Author Topic: Turkey  (Read 100883 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.