights record.

In September 2022, U.S. and EU officials quietly pressured Ankara to end the use of Russia's Mir payment system in order to isolate Russia's economy, a step Turkey had initially resisted in an attempt to retain economic relations with Moscow. These threats did not emerge into forceful sanctions, but were indicative of the West's increased willingness to pressure Turkey to move away from its neutral position on the Russian-Ukraine war.

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Re: Turkey
« Reply #331 on: February 22, 2023, 06:37:32 AM »
Yes.

In this moment it may be of interest to reread the George Friedman piece that begins this thread.

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The Upcoming Elections
« Reply #333 on: May 11, 2023, 05:09:59 AM »


May 11, 2023
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The Battle for Turkey’s Future
Elections this weekend will serve as a watershed in Turkey’s political and economic development.
By: Hilal Khashan

On May 14, voters in Turkey will head to the polls to cast their ballots in presidential and parliamentary elections, which are shaping up to be the most competitive vote since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002. The race will come down to the country’s two main political coalitions: the People’s Alliance, led by AKP chief Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Nation Alliance, led by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Though the race is a battle for Turkey’s future, it’ll be profoundly influenced by Turkey’s past. The failed coup in 2016 reshaped the country’s political landscape, resulting in a shift to a presidential system and the formation of new political alliances. Since then, Turkey has witnessed a political struggle over national identity and religious inclusion. The two major parties, the AKP and the CHP, forged competing coalitions and redefined the country’s political discourse and foreign policy. While the AKP continues to promote radical religious ideology, the CHP has toned down its secularist rhetoric and apologized for its past mistakes, which for decades alienated Turkey’s broad conservative bloc. Regardless of the outcome, this election will be a watershed in Turkey’s political and economic development.

Erdogan’s Declining Popularity

Apathy has become widespread among many Turkish voters, especially in the south, where a massive earthquake killed more than 50,000 people in February. Ordinary Turks don’t think the economic situation will improve regardless of who wins the upcoming elections. They’re tired of the deep-rooted divisions between political parties. Low voter turnout in heavily Kurdish areas could be Erdogan’s best hope of securing another term. He has limited support in the east and southeast, where the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is running under the lists of the Green Left Party (YSP), which has already announced its support for Kilicdaroglu. Though the Kurdish Islamist Free Cause Party has said it will back Erdogan for the presidency, its support won’t offset the loss of votes from the Democracy and Progress Party and the Future Party, which previously split from the AKP.

The AKP is unlikely to secure a simple majority in the 600-member parliament, largely because of the overlap in its electoral base and that of its main coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Many voters who reject Erdogan’s autocratic rule have shifted to the MHP. They will still vote for Erdogan over Kilicdaroglu in the presidential race but will support their party’s parliamentary candidates, not the AKP’s.

The AKP used to enjoy unwavering support from conservative women, who saw Erdogan as an ally after he lifted a ban on headscarves for public sector workers. The shift in policy – which made it possible for women wearing veils to become police officers, judges and university professors – was one of the biggest reasons for Erdogan’s popularity in the 2000s. However, more than 20 years after the AKP came to power, Turkish women have begun to view the rights they gained as unalienable.

Erdogan has repeatedly invoked his removal of the veil ban to make the case that he has done more for women than many of his predecessors since the founding of the republic in 1923. What’s most striking is that in his speeches he talks about women in a traditional manner, portraying them primarily as mothers and caretakers. His discourse on gender has not kept pace with the country’s social development and rapid urbanization. In Turkey today, women, including those who wear veils, want the same rights to work as men.

Another example of this trend is Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on the elimination of violence against women in 2021. It’s all part of the government’s adoption of rhetoric in defense of family values and targeting what it calls the corrupt, decadent West. There has been some pushback, however. Erdogan’s decision to include two Islamist parties that demanded that the withdraw from the Istanbul Convention in his coalition has caused friction within the AKP.

Disappointed in the changes they’ve seen in the AKP, many conservative women could choose to stay home on election day rather than vote for either Erdogan or Kilicdaroglu. Erdogan is also no longer seen as a champion of the younger generation who have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle attributable to the achievements made during the Erdogan era. The financial crisis has eroded the economic progress of the first few years of Erdogan’s rule, leading to an erosion of his base of support.

Power of the Conservative Bloc

The conservative voting bloc is a decisive element in most Turkish elections, especially in presidential votes. Conservatives brought Erdogan and the AKP to power 21 years ago and continue to support him. Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, founder of the CHP-allied Future Party, has said that the opposition needs to win over conservatives to defeat Erdogan at the polls.

For decades, a conflict has been raging in Turkey between conservative and secular forces, especially the CHP. Conservatives, including the religious and national Islamic movement, represent about 45 percent of the population. When counting Kurdish religious groups, conservatives increase to more than 50 percent of Turkey’s population. In previous elections, Erdogan managed to win the votes of conservative Kurds, which makes sense considering that about a third of AKP lawmakers are Kurdish. With the AKP dominating elections since 2002, the CHP has tried to attract conservative voters by promoting tolerance toward religious groups, respecting religious dress and allying with Islamic parties. Conservatives, however, still see Erdogan as the only political leader capable of achieving the aspirations of the Turkish people. He has repeatedly reminded his supporters that he succeeded in reopening the Hagia Sophia Mosque for worship in 2020 after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk transformed it into a museum in 1935.

Indeed, Erdogan has taken on many conservative causes, resulting in significant confrontations with secular forces and the army, which culminated in the botched coup in 2016. Erdogan overcame these obstacles, but the upcoming elections present a major new challenge for him as economic conditions worsen and inflation soars. Erdogan has sought to prevent the Turkish public, especially his supporters, from focusing on the country’s economic problems. He even shrugged off rising food prices, telling voters at a recent rally, “You wouldn’t sacrifice your leader for onion or potato.” The comment came in response to an opposition-led campaign that held him responsible for skyrocketing prices for staple food items. The price of onions, an essential ingredient in Turkish cuisine that recently served as a symbol in an anti-Erdogan campaign, has quadrupled over the past three months. Though this is a minor point in a broader platform, it’s still an embarrassment for Erdogan, who has in turn accused Kilicdaroglu and his allies of treason and betraying Turkey’s national interests. He condemned them for coordinating their election campaign with the HDP, which Erdogan brands as an extension of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Wild Card

Several months ago, Erdogan sent a delegation to the headquarters of the HDP in Ankara, proposing dialogue on a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue. Party leaders rejected the proposal, questioning Erdogan’s promises and intentions because of the imprisonment of prominent HDP leaders, in addition to many members of parliament, more than 40 mayors, and several thousand HDP supporters. In the 2019 municipal elections, the HDP’s support for CHP candidates in Istanbul and Ankara led to the AKP’s defeat. However, the opposition parties’ lukewarm attitude toward the Kurds after the election reinforced Kurdish beliefs that Erdogan’s opponents are untrustworthy.

Erdogan must now try to court the Alevis, a sect that accounts for between 15 and 20 percent of Turkey’s population. The center-left-leaning group is suspicious of the aims of the Islamist-rooted AKP after the party’s previous attempts to address the concerns of the sect failed. The Alevis have demanded official recognition of their places of worship, and Erdogan appears to have agreed, even though the conservative base of the AKP views the Alevis as a cult, not an Islamic sect. (Notably, Kilicdaroglu is himself an Alevi.)

Razor’s Edge

The Nation Alliance has pledged to reverse many of Erdogan’s policies if it wins the election. It promises a return to parliamentary democracy, tighter monetary control and a significant shift in the country’s foreign policy. It has also pledged to work toward obtaining full membership in the European Union, to improve relations with the United States and to return Turkey to the F-35 fighter jet program.

The AKP, meanwhile, is trying to win over undecided voters by using conciliatory language that appeals to all segments of Turkish society. Erdogan’s chances of winning the vote are boosted by the fact that the leaders of the Nation Alliance parties come from a wide political spectrum – which exposes them to making mistakes on the campaign trail. The parties are unlikely allies with very different bases of support. Except for the Good Party, they did not present independent electoral lists but formed joint lists with the CHP, which could lead many voters to cast their ballots for Erdogan and the AKP instead.

Both Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu have promised to stimulate the economy, control inflation, increase annual per capita income and reduce unemployment. Erdogan has also pressed for big infrastructure, energy and defense projects. It will be an uphill battle, however, as even a pro-AKP journalist acknowledged that Erdogan’s election chances are on a razor’s edge.

Crafty_Dog

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Turkey Elections and the Kurds
« Reply #334 on: May 13, 2023, 04:52:17 PM »
In Turkey's Election, the Kurds Will Be the Kingmaker
May 12, 2023 | 19:40 GMT





Syrian Kurds gather in the northeastern city of Qamishli on May 10, 2023, to show their support for the Turkish opposition ahead of Turkey's election. Images of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), are seen on some demonstrators' placards and clothing.
Syrian Kurds gather in the northeastern city of Qamishli on May 10, 2023, to show their support for the Turkish opposition ahead of Turkey's election. Images of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), are seen on some demonstrators' placards and clothing.

(DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The Kurdish vote will be key in determining the outcome of Turkey's upcoming elections, which could oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and see Kurdish parties further integrate with the Turkish opposition. On May 14, Turkey will hold national elections for parliament and the presidency. While control of the legislature is also at stake, the most contentious race is for the presidency, where incumbent candidate Erodgan from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is facing off against Kemal Kilicdaroglu from Turkey's largest opposition party, the centrist Republican People's Party (CHP). Kurdish voters have been moving closer to Kilicdaroglu and the CHP-led ''Nation Alliance,'' the six-party opposition coalition trying to oust Erdogan and the AKP. Kurdish political parties have similarly begun aligning with the opposition, with the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) — the largest Kurdish party in Turkey and the second-largest opposition party in parliament — announcing in March that it would not field a presidential candidate to presumably consolidate support for Kilicdaroglu. With Kurds making up 15-20% of Turkey's population, the Kurdish vote is seen as the ''kingmaker'' of the upcoming election: if the majority of Kurds cast their ballots for Kilicdaroglu, he stands a much greater chance of defeating Erdogan and ending the nationalist leader's 20-year reign over the country.

Following a March meeting with HDP co-chairs, Kilicdaroglu reiterated that if elected president, he would use the democratic tools at his disposal to address the ''Kurdish issue,'' a term which is broadly used to define the historical mistreatment and systematic oppression of ethnic Kurds in Turkey. He also criticized the AKP's policies toward Kurds, including restrictions on the Kurdish language.
On April 17, Kilicdaroglu released a Twitter video defending Kurdish voters as ''brothers'' of Turks and condemning the AKP's attempts to portray them as terrorists as ''shameful.''
In a report published on April 11, pollster Rawest Research found that support for the CHP has quadrupled in Turkey's Kurdish provinces since 2018, and that Kurdish voters' support for the ruling AKP has steadily declined since 2015. According to Rawest Research, the AKP has lost at least a third of the Kurdish voters who backed it in the 2018 parliamentary elections.
On March 9, jailed former HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas endorsed Kilicdaroglu and called for unity between the HDP and CHP in ousting Erdogan.
Turkey's Kurdish Issue

Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Turkey and are concentrated mostly in the country's southeast. Ever since the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, successive governments have forcibly repressed and assimilated the Kurdish people, language and culture as Turkish nationalists have viewed them as threats to national unity. In the late 1970s, the left-wing Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was formed to campaign for Kurdish rights in Turkey and in 1984 began organizing an armed insurgency to create an independent Kurdistan. The Turkish government has responded to the PKK's insurgency with violent crackdowns on the Kurdish population, which has fueled accusations of human rights abuses among the United Nations, the European Council of Human Rights and other international organizations. But the PKK has also faced international condemnation, specifically for targeting civilians, and is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and most Western countries, including the United States.

Kurdish languages were banned from use in public and private life in Turkey following the 1980 coup, during a period of intense Turkish nationalism promoted by the military government which viewed Kurdish cultural and linguistic expression as a threat to Turkish nationalism and security.
The Turkish government officially denied the existence of Kurds until 1991.
Kurdish support for the opposition follows years of tensions with Erdogan and his ruling AKP despite prior attempts at peace. Between 2009 and 2015, the AKP-led Turkish government made efforts to end the longstanding conflict with the Kurds in an effort to garner support among Kurdish voters, as well as pave the way for Turkey's accession to the European Union. This period saw the government expand linguistic rights for Kurds, grant partial amnesty for PKK members who had surrendered to the government, and issue an official state apology for the 1937-1938 Dersim Massacre that killed thousands of Kurds. However, the peace process ended in 2015, when the government launched its military offensives against the PKK and other Kurdish groups in both Turkey, as well as in neighboring Iraq and Syria. These offensives came as armed Kurdish groups had become much more active amid ongoing fighting against Islamic State. They also followed a general election in Turkey in which the AKP lost its parliamentary majority, in part due to the HDP's strong electoral performance. Since 2015, the AKP has embraced a more staunchly anti-Kurdish vision of Turkish nationalism, which intensified after a faction of the Turkish military unsuccessfully tried to overthrow Erdogan's government in 2016. This has seen heavy-handed crackdowns against the Kurdish population and its political movement led by the HDP, which the government has attempted to justify through allegations of PKK or PKK-linked activity. The Turkish military has also launched operations against Kurdish groups in Iraq and especially Syria in an effort to combat what Turkey sees as a major militant threat.

On April 25, the Turkish government arrested 110 HDP officials over their alleged ties to militant groups, which was largely seen as an attempt to intimidate Kurdish voters ahead of the May 14 elections.
Since 2016, the AKP-led government has removed 54 democratically elected Kurdish mayors from office and replaced them with government-appointed bureaucrats.
In November 2016, the co-chairs of the HDP, notably including Selahattin Demirtas, were arrested on several charges, including supporting violent protests and associating with the PKK (which the HDP leaders deny), and they remain imprisoned.
Nation Alliance members' differing policies toward the Kurds will challenge the opposition's informal partnership with the HDP. The HDP's primary election goal is to oust Erdogan. And it knows that Kilicdaroglu, the joint candidate of the Nation Alliance, stands the best chance of accomplishing that goal. But the Nation Alliance also lacks a unified vision concerning its member parties' relationship with Kurdish parties and voters. For example, though the CHP (the largest opposition party) has courted Kurdish voters, the nationalist Iyi Party — another Nation Alliance member — has continued to accuse the HDP of maintaining connections with the PKK (which the HDP rejects). These distinctions are important because in order to defeat Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu will need to secure a resounding majority of the Kurdish vote. In the absence of an HDP presidential candidate, Kurdish voters are more likely to vote for Kilicdaroglu over Erdogan. But whether they turn out in droves for the opposition candidate is more uncertain given the diversity of the Kurdish voting bloc, which includes many conservative members. Before 2015, the AKP was more willing than the CHP to advance Kurdish rights. And this, combined with the ruling party's attempt to use religion as a unifier in its recent campaign messaging, could still see some of those conservative Kurds vote for Erodgan in the upcoming election. Indeed, despite his post-2015 shift toward anti-Kurdish policies, Erodgan has managed to maintain support among some Kurds. While it appears unlikely, a larger-than-expected turnout of Kurdish AKP supporters that sways the presidential race in Erdogan's favor thus cannot be ruled out.

While the HDP is moving closer to the Nation Alliance, it has not formally joined the coalition due to disagreements with other party members like the Iyi Party. On March 28, Iyi lawmaker Yavuz Agiralioglu submitted his resignation in protest of Kilicdaroglu's visit to the HDP's headquarters.
In the leadup to the June 2015 elections, Kilicdaroglu ruled out any potential negotiations or coalition with the HDP over concerns that such an alliance would weaken support for the CHP — a position he has now reversed but is emblematic of historic tensions.
In 2020, a poll showed that approximately 30% of Kurdish voters would vote for the AKP.
An opposition victory could significantly alter Turkish policies toward the Kurds, whereas an AKP victory would continue hard-line anti-Kurdish policies and complicate the HDP's future ability to cooperate with other opposition parties. If Kilicdaroglu secures enough Kurdish votes to defeat Erdogan (and does not lose substantial support to candidates from other opposition parties), he would head a new CHP-led government that would likely continue to move closer to the Kurds. This would result in significantly more Kurdish influence over policymaking. In the event that the opposition gains control of both the presidency and the parliament, a CHP-led government would likely seek to begin negotiations with Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime, with the goal of eventually withdrawing Turkish forces from the Kurdish regions in (XX northern?) Syria. At home, this broadly would help to cool tensions between authorities and the Kurdish population in southern Turkey, likely reducing (though not ending) the Kurdish militant threat within the country. However, if supporters of the conservative or nationalist parties in the opposition Nation Alliance, like the Iyi Party, end up voting for Erdogan, it could result in his re-election — in which case, the same tensions between the government and Kurds would continue. If Kilicdaroglu loses to Erodgan, the opposition would also likely see collaboration with the Kurds as a failed experiment, and focus its efforts on regaining nationalist and conservative support in future elections — likely ruling out a future partnership with the HDP.

Kurds' political future in Turkey will hinge largely on the outcome of the parliamentary elections, as Kilicdaroglu has promised to solve the Kurdish issue through negotiations in the legislature. The HDP is running candidates in the parliamentary vote under the banner of the Green Left Party amid the ongoing AKP-led case to shut the HDP down due to allegations of association with the PKK. If Kilicdaroglu is elected president, the Green Left Party would thus most likely be the party representing Kurdish interests in any future parliamentary negotiations.
Compared with the presidential race, where Erodgan and Kilicdaroglu are polling closely, the outcome of the parliamentary election is more assured, with the opposition widely expected to win a majority. However, the expanded executive powers that Erdogan has amassed during his tenure means it is unlikely that the Turkish government's policies toward the Kurds would change significantly if the opposition gains control of the parliament but not the presidency.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Turkey
« Reply #335 on: May 24, 2023, 12:44:35 PM »


How The West Sanctions Enemies: Floods Them with Rewards
by Burak Bekdil  •  May 24, 2023 at 5:00 am

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tirelessly struggles to harm Western interests. He should be punished and sanctioned for doing that. Instead, the UN, under U.S. direction, rewarded Turkey by appointing a close Erdoğan confidant to a critical Afghan post, and the Biden administration rewarded Erdoğan by requesting Congressional authorization to sell critical fighter jet parts to Turkey.

In an effort to help Putin evade sanctions, Turkey agreed to pay 25% of its natural gas bill to Russia in rubles. In return, to help Erdoğan find a way out of a punishing economic crisis, Putin deferred repayment Turkey's $20 billion gas debts to Russia until 2024.

By contrast, Turkey's relations with the West have seen one bottom after another.

Erdoğan's request for the extradition [from Sweden and Finland] of "terrorists" does not fit into the judicial system of any democratic country: he insists that everyone who opposes his rule is a "terrorist" -- therefore more than half of 85 million Turkish citizens are terrorists.

On April 17, the Biden administration officially notified Congress about the planned sale to Turkey of critical avionics software upgrades for its current fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft. "Turkey is a longstanding and valued NATO ally," a State Department spokesperson said in a statement. "The Biden administration supports Turkey's efforts to bring the avionics of its F-16 fleet up to standard."

Anything for a sale?

Perhaps the Turkish foreign minister was right to call Biden "charlatan."

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Re: Turkey
« Reply #337 on: May 29, 2023, 06:15:40 AM »
Perhaps a good moment to reread the post that opens this thread 16 years ago.


Crafty_Dog

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RANEL The Modern Geopolitics of Turkey
« Reply #339 on: July 21, 2023, 09:57:30 AM »
ASSESSMENTS
The Modern Geopolitics of Turkey
Jul 21, 2023 | 14:32 GMT

A Natural Middle Power

Turkey is a classic geopolitical middle power. It’s not strong enough to unilaterally impose its policies, but not weak enough to be forced into the orbit of another great power. This middle power status is rooted in its geographic position between Europe and Asia, which affords Turkey great economic opportunities and knowledge transfers, but also exposes it to security threats by placing it between numerous powerful countries and potential invaders.

Turkey is best able to pursue its own core interests — internal unity, access to global markets, and external security — when the global geopolitical environment is fragmented. But Turkey cannot do so in the face of determined great power opposition without also exposing itself to threats that could unravel the state. Together, these realities mean that while Turkey can (and does) independently pursue many of its policies, it must still be measured in its behavior abroad.

Map of natural resources in Turkey
Anatolia: Turkey's Geographic Core

Anatolia, Asia's westernmost point, is the geographic heart of Turkey, as it was for numerous empires and provinces of great empires throughout human history. This is no accident: the geographic strengths of the peninsula — with the Black Sea to its north, Iran to its east, Europe to its west, the Mediterranean Sea to its southwest, and Iraq and Syria to its southeast — lend themselves to geopolitical power by both connecting the region to the world while also partially shielding it.

Anatolia's position between the Black and Mediterranean seas not only creates trade links to Russia, southeastern Europe and North Africa, but forms barriers to invasions if enemies lack sufficient sea power to travel the waves. To the southwest, the arid deserts of Iraq and Syria also deter invaders, as well as undermine the growth of major civilizations that could threaten Anatolia. Anatolia's position between Iran and Europe gives it access to economic, cultural and technological powerhouses to trade with and learn from, while simultaneously giving rise to states that seek to dominate the peninsula. But attacking Anatolia from the west requires crossing the Aegean Sea, creating an obstacle for any European power that lacks a strong navy. And attacking the region from the east requires crossing the cold and rugged mountains that hem in the attractive central Anatolian plateau, creating a logistical constraint that helps anchor the modern Iranian-Turkish border.

For a state that takes control of Anatolia, economic benefits abound. Its mild climate and adequate rainfall favor agriculture and timber, as well as improve the attractiveness of settlements, while the region's rivers (including the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates) provide farms with reliable water supplies. Anatolia's iron, copper, coal, gold, marble, and other natural resources also provide the raw materials for an advanced material culture. And its position between Russia and the Mediterranean, and between Europe and Asia more broadly, makes it a natural waypoint for trade routes, of which Anatolian states have always in some form or another taken their cut. On the route between Russia and the Mediterranean, Anatolian states control the critical Turkish straits, through which passes the breadbasket of Ukrainian and Russian grain to the rest of the world. These benefits have long made Anatolia a center of urban human civilization: one of the earliest cities in the world, Catalhoyuk, was founded in southwestern Anatolia an estimated 9,400 years ago.

These early advantages gave rise to great powers basing themselves in Anatolia, like the Hittites, Byzantines and Ottomans. But the disadvantages of being surrounded by other advanced civilizations — and in more recent times, advanced nation-states — have also exposed Anatolian powers to the potential of multifront challenges that at times they have been unable to balance. Anatolia's position on major trade routes brings material wealth, but also foreign ideas, cultures and religions that can destabilize the cultural heartland, disorganize the state, and open it up to internal divisions that external challengers can then exploit. The history of civilization in Anatolia generally experiences phases in which states are effective in balancing these factors and phases in which they collapse because they cannot.

Modern Anatolia has had centuries of settlement patterns that have left behind various cultural and religious artifacts. But it was the coming of the Turks in the 11th and 12th centuries that have since defined the region's dominant identity. The Turkish people, originally from Central-East Asia, settled down into the Anatolian plains and steadily colonized and transformed the demographic landscape, pushing out the region's Christian Greco-Roman identity and replacing it with Muslim Turkish culture over several centuries. One Turkish-speaking family — the Ottomans — founded a dynasty that would eventually expand into many of the same regions as the former Roman and Byzantine Empires along the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean. For centuries, the Ottomans, a great power themselves, achieved the necessary balance to maintain the empire.

Map of population density in Turkey
Turkey's Opportunities and Constraints in the 20th Century

Turkey's 20th-century experience went through four distinct phases: the late Ottoman period, the interwar republic, the Cold War, and the era of U.S.-led globalization that followed the fall of the Soviet Union. For Turkey, the century began with collapse, followed by consolidation, and then alignment.

Prior to the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire was a great Mediterranean power. In the 16th century, the empire had vassals and territory extending from Algeria to Crimea and dominated the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean's shores on borders similar to that of the Roman-Byzantine Empire at its own height. But by the 1600s, the Ottoman Empire was facing a resurgent Europe, where the Renaissance sparked new ideas, including military technologies, and the New World provided new wealth that helped European countries (like the Austrian Empire, Spain, Russia and Portugal) push Ottoman power back. In this era, the Ottoman state embarked on a period of strategic balancing, both at home and abroad. Internally, the sultanate tried to reform the empire without breaking its frail, multi-ethnic and religious social contract, sometimes without success. And externally, the Ottoman Empire abandoned expansionism in favor of playing European rivalries off against one another.

This strategy lasted hundreds of years, but its failure was inevitable amid the rise of new ideological, technological and strategic forces from Europe. The Ottoman Empire's fall came about as other multi-ethnic, dynastic systems around Europe were collapsing in the face of rising nationalism, industrialization, ideological conflict and increasing great power competition. Traditional empires were not well-suited to these challenges, including the Ottoman system. By the time of World War I, it was a matter of when, not if, the Ottoman Empire would fall. After defeat in 1918 and the Treaty of Sevres in 1919, the empire collapsed in all but name.

But the defeat of the Ottoman Empire did not mean the end of the Turkish people. Unlike previous phases of conquest, which had resulted in population displacement by foreigners moving into Anatolia, the victorious Allies in 1919 were in no position to colonize the region. With their demographic dominance further assured by the genocide of the Armenians during World War I, the numerous Turks living in Anatolia reorganized under Turkish Gen. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and successfully counterattacked. The Turkish War of Independence began the interwar period of reorganization and consolidation to create a modern Turkish state able to hold off the challenges of the 20th century.

General Ataturk and his supporters won the war against the Allies, but they inherited a disorganized state, along with a population divided by sect, ethnicity, class and region, and the rise of expansionary ideologies like fascism and communism. Ataturk's own political establishment was just as divided, and the prospect of recurrent civil wars loomed. Meanwhile, even beyond the clash of ideologies, Turkey still faced traditional foreign challenges. Turkey had already lost its Arab territories, and both Greece and its Kurdish populations aimed to further shrink Turkey's borders. To maintain a stable state, Turkey focused on national and political unity, producing an ideology able to compete with foreign ones, and navigate between hostile camps without being dragged into their wars.

General Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his supporters — dubbed Kemalists — decided the best way to confront these ideological, political, security and diplomatic challenges was to build a secular, nationalist Turkish republic. To glue the Turkish people themselves together, they chose to embrace and build upon Turkish nationalism. This also required a break with the past: they began purging the Ottoman Empire's old associations with pan-Islamic ideals (but not from Islam itself), first by abolishing the caliphate in 1924 and then by adopting enforced secular norms that would last until the 21st century. They sought to emphasize Turkishness, replacing the Arabic alphabet with the Latin script in 1928. They moved the capital to the Anatolian heartland, Ankara, away from the baggage of the traditional capital of Constantinople (which had since been renamed Istanbul). Rather than a new Turkish monarchy or empire, they also chose to establish a republic, which would be less likely to suffer the dynastic hang-ups among the elites that had plagued the Ottomans. And to prevent revanchism by the still-powerful Muslim establishment, they created one of the first modern deep-states within this republic: a cadre of generals, politicians and businesspeople who would overthrow the political process should populists or Islamists pull Turkey back toward the failed policies of the Ottoman era. The enduring influence of these military, political and business leaders continues to shape Turkish politics, even as their ability to overthrow governments has waned.

Notably, this choice of Turkish nationalism left out one of Turkey's last remaining minorities: the Kurds, an independent ethnic group with roots in the country's isolated, mountainous southeast dating back thousands of years. In the 1920s, the Kurds did not seem to pose a major threat to Turkey; they lived in tribal and undeveloped regions and had never controlled their own country or empire. But Turkish nationalism provided an ideological foil that eventually saw the Kurds develop their own distinct identity, creating a long-term ethnically-based challenge to Turkish unity that crossed borders to other Kurdish regions in Syria, Iraq and Iran.

A map of the Ottoman Empire at its height in the 17th century
Abroad, the new state in Turkey realized it had to narrow its ambitions greatly from the imperial era, which overstretched the Ottoman Empire by bringing it into too many conflicts on too many fronts, and caused imperial models of governance to become increasingly difficult to sustain. In the interwar and World War II periods, Ankara stayed strictly neutral on international conflicts, preferring to await a victor in the competition between capitalist democracy, fascism and communism.

After World War II, Turkey began a period of alignment with the West against the Soviets, who had inherited Moscow's ambition to dominate the Turkish straits (this time through a communist revolution in Turkey). For decades, the Cold War defined most Turkish foreign interests: fears of a communist uprising and a Soviet-backed insurgency, particularly in the non-Turkish Kurdish southeast, kept Ankara largely aligned with the West for decades. This era saw Turkey use its access to Western technology, capital and defense industries to modernize and rebuild its military and economy to bury the Ottoman past further. At home, the Kemalist establishment, backed by the military, intervened in politics through coups or threats of coups in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997, maintaining the secular ideology of the state in the face of a surge of Islamic fundamentalism that began in the 1960s and 1970s.

There were hints of the old Anatolian impulses, however. In 1974, spurred by Turkish nationalists and exploiting a moment of NATO disunity over the future of Cyprus, Turkey launched an invasion of the northern part of the island, where thousands of ethnic Turks remained from the Ottoman era. This resulted in the creation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which only Turkey recognizes. But in the Cold War, such moments were rare; Turkey had few opportunities to maneuver in places where the United States or the Soviets were not already active.

But with the end of the Cold War and the bipolar world order it created, would end, Turkey's opportunities and constraints would again shift.

The Erdogan Era and the Return to a Multipolar World

Though the Cold War ended in victory for the West, it produced only a short-lived unipolar moment, where international norms and behaviors were often shaped by the foreign policies set out by the West. As the United States embarked on military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, and its economy and social contract were hit by the 2008 financial crisis, the United States became increasingly unable to impose its global vision, while both rivals (like Russia, China and Iran) and friends (like France and Germany) grew bolder in asserting their own interests, even if it meant placing themselves in competition with the world's last superpower. A multipolar world, like that which dominated the global system before World War II, began to re-emerge. By the mid-2010s, this multipolar world order was firmly in swing, as the United States shifted its attention to China and away from the Middle East. The United States was not gone, but its interests had a different priority; policymakers no longer assumed they could chase all American interests equally as they had in the 1990s. With the global order redefined, Turkey's own interests were reshaped as well.

Turkey's own political and social institutions were undergoing their own transformation. By the late 1990s, the fear of reverting to failed Ottoman-era policies had long disappeared. Meanwhile, Islamist ideas and institutions were growing in popularity, often fused with Turkish nationalism. The meaning of Turkish unity thus changed and weakened the Kemalist argument for strictly enforced secularism, even at the expense of democracy and popular will.

These internal changes in attitudes and political redlines, combined with the establishment's loss of legitimacy in the wake of a weak Turkish economy, gave way to a shocking election victory for the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002 — bringing an Islamist government to power, led by Prime Minister (and eventually President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after almost a century of secular parties. The AKP leaned into these shifting attitudes, weakening the Kemalist establishment by taking control of the judiciary, the media and eventually the military. After the 2016 coup attempt against the AKP, a widespread purge allowed the ruling party to purge the government of the old Kemalist deep state and, in parts, replace it with its own. This process largely retained the old, centralized structure of the secular state, swapping out the Kemalist ideology for Turko-Islamist nationalism that better fit the public mood. The process was then furthered when Turkey swapped to a presidential system from a parliamentary one in 2018.

Meanwhile, regional developments also created challenges and opportunities for Turkey. The U.S. wars with Iraq created a power vacuum on Turkey's southern border that was filled by Iran, Islamist militants like al Qaeda, and eventually the Islamic State (IS). Most challenging to Turkey, an autonomous Kurdish region eventually organized as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that sought to formally establish the world's first Kurdish nation-state.

The Arab Spring in the early 2010s also provided openings for Turkish power, as well as challenges to it. The collapse of the Arab authoritarian regional order enabled Turkey, alongside Qatar, to try to spread its Islamist political vision to the Arab world; Turkish-aligned or -friendly Islamist governments emerged in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya before conventional counter-revolutionary forces, led by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, eventually emerged to overthrow or deter them.

In Syria, the Arab Spring brought civil war, which Turkey initially saw as an opportunity to replace Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime with one that might be more friendly to Ankara. But Turkey eventually saw the conflict as another power vacuum amid the emergence of a fresh Kurdish statelet, the Rojava region, led by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Russia's intervention in Syria in 2015 also brought Russian forces close to Turkish ones in northern Syria, where Turkey was trying to prevent the expansion of the Rojava statelet — creating periods of confrontation and cooperation between Ankara and Moscow, whose interests clashed and converged in the course of the civil war.

Turkey's internal ideology also drove policy much further abroad — to Central Asia and Islamic Asia, where Ankara was postured as a leader of both the world's Muslim population and Turkish-speaking peoples. This did not provide a direct economic or military benefit to Ankara, and actually came with risks, as Turkey had to downplay China's policies against its Turkic-speaking and Uyghur Muslim minority populations to preserve commercial contacts with Beijing. But it did help legitimize the AKP in the eyes of the Turkish citizens looking for ideologically consistent leaders. While its ideological posturing abroad remained largely a political imperative, Turkey would only provide supportive rhetoric and limited aid, wary of entanglements that might come at the expense of other Turkish priorities, or spark pushback from important regional powers like China.

The Russian invasions of Ukraine in 2014 and 2022 added another chapter to Turkey's views of the global order. With Europe returning to an East-West military confrontation, Turkey staked out a middle ground: it would trade and buy weapons from Russia, but also support Ukraine's territorial integrity and, after 2022, provide arms to Kyiv.

The Imperatives of Modern Turkey
Today, Turkey exists in a global order with greater maneuvering for middle powers than in the 1990s and 2000s. It does not see itself as strictly a Middle Eastern, European, Turkic, Islamic or Western power, but as having ties to all these regions, with distinct differences that also separate Turkey from each.

There are no alignments that push Ankara into one camp or another permanently, but rather Turkey's interests in internal unity, access to global markets, and avoiding multi-front challenges that drive Turkish behavior.

Turkey is aware that some of its core interests are not the same as its NATO allies, and thus knows it cannot count on its fellow NATO members' support in pursuing those interests. Additionally, Turkey knows that some of its interests are in direct competition or contradiction with other great powers, including the United States, European Union, Russia, China and Iran. But Turkey knows these great powers are also in competition with one another and do not necessarily have the power to block all Turkish policies.

Within this context, Turkey's approach to great powers is often risk-averse and pragmatic, while its approach to minor and middle powers is often risk-friendly and more ideological — two broad patterns typical of middle powers.

Turkey's Modern Imperatives

Economic: Maintain access to global markets and investment flows, especially Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and Asia.
Security: Prevent the emergence of an independent Kurdish state in Syria, Iraq and southeastern Turkey; develop an indigenous arms industry able to free the country's military to operate with fewer diplomatic constraints.

Political: Paper over differences between various Muslim sects, ethnic groups and economic classes by leaning on an Islamo-nationalist ideology that draws on Ottoman, Kemalist, and pan-Islamic historical and social traditions.

Geographic: Secure the Turkish Straits, the Aegean coast, the Kurdish southeast and the Eastern Mediterranean to gain access to resources and trade, and/or block potential encroachment from rivals (like Russia, Egypt, Israel and Greece).

Diplomatic: Preserve access to NATO's military hardware by maintaining a working relationship with both NATO and the European Union; prevent the NATO alliance from drawing Turkey into extra-regional conflicts.

Turkey lacks the military, diplomatic, or economic strength to directly challenge great powers like the United States, China and Russia, or European powers like the United Kingdom, France and Germany. But these states, too, are increasingly constrained and distracted by the multipolar environment they are operating in — creating windows of opportunity for Turkey to periodically push for its interests, as well as play these powers' rivalries off one another to Turkey's benefit.

Turkey's current, oft-contentious relationships with the United States, the European Union and NATO exemplify this dynamic. Western politicians often expect Turkey to align with their strategies, much as it did during the Cold War. But Ankara increasingly sees daylight between Western interests and Ankara. While the West sees Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine as a challenge to the global order, Turkey does not ascribe to this vision. The ongoing war affects Turkish energy and food supplies, threatens the economies of its trade partners, and creates Western sanctions risks for Ankara. But Turkey is less concerned with the actual outcome of the conflict, as whoever ends up controlling Ukrainian territory will not affect Turkey's overarching strategies. For that matter, the NATO-Russia confrontation, with NATO steadily cutting Russia off from their economies, is also not a direct interest of Turkey, which needs Russian energy, grain, tourism and investment. But Turkey is not naturally aligned with Moscow either; it has little opinion on Moscow's goals to push back Western influence from post-Soviet states. And in some places — like the Caucuses, Syria and Libya — Turkey has come to blows with Russian forces or proxies.

When it comes to dealing with minor powers or fellow middle powers (like Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), Turkey is able to challenge, and even impose, conditions on rivals without incurring the dangerous blowback that it would from challenging a great power. In these interactions, Turkey's ideological and political goals drive policy more often, as evidenced by Ankara's recurrent military operations against Kurds in Syria and Iraq, despite protests from Damascus and Baghdad. Turkey can support its fellow Islamist powers (like Libya and Qatar) with force against anti-Islamist powers (like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates). But Turkey often compartmentalizes these competitions, aware that pushing too far with too many regional powers can create a multifront challenge or escalation Ankara does not desire. Turkey can trade with Iran while battling its proxies in Syria on the same day, or take investment from the United Arab Emirates while also backing opposing UAE and Egyptian-backed factions in Libya. Knowing the dangers of escalation, Turkish statecraft focuses narrowly on achievable goals.

Turkey's Imperative Outlook and Risks
Turkey's future geopolitical compulsions will be founded on the pursuit of its core interests. Instead of being defined by coherent blocs as they develop in the multipolar world, Turkey will maneuver within and between them, only aligning with a particular bloc should its interests strongly overlap with Turkey's. To this end, Ankara will take weak or ambivalent positions on the NATO-Russia and U.S.-China confrontations unless these conflicts threaten its own unity, produce power vacuums on its borders, threaten access to markets or create the prospect of a multi-front challenge to Turkey itself.

At home, Turkish nationalism will evolve to meet the ideological and social challenges of the 21st century. Kemalism, the secular ideology that helped establish the Turkish state after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, has already largely run its course, with fewer and fewer Turks worried about Islamist influence, so Turkish nationalism will grow to include more elements of Islam. But at the same time, a better-educated population more connected to the world will constrain the over-Islamization of Turkish society. Therefore, Islamization will be described as a process of liberalization against a strictly secular state, rather than as a reversion to an Islamist authoritarian past.

But with Islamo-nationalism at the country's ideological core, Turkey's political system is unlikely to integrate the religiously diverse Kurds. Instead, Kurds will experience cycles of toleration and suppression; periods of toleration will likely involve government-led pushes for assimilation, and when Kurds resist these efforts, Turkey will revert to suppression until the dust settles, kicking off the cycle anew.

Because Turkey will be unable to solve the Kurdish challenge at home, it will also have to prioritize strategies that block the creation of a Kurdish state in any of its neighbors. This will mean coming to regional accommodations with the powers that might enable, intentionally or not, a Kurdish state, like Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the United States.

These accommodations will be shaped by diplomacy and force. Since Iran, Iraq and Syria also oppose a Kurdish state, Turkey will use diplomatic connections with them to coordinate action against Kurdish secessionism and militancy. But if these states are too weak to be effective partners, Turkey will resort to military force. In the near term, military forces will have to maneuver around the United States and Russia, neither of which want to see Turkey expand into Iran, Iraq or Syria. But as both the United States and Russia become more focused on other global priorities, they will also likely retrench from the region, which will give Turkey greater freedom to operate against the Kurds. Turkey will also carefully follow the normalization of territorial expansionism; should the multipolar world order enable expansionism, Ankara may be tempted to convert its current buffer zones in Syria and Iraq into occupied territories, proxy republics or even Turkish territory if such tactics would enable it to prevent the formation of a Kurdish state.

Beyond the Kurdish question, Turkey must have access to foreign energy, goods and resources, which will inevitably include sourcing such imports from countries engaged in rivalries and even war with one another. For example, Western sanctions regimes may escalate over the coming years, particularly in the case of a crisis with China or a further escalation of tensions with Russia, and these sanctions will aim to stop nations like Turkey from importing goods from targeted countries. But Turkey will resist such pressure by using its middle position to earn exemptions and concessions from its Western allies, only fully cooperating if the West offsets the economic impact of such trade cutoffs. As part of this pattern, Turko-EU relations will remain pragmatic, if fraught; the European Union will not allow Turkey to enter the bloc as long as Turkey's ideological and political imperatives undermine its democratic institutions, but neither will the European Union use its economic heft against Turkey to force potentially destabilizing political change inside the country. Turkey will also resist the European Union's pressure to democratize, seeing joining the bloc as a weaker imperative than maintaining its internal political stability.

Finally, Turkey will use both its position in NATO and its independence from it to avoid being dragged into damaging foreign conflicts. Hypothetical wars like a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or a U.S-Iranian war are unlikely to inspire Turkey to join its NATO allies barring direct threats to Turkish security. However, Turkey's NATO membership will help deter Iranian, Greek or Russian aggression, which means Ankara will not leave the alliance of its own accord. Turkey will also use its NATO membership to ensure that when it asserts its own interests, pushback from the West remains diplomatic and economic, rather than military. Overall, Turkey will rarely be fully aligned with or against NATO's interests.

But even as this approach to the multipolar world appears to minimize risks, Ankara will at times misjudge shifts in the global strategic environment and could suffer serious consequences as a result. Its Islamo-Turkish ideology will bind its governments to anti-Kurdish policies that at times could spark Western sanctions or produce military confrontations for which the country is not prepared. This same ideology will also drive economic policies that may be out of sync with more orthodox approaches, leaving Turkey in greater debt and more exposed to downturns in the global macroeconomic environment. Its political centralization at home will not be entirely popular, either, and at times it will spark unrest, protests and widespread violence. Such unrest could grow significant enough to affect the Turkish economy or disorganize the government, potentially leading to prolonged periods of internal stability that would make it difficult for Turkey to assert its foreign policies.

Turkey's multipolar balance will hinge on successful navigation between great power rivalries and wars, but its ideological inclinations will at times sabotage this balance. This ideological contradiction with orthodox strategy appears unlikely to produce a crisis too great for the modern Turkish state to balance, but it will result in significant setbacks and behavior that some will see as erratic. However unlikely, this contradiction carries with it a low, long-term risk of serious destabilization in Turkey that could begin another cycle of collapse, consolidation and alignment.

Crafty_Dog

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RANE: Turkey
« Reply #340 on: July 25, 2023, 07:22:45 AM »
The Modern Geopolitics of Turkey
Jul 21, 2023 | 14:32 GMT

A Natural Middle Power

Turkey is a classic geopolitical middle power. It’s not strong enough to unilaterally impose its policies, but not weak enough to be forced into the orbit of another great power. This middle power status is rooted in its geographic position between Europe and Asia, which affords Turkey great economic opportunities and knowledge transfers, but also exposes it to security threats by placing it between numerous powerful countries and potential invaders.

Turkey is best able to pursue its own core interests — internal unity, access to global markets, and external security — when the global geopolitical environment is fragmented. But Turkey cannot do so in the face of determined great power opposition without also exposing itself to threats that could unravel the state. Together, these realities mean that while Turkey can (and does) independently pursue many of its policies, it must still be measured in its behavior abroad.

Map of natural resources in Turkey
Anatolia: Turkey's Geographic Core

Anatolia, Asia's westernmost point, is the geographic heart of Turkey, as it was for numerous empires and provinces of great empires throughout human history. This is no accident: the geographic strengths of the peninsula — with the Black Sea to its north, Iran to its east, Europe to its west, the Mediterranean Sea to its southwest, and Iraq and Syria to its southeast — lend themselves to geopolitical power by both connecting the region to the world while also partially shielding it.

Anatolia's position between the Black and Mediterranean seas not only creates trade links to Russia, southeastern Europe and North Africa, but forms barriers to invasions if enemies lack sufficient sea power to travel the waves. To the southwest, the arid deserts of Iraq and Syria also deter invaders, as well as undermine the growth of major civilizations that could threaten Anatolia. Anatolia's position between Iran and Europe gives it access to economic, cultural and technological powerhouses to trade with and learn from, while simultaneously giving rise to states that seek to dominate the peninsula. But attacking Anatolia from the west requires crossing the Aegean Sea, creating an obstacle for any European power that lacks a strong navy. And attacking the region from the east requires crossing the cold and rugged mountains that hem in the attractive central Anatolian plateau, creating a logistical constraint that helps anchor the modern Iranian-Turkish border.

For a state that takes control of Anatolia, economic benefits abound. Its mild climate and adequate rainfall favor agriculture and timber, as well as improve the attractiveness of settlements, while the region's rivers (including the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates) provide farms with reliable water supplies. Anatolia's iron, copper, coal, gold, marble, and other natural resources also provide the raw materials for an advanced material culture. And its position between Russia and the Mediterranean, and between Europe and Asia more broadly, makes it a natural waypoint for trade routes, of which Anatolian states have always in some form or another taken their cut. On the route between Russia and the Mediterranean, Anatolian states control the critical Turkish straits, through which passes the breadbasket of Ukrainian and Russian grain to the rest of the world. These benefits have long made Anatolia a center of urban human civilization: one of the earliest cities in the world, Catalhoyuk, was founded in southwestern Anatolia an estimated 9,400 years ago.

These early advantages gave rise to great powers basing themselves in Anatolia, like the Hittites, Byzantines and Ottomans. But the disadvantages of being surrounded by other advanced civilizations — and in more recent times, advanced nation-states — have also exposed Anatolian powers to the potential of multifront challenges that at times they have been unable to balance. Anatolia's position on major trade routes brings material wealth, but also foreign ideas, cultures and religions that can destabilize the cultural heartland, disorganize the state, and open it up to internal divisions that external challengers can then exploit. The history of civilization in Anatolia generally experiences phases in which states are effective in balancing these factors and phases in which they collapse because they cannot.

Modern Anatolia has had centuries of settlement patterns that have left behind various cultural and religious artifacts. But it was the coming of the Turks in the 11th and 12th centuries that have since defined the region's dominant identity. The Turkish people, originally from Central-East Asia, settled down into the Anatolian plains and steadily colonized and transformed the demographic landscape, pushing out the region's Christian Greco-Roman identity and replacing it with Muslim Turkish culture over several centuries. One Turkish-speaking family — the Ottomans — founded a dynasty that would eventually expand into many of the same regions as the former Roman and Byzantine Empires along the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean. For centuries, the Ottomans, a great power themselves, achieved the necessary balance to maintain the empire.

Map of population density in Turkey
Turkey's Opportunities and Constraints in the 20th Century

Turkey's 20th-century experience went through four distinct phases: the late Ottoman period, the interwar republic, the Cold War, and the era of U.S.-led globalization that followed the fall of the Soviet Union. For Turkey, the century began with collapse, followed by consolidation, and then alignment.

Prior to the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire was a great Mediterranean power. In the 16th century, the empire had vassals and territory extending from Algeria to Crimea and dominated the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean's shores on borders similar to that of the Roman-Byzantine Empire at its own height. But by the 1600s, the Ottoman Empire was facing a resurgent Europe, where the Renaissance sparked new ideas, including military technologies, and the New World provided new wealth that helped European countries (like the Austrian Empire, Spain, Russia and Portugal) push Ottoman power back. In this era, the Ottoman state embarked on a period of strategic balancing, both at home and abroad. Internally, the sultanate tried to reform the empire without breaking its frail, multi-ethnic and religious social contract, sometimes without success. And externally, the Ottoman Empire abandoned expansionism in favor of playing European rivalries off against one another.

This strategy lasted hundreds of years, but its failure was inevitable amid the rise of new ideological, technological and strategic forces from Europe. The Ottoman Empire's fall came about as other multi-ethnic, dynastic systems around Europe were collapsing in the face of rising nationalism, industrialization, ideological conflict and increasing great power competition. Traditional empires were not well-suited to these challenges, including the Ottoman system. By the time of World War I, it was a matter of when, not if, the Ottoman Empire would fall. After defeat in 1918 and the Treaty of Sevres in 1919, the empire collapsed in all but name.

But the defeat of the Ottoman Empire did not mean the end of the Turkish people. Unlike previous phases of conquest, which had resulted in population displacement by foreigners moving into Anatolia, the victorious Allies in 1919 were in no position to colonize the region. With their demographic dominance further assured by the genocide of the Armenians during World War I, the numerous Turks living in Anatolia reorganized under Turkish Gen. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and successfully counterattacked. The Turkish War of Independence began the interwar period of reorganization and consolidation to create a modern Turkish state able to hold off the challenges of the 20th century.

General Ataturk and his supporters won the war against the Allies, but they inherited a disorganized state, along with a population divided by sect, ethnicity, class and region, and the rise of expansionary ideologies like fascism and communism. Ataturk's own political establishment was just as divided, and the prospect of recurrent civil wars loomed. Meanwhile, even beyond the clash of ideologies, Turkey still faced traditional foreign challenges. Turkey had already lost its Arab territories, and both Greece and its Kurdish populations aimed to further shrink Turkey's borders. To maintain a stable state, Turkey focused on national and political unity, producing an ideology able to compete with foreign ones, and navigate between hostile camps without being dragged into their wars.

General Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his supporters — dubbed Kemalists — decided the best way to confront these ideological, political, security and diplomatic challenges was to build a secular, nationalist Turkish republic. To glue the Turkish people themselves together, they chose to embrace and build upon Turkish nationalism. This also required a break with the past: they began purging the Ottoman Empire's old associations with pan-Islamic ideals (but not from Islam itself), first by abolishing the caliphate in 1924 and then by adopting enforced secular norms that would last until the 21st century. They sought to emphasize Turkishness, replacing the Arabic alphabet with the Latin script in 1928. They moved the capital to the Anatolian heartland, Ankara, away from the baggage of the traditional capital of Constantinople (which had since been renamed Istanbul). Rather than a new Turkish monarchy or empire, they also chose to establish a republic, which would be less likely to suffer the dynastic hang-ups among the elites that had plagued the Ottomans. And to prevent revanchism by the still-powerful Muslim establishment, they created one of the first modern deep-states within this republic: a cadre of generals, politicians and businesspeople who would overthrow the political process should populists or Islamists pull Turkey back toward the failed policies of the Ottoman era. The enduring influence of these military, political and business leaders continues to shape Turkish politics, even as their ability to overthrow governments has waned.

Notably, this choice of Turkish nationalism left out one of Turkey's last remaining minorities: the Kurds, an independent ethnic group with roots in the country's isolated, mountainous southeast dating back thousands of years. In the 1920s, the Kurds did not seem to pose a major threat to Turkey; they lived in tribal and undeveloped regions and had never controlled their own country or empire. But Turkish nationalism provided an ideological foil that eventually saw the Kurds develop their own distinct identity, creating a long-term ethnically-based challenge to Turkish unity that crossed borders to other Kurdish regions in Syria, Iraq and Iran.

A map of the Ottoman Empire at its height in the 17th century

Abroad, the new state in Turkey realized it had to narrow its ambitions greatly from the imperial era, which overstretched the Ottoman Empire by bringing it into too many conflicts on too many fronts, and caused imperial models of governance to become increasingly difficult to sustain. In the interwar and World War II periods, Ankara stayed strictly neutral on international conflicts, preferring to await a victor in the competition between capitalist democracy, fascism and communism.

After World War II, Turkey began a period of alignment with the West against the Soviets, who had inherited Moscow's ambition to dominate the Turkish straits (this time through a communist revolution in Turkey). For decades, the Cold War defined most Turkish foreign interests: fears of a communist uprising and a Soviet-backed insurgency, particularly in the non-Turkish Kurdish southeast, kept Ankara largely aligned with the West for decades. This era saw Turkey use its access to Western technology, capital and defense industries to modernize and rebuild its military and economy to bury the Ottoman past further. At home, the Kemalist establishment, backed by the military, intervened in politics through coups or threats of coups in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997, maintaining the secular ideology of the state in the face of a surge of Islamic fundamentalism that began in the 1960s and 1970s.

There were hints of the old Anatolian impulses, however. In 1974, spurred by Turkish nationalists and exploiting a moment of NATO disunity over the future of Cyprus, Turkey launched an invasion of the northern part of the island, where thousands of ethnic Turks remained from the Ottoman era. This resulted in the creation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which only Turkey recognizes. But in the Cold War, such moments were rare; Turkey had few opportunities to maneuver in places where the United States or the Soviets were not already active.

But with the end of the Cold War and the bipolar world order it created, would end, Turkey's opportunities and constraints would again shift.

The Erdogan Era and the Return to a Multipolar World

Though the Cold War ended in victory for the West, it produced only a short-lived unipolar moment, where international norms and behaviors were often shaped by the foreign policies set out by the West. As the United States embarked on military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, and its economy and social contract were hit by the 2008 financial crisis, the United States became increasingly unable to impose its global vision, while both rivals (like Russia, China and Iran) and friends (like France and Germany) grew bolder in asserting their own interests, even if it meant placing themselves in competition with the world's last superpower. A multipolar world, like that which dominated the global system before World War II, began to re-emerge. By the mid-2010s, this multipolar world order was firmly in swing, as the United States shifted its attention to China and away from the Middle East. The United States was not gone, but its interests had a different priority; policymakers no longer assumed they could chase all American interests equally as they had in the 1990s. With the global order redefined, Turkey's own interests were reshaped as well.

Turkey's own political and social institutions were undergoing their own transformation. By the late 1990s, the fear of reverting to failed Ottoman-era policies had long disappeared. Meanwhile, Islamist ideas and institutions were growing in popularity, often fused with Turkish nationalism. The meaning of Turkish unity thus changed and weakened the Kemalist argument for strictly enforced secularism, even at the expense of democracy and popular will.

These internal changes in attitudes and political redlines, combined with the establishment's loss of legitimacy in the wake of a weak Turkish economy, gave way to a shocking election victory for the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002 — bringing an Islamist government to power, led by Prime Minister (and eventually President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after almost a century of secular parties. The AKP leaned into these shifting attitudes, weakening the Kemalist establishment by taking control of the judiciary, the media and eventually the military. After the 2016 coup attempt against the AKP, a widespread purge allowed the ruling party to purge the government of the old Kemalist deep state and, in parts, replace it with its own. This process largely retained the old, centralized structure of the secular state, swapping out the Kemalist ideology for Turko-Islamist nationalism that better fit the public mood. The process was then furthered when Turkey swapped to a presidential system from a parliamentary one in 2018.

Meanwhile, regional developments also created challenges and opportunities for Turkey. The U.S. wars with Iraq created a power vacuum on Turkey's southern border that was filled by Iran, Islamist militants like al Qaeda, and eventually the Islamic State (IS). Most challenging to Turkey, an autonomous Kurdish region eventually organized as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that sought to formally establish the world's first Kurdish nation-state.

The Arab Spring in the early 2010s also provided openings for Turkish power, as well as challenges to it. The collapse of the Arab authoritarian regional order enabled Turkey, alongside Qatar, to try to spread its Islamist political vision to the Arab world; Turkish-aligned or -friendly Islamist governments emerged in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya before conventional counter-revolutionary forces, led by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, eventually emerged to overthrow or deter them.

In Syria, the Arab Spring brought civil war, which Turkey initially saw as an opportunity to replace Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime with one that might be more friendly to Ankara. But Turkey eventually saw the conflict as another power vacuum amid the emergence of a fresh Kurdish statelet, the Rojava region, led by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Russia's intervention in Syria in 2015 also brought Russian forces close to Turkish ones in northern Syria, where Turkey was trying to prevent the expansion of the Rojava statelet — creating periods of confrontation and cooperation between Ankara and Moscow, whose interests clashed and converged in the course of the civil war.

Turkey's internal ideology also drove policy much further abroad — to Central Asia and Islamic Asia, where Ankara was postured as a leader of both the world's Muslim population and Turkish-speaking peoples. This did not provide a direct economic or military benefit to Ankara, and actually came with risks, as Turkey had to downplay China's policies against its Turkic-speaking and Uyghur Muslim minority populations to preserve commercial contacts with Beijing. But it did help legitimize the AKP in the eyes of the Turkish citizens looking for ideologically consistent leaders. While its ideological posturing abroad remained largely a political imperative, Turkey would only provide supportive rhetoric and limited aid, wary of entanglements that might come at the expense of other Turkish priorities, or spark pushback from important regional powers like China.

The Russian invasions of Ukraine in 2014 and 2022 added another chapter to Turkey's views of the global order. With Europe returning to an East-West military confrontation, Turkey staked out a middle ground: it would trade and buy weapons from Russia, but also support Ukraine's territorial integrity and, after 2022, provide arms to Kyiv.

The Imperatives of Modern Turkey

Today, Turkey exists in a global order with greater maneuvering for middle powers than in the 1990s and 2000s. It does not see itself as strictly a Middle Eastern, European, Turkic, Islamic or Western power, but as having ties to all these regions, with distinct differences that also separate Turkey from each.

There are no alignments that push Ankara into one camp or another permanently, but rather Turkey's interests in internal unity, access to global markets, and avoiding multi-front challenges that drive Turkish behavior.

Turkey is aware that some of its core interests are not the same as its NATO allies, and thus knows it cannot count on its fellow NATO members' support in pursuing those interests. Additionally, Turkey knows that some of its interests are in direct competition or contradiction with other great powers, including the United States, European Union, Russia, China and Iran. But Turkey knows these great powers are also in competition with one another and do not necessarily have the power to block all Turkish policies.

Within this context, Turkey's approach to great powers is often risk-averse and pragmatic, while its approach to minor and middle powers is often risk-friendly and more ideological — two broad patterns typical of middle powers.

Turkey's Modern Imperatives

Economic: Maintain access to global markets and investment flows, especially Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and Asia.

Security: Prevent the emergence of an independent Kurdish state in Syria, Iraq and southeastern Turkey; develop an indigenous arms industry able to free the country's military to operate with fewer diplomatic constraints.

Political: Paper over differences between various Muslim sects, ethnic groups and economic classes by leaning on an Islamo-nationalist ideology that draws on Ottoman, Kemalist, and pan-Islamic historical and social traditions.

Geographic: Secure the Turkish Straits, the Aegean coast, the Kurdish southeast and the Eastern Mediterranean to gain access to resources and trade, and/or block potential encroachment from rivals (like Russia, Egypt, Israel and Greece).

Diplomatic: Preserve access to NATO's military hardware by maintaining a working relationship with both NATO and the European Union; prevent the NATO alliance from drawing Turkey into extra-regional conflicts.

Turkey lacks the military, diplomatic, or economic strength to directly challenge great powers like the United States, China and Russia, or European powers like the United Kingdom, France and Germany. But these states, too, are increasingly constrained and distracted by the multipolar environment they are operating in — creating windows of opportunity for Turkey to periodically push for its interests, as well as play these powers' rivalries off one another to Turkey's benefit.

Turkey's current, oft-contentious relationships with the United States, the European Union and NATO exemplify this dynamic. Western politicians often expect Turkey to align with their strategies, much as it did during the Cold War. But Ankara increasingly sees daylight between Western interests and Ankara. While the West sees Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine as a challenge to the global order, Turkey does not ascribe to this vision. The ongoing war affects Turkish energy and food supplies, threatens the economies of its trade partners, and creates Western sanctions risks for Ankara. But Turkey is less concerned with the actual outcome of the conflict, as whoever ends up controlling Ukrainian territory will not affect Turkey's overarching strategies. For that matter, the NATO-Russia confrontation, with NATO steadily cutting Russia off from their economies, is also not a direct interest of Turkey, which needs Russian energy, grain, tourism and investment. But Turkey is not naturally aligned with Moscow either; it has little opinion on Moscow's goals to push back Western influence from post-Soviet states. And in some places — like the Caucuses, Syria and Libya — Turkey has come to blows with Russian forces or proxies.

When it comes to dealing with minor powers or fellow middle powers (like Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), Turkey is able to challenge, and even impose, conditions on rivals without incurring the dangerous blowback that it would from challenging a great power. In these interactions, Turkey's ideological and political goals drive policy more often, as evidenced by Ankara's recurrent military operations against Kurds in Syria and Iraq, despite protests from Damascus and Baghdad. Turkey can support its fellow Islamist powers (like Libya and Qatar) with force against anti-Islamist powers (like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates). But Turkey often compartmentalizes these competitions, aware that pushing too far with too many regional powers can create a multifront challenge or escalation Ankara does not desire. Turkey can trade with Iran while battling its proxies in Syria on the same day, or take investment from the United Arab Emirates while also backing opposing UAE and Egyptian-backed factions in Libya. Knowing the dangers of escalation, Turkish statecraft focuses narrowly on achievable goals.

Turkey's Imperative Outlook and Risks

Turkey's future geopolitical compulsions will be founded on the pursuit of its core interests. Instead of being defined by coherent blocs as they develop in the multipolar world, Turkey will maneuver within and between them, only aligning with a particular bloc should its interests strongly overlap with Turkey's. To this end, Ankara will take weak or ambivalent positions on the NATO-Russia and U.S.-China confrontations unless these conflicts threaten its own unity, produce power vacuums on its borders, threaten access to markets or create the prospect of a multi-front challenge to Turkey itself.

At home, Turkish nationalism will evolve to meet the ideological and social challenges of the 21st century. Kemalism, the secular ideology that helped establish the Turkish state after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, has already largely run its course, with fewer and fewer Turks worried about Islamist influence, so Turkish nationalism will grow to include more elements of Islam. But at the same time, a better-educated population more connected to the world will constrain the over-Islamization of Turkish society. Therefore, Islamization will be described as a process of liberalization against a strictly secular state, rather than as a reversion to an Islamist authoritarian past.

But with Islamo-nationalism at the country's ideological core, Turkey's political system is unlikely to integrate the religiously diverse Kurds. Instead, Kurds will experience cycles of toleration and suppression; periods of toleration will likely involve government-led pushes for assimilation, and when Kurds resist these efforts, Turkey will revert to suppression until the dust settles, kicking off the cycle anew.

Because Turkey will be unable to solve the Kurdish challenge at home, it will also have to prioritize strategies that block the creation of a Kurdish state in any of its neighbors. This will mean coming to regional accommodations with the powers that might enable, intentionally or not, a Kurdish state, like Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the United States.

These accommodations will be shaped by diplomacy and force. Since Iran, Iraq and Syria also oppose a Kurdish state, Turkey will use diplomatic connections with them to coordinate action against Kurdish secessionism and militancy. But if these states are too weak to be effective partners, Turkey will resort to military force. In the near term, military forces will have to maneuver around the United States and Russia, neither of which want to see Turkey expand into Iran, Iraq or Syria. But as both the United States and Russia become more focused on other global priorities, they will also likely retrench from the region, which will give Turkey greater freedom to operate against the Kurds. Turkey will also carefully follow the normalization of territorial expansionism; should the multipolar world order enable expansionism, Ankara may be tempted to convert its current buffer zones in Syria and Iraq into occupied territories, proxy republics or even Turkish territory if such tactics would enable it to prevent the formation of a Kurdish state.

Beyond the Kurdish question, Turkey must have access to foreign energy, goods and resources, which will inevitably include sourcing such imports from countries engaged in rivalries and even war with one another. For example, Western sanctions regimes may escalate over the coming years, particularly in the case of a crisis with China or a further escalation of tensions with Russia, and these sanctions will aim to stop nations like Turkey from importing goods from targeted countries. But Turkey will resist such pressure by using its middle position to earn exemptions and concessions from its Western allies, only fully cooperating if the West offsets the economic impact of such trade cutoffs. As part of this pattern, Turko-EU relations will remain pragmatic, if fraught; the European Union will not allow Turkey to enter the bloc as long as Turkey's ideological and political imperatives undermine its democratic institutions, but neither will the European Union use its economic heft against Turkey to force potentially destabilizing political change inside the country. Turkey will also resist the European Union's pressure to democratize, seeing joining the bloc as a weaker imperative than maintaining its internal political stability.

Finally, Turkey will use both its position in NATO and its independence from it to avoid being dragged into damaging foreign conflicts. Hypothetical wars like a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or a U.S-Iranian war are unlikely to inspire Turkey to join its NATO allies barring direct threats to Turkish security. However, Turkey's NATO membership will help deter Iranian, Greek or Russian aggression, which means Ankara will not leave the alliance of its own accord. Turkey will also use its NATO membership to ensure that when it asserts its own interests, pushback from the West remains diplomatic and economic, rather than military. Overall, Turkey will rarely be fully aligned with or against NATO's interests.

But even as this approach to the multipolar world appears to minimize risks, Ankara will at times misjudge shifts in the global strategic environment and could suffer serious consequences as a result. Its Islamo-Turkish ideology will bind its governments to anti-Kurdish policies that at times could spark Western sanctions or produce military confrontations for which the country is not prepared. This same ideology will also drive economic policies that may be out of sync with more orthodox approaches, leaving Turkey in greater debt and more exposed to downturns in the global macroeconomic environment. Its political centralization at home will not be entirely popular, either, and at times it will spark unrest, protests and widespread violence. Such unrest could grow significant enough to affect the Turkish economy or disorganize the government, potentially leading to prolonged periods of internal stability that would make it difficult for Turkey to assert its foreign policies.

Turkey's multipolar balance will hinge on successful navigation between great power rivalries and wars, but its ideological inclinations will at times sabotage this balance. This ideological contradiction with orthodox strategy appears unlikely to produce a crisis too great for the modern Turkish state to balance, but it will result in significant setbacks and behavior that some will see as erratic. However unlikely, this contradiction carries with it a low, long-term risk of serious destabilization in Turkey that could begin another cycle of collapse, consolidation and alignment.

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GPF: Turkey's pivot to the West?
« Reply #341 on: August 30, 2023, 06:15:42 AM »
August 30, 2023
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Turkey’s Pivot to the West
Its influence with Russia is dwindling and its economy is in dire need of foreign investment.
By: Ekaterina Zolotova

As a geopolitical actor, Turkey’s greatest advantage is its domination of intersections. It sits at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, and it controls the passage of ships between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. During the first year and a half of the Russia-Ukraine war, these features granted Turkey outsize influence. Immediately, Ankara blocked warships from transiting the Turkish straits in a bid to contain the conflict. It served as a mediator between the warring parties and, later, as a guarantor of the U.N.-brokered Black Sea grain corridor. As the West and Russia escalated their economic standoff, Turkey sensed an opportunity to serve as a transit point for the goods trade and voiced ambitions to establish itself as a natural gas trading hub.

But with the war dragging on, the perks of being Turkey are fading. In the short term, space for mediation has almost completely closed, while over the long term, Turkey’s advantages are challenged by the emergence of alternative trade routes. If relative neutrality ceases to be profitable, it may prompt Ankara to seek stability through closer alignment with the United States.

End of the Road

Turkey’s dream of regional leadership will be difficult to achieve if it is simultaneously battling energy price volatility, a fragile economy, an unstable society, and threats to regional trade stemming from an intensifying conflict in the Black Sea. Therefore, after years spent trying to defy economic gravity, newly reelected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apparently has embraced serious reform.

The Turkish economy is weighed down by a significant trade deficit and extremely high inflation, which peaked in October 2022 at 85.5 percent and is forecast by the central bank to finish 2023 at 58 percent. After securing another five-year term in May, Erdogan assembled a new economic team charged with reducing the country’s large external imbalances, restoring fiscal discipline and, most important, moving away from an unorthodox monetary policy. (Despite inflation creeping higher, Turkey’s central bank beginning in 2021 cut interest rates to as low as 8.5 percent from 19 percent.) New Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek, a moderate who previously held the same post from 2009 to 2015, raised taxes and worked to charm foreign investors and executives. Meanwhile, new central bank chief Hafize Gaye Erkan embarked on the perilous path to wind down an expensive bank scheme that shields lira deposits from foreign exchange depreciation. She also hiked Turkey’s key rate for the first time since 2021; after an unexpectedly large increase last week, it now sits at 25 percent, up from 8.5 percent.

Turkey | Interest Rate
(click to enlarge)

So far, Turkey’s policy normalization has not paid off. The first two rate hikes turned out to be too weak, and inflation started to accelerate again. Relative to last year, consumer prices rose 38.2 percent in June and 47.8 percent in July. Real estate prices have kept soaring, and consumer confidence fell in August. The Turkish lira accelerated its slide against the dollar, peaking at 27.2 per dollar. It strengthened to 25.5 lira per dollar after the most recent rate hike before weakening again the very next day.

Turkey | Inflation
(click to enlarge)

Turkey | Exchange Rate
(click to enlarge)

Besides inconclusive reforms, Ankara is threatened with the sudden diminution of its regional influence and transit-state status. First, the Bosporus has ceased to be Russia’s only warm-water outlet for cargo. In August, the first Russian train carrying commercial cargo arrived in Iran through the Incheh-Borun border crossing with Turkmenistan en route to the port of Bandar Abbas and then Saudi Arabia. The route, part of the International North-South Transport Corridor, enables Russia to export goods to Saudi Arabia at nearly half the usual cost in customs tariffs. Separately, exports of Russian oil and oil products started to shift from the Azov, Caspian and Black seas to ports on the Baltic and in the Far East.

The second challenge to Turkey’s regional status follows from the termination in July of the Black Sea grain deal, which facilitated the safe travel of Ukrainian grain through the sea’s contested waters and elevated Turkey’s significance as a transit country for grain from Eurasia to the developing world. Erdogan has nothing to show for his efforts to revive the deal but is due to visit Russia in early September to try again. In the meantime, Kyiv declared the waters around six Russian Black Sea ports to be part of the war zone. Moscow has repeatedly launched missiles and drones at Ukraine’s seaports as well as port infrastructure on the Danube, which Ukraine and the West rely on to replace the Black Sea routes. Ukrainian and EU efforts to establish alternate routes can only further eat into Turkey’s significance in the grain trade.

Appeals to Foreign Investors

In summary, Turkey’s temporary boost from bridging the divide between Russia and the West is fading, and its gradual return to economic orthodoxy is yielding few immediate benefits. Even if its policy U-turn reduces inflation and stabilizes the lira, it is unlikely to do away with Turkey’s chronic trade deficit. Nor will it solve Turkey’s government debt (about 31.2 percent of gross domestic product) or the debts of the central bank, which has borrowed a ton of foreign exchange from domestic banks and other governments to defend the lira. Therefore, to accelerate the repairs to the economy, Turkey will need to attract foreign investment.

But the circle of investors who are ready to put their money in Turkey is limited. Russia is not an option because of sanctions, the enfeebled state of the Russian economy and the volatility of trade flows. Simsek, the finance minister, said Turkey wants to restart EU accession talks, but the bloc has its own problems with inflation and a sluggish economy, and anyway, the accession process is measured in years and could be facing major reform.

Ankara has had more success with its new outreach to the Gulf countries. In July, Erdogan signed $50 billion worth of deals during a three-day tour of the Persian Gulf. Turkey and Saudi Arabia recently implemented a plan to increase bilateral trade and signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the mining of critical minerals. How many of these agreements will materialize is an open question. The Gulf states will expect results from Turkey’s economic reforms. Turks’ rising hostility toward Arab migrants could also become an issue; the country still hosts approximately 4 million Syrian refugees and more than half a million Iraqis. Turkish authorities have started removing Arabic from business signs, and the interior minister said all Arabic shop signs would be replaced by the end of the year. Finally, Turkey’s regional ambitions are not always popular with Arab states. For example, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are wary of Turkey’s economic interests in Sudan and its increased presence in the strategically important Horn of Africa more generally.

The country with perhaps the most to offer is the United States. The U.S. is Turkey's second-largest destination for exports after Germany. The U.S. is ready to invest, especially in a country that hosts critical U.S. military bases and that plays a pivotal role in the ongoing confrontation with Russia. In addition, Turkey has an educated workforce and strong industrial base, but it could use help moving into more high-end manufacturing (more than half of Turkish manufacturers are engaged in low-tech production) – something that would also suit U.S. interests.

The main obstacle to greater U.S. investment in Turkey is the poor state of bilateral relations. A month before Turkey’s elections in May, Ankara accused Washington of trying to create a Kurdish terrorist state near Turkey’s borders, and Erdogan was furious when the U.S. ambassador to the country met with his main political rival and head of the opposition coalition. However, both sides seem ready to turn the page on this ugly chapter of relations. They recently held their largest joint military exercises in seven years, involving warships, Turkish F-16s and U.S. F-18s. Also, Selcuk Bayraktar, the head of the Turkish drone maker, toured the USS Gerald R. Ford at the U.S. ambassador’s invitation while the carrier was visiting the port of Antalya.

Turkey has not set aside its ambition to become a significant Mediterranean power, but it was becoming too difficult to sustain its previous course. Under intense Western pressure, Russia is turning toward Asia and the BRICS, building trade routes that bypass Turkey and becoming less conciliatory on issues of common interest like the collapsed grain deal. Meanwhile, Turkey’s new economic team is implementing reforms but can’t deliver miracles. The country needs foreign investment, and investors are waiting for clarity – including on Turkey’s strategic alignment. One way or another, Turkey will have to put things in order not just domestically but also in its international relations, especially with the United States.

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GPF: Gaza War wrecks Turkey's strategy
« Reply #343 on: October 26, 2023, 05:49:27 PM »
October 26, 2023
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Gaza War Wrecks Turkey’s Middle East Policy
Ankara can no longer steer clear of regional entanglements.
By: Kamran Bokhari

The Israel-Hamas war is a major conundrum for Turkey. Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the ensuing conflict have upset Ankara’s recent efforts to avoid entanglements in the Middle East and have forced the Turks back into the regional arena. Turkey’s options, however, are limited and will be constrained by the actions of its historic rival Iran, which has far greater influence over Hamas and thus the outcome of this conflict.

On Oct. 25, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “Hamas is not a terrorist organization, it is a group of mujahideen defending their lands.” Addressing a gathering of lawmakers from his ruling Justice and Development Party, the Turkish leader announced that he was canceling plans to visit Israel because of its “inhumane” war. Meanwhile, during a joint press conference with his Qatari counterpart in Doha, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan accused Israel of committing “a crime against humanity” in its counteroffensive in Gaza. Earlier, Fidan was in Abu Dhabi to confer with the United Arab Emirates’ leadership on how humanitarian assistance could be delivered to Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.

When Hamas launched its unprecedented attack on Israel, Turkey was focused on its northern flank. Ankara has been hoping to geopolitically benefit from its ally Azerbaijan’s major victory over rival Armenia in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. It has also been exploring opportunities to expand its influence in the Black Sea basin in light of Russia’s weakening due to the war in Ukraine. As far as the Middle East is concerned, Turkey’s policy had undergone a significant shift in recent years, with Ankara trying to improve relations with Israel as well as the Arab states.

This policy reversal followed several setbacks in Ankara’s previous approach. First, Turkish proxies, primarily Islamist forces of the Muslim Brotherhood type, were unable to benefit from the Arab Spring uprisings. Saudi Arabia and the UAE helped Arab states and anti-Islamist factions to reverse the initial rise of the Brotherhood. Second, Iran and Russia helped the Assad regime defeat largely Turkish-backed rebels and restrict Turkey’s push into Syria, confining Turkish forces to a limited presence in Syria’s north. Third, Washington’s support for Kurdish forces in northeast Syria served as another major obstacle for Ankara. Finally, a domestic political-economic crisis for Ankara amid the failed 2016 coup contributed to a financial crisis.

These factors forced a rethink in Turkey’s strategy in 2021. The Erdogan government moved to normalize ties with Israel after they soured in 2010 when a Turkish flotilla tried to break an Israeli blockade of Gaza, leading to a clash with the Israel Defense Forces in which 10 Turkish activists were killed and several others wounded. Similarly, Turkey, along with its lone Arab state ally Qatar, moved to improve relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt after years of tensions over Turkish support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, especially during the 2009, 2012 and 2014 Gaza wars. For Turkey, better relations were necessary for its economic revival, and it realized that there were too many arrestors in its path toward becoming a leader in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, regional conditions also seemed to be stabilizing. Despite another Gaza war in 2021, the Israel-Hamas conflict was contained. Most significantly, Arab states led by the United Arab Emirates inked the Abraham Accords and established diplomatic relations with Israel. Iran was on the defensive because of the nixing of the nuclear deal coupled with additional sanctions, Israel’s targeting of its nuclear program, the elimination of the head of its Quds force, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. airstrike, and growing domestic unrest. In other words, the regional situation permitted the Turks to focus on rebuilding their political economy, which was particularly important given the decline in Erdogan’s popularity.

Iran and Hamas had a shared imperative to block this developing regional arrangement, especially with Saudi Arabia and Israel making rapid progress toward normalizing relations. The Oct. 7 attack was designed to jolt the region and force key stakeholders to alter their behavior, especially toward Israel, thereby undermining the American strategy to manage the region. Hamas, backed by Tehran, knew well the consequences of an attack of this magnitude. In fact, they sought massive Israeli retaliation, which would make it difficult for the Turks and the Arab states to normalize relations with Israel.

In many ways, Hamas and Iran likely achieved far greater success than they had hoped for. They have forced regional players not just to distance themselves from Israel but also to take a tough stance against it. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have been sharply critical of Israel while rebuffing Washington. But there are limits to how far the Arab states will re-position themselves. Turkey, on the other hand, could not afford moderation given its history and its stance under the Erdogan regime, which has sought a prominent role in the Arab and broader Muslim worlds.

Therefore, Turkey needed to take a tough stance to uphold its credentials as a champion of the Palestinian cause and maintain its standing within the Arab world, Islamist circles and global Muslim milieus. The conundrum it faces is that the scale of the crisis is likely beyond its diplomatic abilities. Turkey is unlikely to prevent Israel from conducting a military operation aimed at dislodging the Hamas regime from Gaza. It will therefore be forced to take an even tougher stance diplomatically against Israel and the United States. This will exacerbate matters for Ankara’s geopolitical position.

Such a scenario works to the advantage of Tehran, which, as a revisionist actor, aims to benefit from an aggravation of the current crisis. In contrast with Turkey, which is risk averse, Iran’s strategic disposition is quite forward-leaning. Through Hamas’ actions, the Iranians have already forced the Turks into a position that they were not planning on assuming. Turkey will struggle to disentangle itself from Iran’s trap.

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time to put Erdagopn on notice
« Reply #344 on: November 07, 2023, 02:40:07 PM »

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Re: Turkey
« Reply #345 on: November 07, 2023, 04:14:27 PM »
Certainly Turkey is deserving of expulstion but, question presented:  Where do they go/what do they do in response?

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GPF: Turkey-Greece
« Reply #346 on: November 14, 2023, 02:15:16 PM »
Turning the page. Defense officials from Turkey and Greece are meeting in Ankara in an effort to turn the page on bilateral tensions. They will discuss coordination between their air and naval operations in the Aegean Sea and other confidence-building measures. The meeting comes after talks between the Turkish and Greek leaders in July and more than three years since the last defense talks were held between the two countries.

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GPF: Turkey meets with Hamas
« Reply #347 on: December 18, 2023, 12:46:54 PM »
Hamas in Turkey. Hamas leaders held a secret meeting in Turkey last week, according to Israeli public broadcaster KAN. The meeting included the deputy chairman of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Saleh al-Arouri, and former Hamas leader Khaled Mashal. Ankara reportedly agreed to guarantee the attendees security and confidentiality.


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GPF: Turkey's meager influence in the Middle East
« Reply #349 on: February 23, 2024, 06:36:48 AM »


Turkey’s Meager Influence in the Middle East
Its latest outreach to Egypt, which fears a flood of Palestinian refugees, is likely going nowhere.

By Kamran Bokhari -February 23, 2024
Despite its significant size, stature and history, Turkey has been unable to shape the outcome of the major regional conflict that followed Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Its impotence largely stems from the fact that Iran, Turkey’s historical rival, is the dominant power in the two Arab countries that border Turkey. To carve out a role for itself, Ankara has recently tried to leverage the risk that the war in Gaza will spill over into Egypt. However, Turkey’s lack of influence with the parties in the conflict will likely doom these efforts.

Strategic Rethink

This month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to Cairo, his first in nearly a dozen years. His Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, greeted him warmly and announced Cairo’s intent to at least double bilateral trade with Ankara over the next five years from its 2023 value of $6.6 billion. After saying a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was a priority for both governments, Erdogan said Turkey was “ready to work with Egypt” on Gaza’s reconstruction over the medium term. Ten days earlier, Turkey’s foreign minister told journalists that Ankara would provide drones to Cairo.

Promises aside, Erdogan’s visit failed to yield any tangible outcomes. This lack of progress isn’t surprising, given that the visit was the culmination of Turkey’s efforts since early 2021 to reconcile differences stemming from the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, which saw the overthrow of Egypt’s former leader, Hosni Mubarak. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party shares ideological ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s main opposition group. When the Brotherhood secured victories in both the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2011-12, Turkey anticipated that the Brotherhood-led government would align with Ankara and its vision of a new regional order. In this reordered Middle East, the Turks would be preeminent, just as their Ottoman forefathers had been for almost four centuries until World War I. However, Erdogan’s support for the Brotherhood proved to be a miscalculation.

In 2013, Turkey’s ambitions – supported by Qatar, its lone Arab ally – suffered a major setback when Egypt’s then-military chief, el-Sissi, backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, toppled the Brotherhood-led government. Nevertheless, the Turks continued to believe for years that el-Sissi’s military regime was weak and vulnerable. Apparently reinforcing their view was the ascendance of Sunni Islamists on Egypt’s western flank, in Libya and Tunisia, as well as their fight against Bashar Assad’s beleaguered regime to Egypt’s east in Syria. But Iran’s victory (with Russian support) over the Syrian insurrection, the international campaign against Islamic State and the staunch support for el-Sissi’s government from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi ultimately thwarted Turkey’s plans.

Around the same time, Turkey ran into serious domestic problems, notably the 2016 coup attempt, which precipitated widespread turmoil and led to a severe economic downturn. Concurrently, Turkey’s relationship with the United States deteriorated due to disagreements over the U.S.’ alignment with Syrian Kurds in the battle against IS as well as Turkey’s decision to forge closer ties with Russia, highlighted by its purchase of the S-400 anti-missile system from Moscow. Amid these developments, the Abraham Accords, facilitated by the U.S., fostered unprecedented normalization between Israel and Gulf and other Arab states, including a detente between Saudi Arabia and Israel. This occurred as Turkey’s relations with Israel languished, still strained from the fallout over the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, despite attempts at reconciliation.

Confronted with internal crises and setbacks abroad, Turkey was forced to reassess its strategy. As a result, in 2021, Turkey embarked on a diplomatic mission to repair relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. Not coincidentally, its regional ally, Qatar, at the same time healed its own rift with the Saudis and Emiratis after four years of hostility. Doha’s motivations were multifaceted, whereas Ankara sought investment and trade opportunities with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi as a remedy for its financial woes. A series of diplomatic exchanges ensued. Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia in April 2022, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reciprocated with a trip to Ankara two months later. The following year, in June 2023, UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan made his way to Istanbul, and Erdogan returned the gesture in July, signing several deals in Abu Dhabi valued at $50.7 billion.

Such was the trajectory of Turkey’s relations with the Arab world a mere three months before the Hamas attack. When the Palestinian group stormed into Israel, killed more than a thousand people and took hundreds of hostages, it diminished the significance of Turkey’s diplomatic advances and placed the Turks in an uncomfortable position amid the conflicting interests of Israel, the Arab states and Hamas.

Limited Offerings

Turkey’s ambition to be a significant force in the Middle East and a leader in the Islamic world compelled it to take a firm stance against the response of the Israeli military, which in the course of trying to dismantle Hamas in Gaza has killed thousands of Palestinian civilians. Erdogan publicly lashed out at Israel and even voiced support for Hamas. However, Turkey lacks the diplomatic influence to orchestrate a cease-fire. Iran, on the other hand, has through its regional proxies affirmed its preeminence in the Muslim world.

The Turks, it seemed, would have to settle for being bystanders. But as Israeli operations moved south, the potential displacement of Palestinian refugees into the Sinai Peninsula came into play. Turkey perceives the mounting strain on Cairo and the growing tensions between Egypt and Israel as an opportunity to assert itself. Ankara hopes it can use the situation to finally play a significant role in ending the conflict, while influencing the political landscape that follows and contributing to Gaza’s reconstruction.

But Erdogan’s trip to Cairo came and went without any notable achievements. There are several reasons for this. Although Egypt could benefit from Turkish support in managing the refugee situation and stabilizing Gaza, there is reluctance to accept such assistance at the cost of enabling Turkey to further its agenda. Cairo is especially wary of Ankara’s complex history with the Muslim Brotherhood, despite reports that Turkey revoked the citizenship it had granted to as many as 50 senior Brotherhood figures after Egypt’s crackdown on the group in 2013.

Furthermore, Egypt maintains close communication with Hamas, and the role of lead regional mediator is already occupied by Qatar, where most of Hamas’ senior leadership is based. Turkey’s strained relationship with Israel further complicates matters.

Egypt is closely coordinating its efforts with a broader coalition that includes the United States, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Given these dynamics, Turkey currently has little to offer, suggesting that Ankara’s challenges in shaping Middle Eastern geopolitics are likely to persist for at least the medium term.