Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Good cop, dangerous cop? How the US and Europe need to take care of Erdogan’s Turkey

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These aren’t good occasions for Turkey’s relations with the West. European diplomats in Ankara discuss with a downward spiral to explain the connection. The EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, used the time period “watershed moment” when speaking about EU-Turkey relations.

In latest years, the standard of this relationship has gone from dangerous to worse. While Ankara’s democratic backsliding, the dismal state of human rights and the rule of regulation used to prime the checklist of Western issues, Erdogan’s assertive – one can also name it aggressive – international coverage choices are actually the primary explanation for discord. 

“Turkey has increasingly found itself on the wrong side of almost all of Washington’s friends,” writes Nicholas Danforth. The Washington-based analyst goes on to color a grim image of the state of US-Turkish affairs: “The Turkish government views the United States as a strategic threat rather than an ally, and a growing majority in Washington have come to view Turkey the same way.”

Listening to the pundits, it’s onerous to overhear that Erdogan’s Turkey has a picture downside within the United States. The mistrust will not be confined to the assume tank group. Shortly earlier than assuming his new place, Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to as Turkey a “so-called ally” and overtly questioned Erdogan’s trustworthiness. 

The United States – and with it, the world usually – is seeing the primary indications of a radical coverage shift, with potential far-reaching implications. The authorities in Ankara will eventually must get used to the brand new rhetoric, and probably extra. 

With Donald Trump within the White House, the whole lot was extra relaxed. US coverage was guided by a laissez-faire-approach in the direction of Trump’s private good friend – Erdogan. Biden will finish the coziness. His coverage in the direction of Turkey will probably be extra pro-active and value-based. The new president’s emphasis on democracy, freedom and the rule of regulation as pointers for American international coverage haven’t go unheard within the Turkish capital. 

It didn’t take lengthy for the State Department to behave on Biden’s new – one is tempted to say ‘traditional’ – guiding ideas of US diplomacy. In response to the police crackdown towards college students protesting towards Erdogan’s appointment of a extremely unpopular new rector at Istanbul’s prestigious Bogazici University, Washington made a basic level: “The US prioritizes the protection of Human Rights and stands shoulder to shoulder with all those fighting for democratic freedoms,” the spokesman of the State Department mentioned. 

Shortly thereafter, the State Department referred to as for the quick launch from jail of Turkish philanthropist and human rights defender Osman Kavala. Since his incarceration in 2017, Kavala has change into a logo of the peaceable resistance towards Erdogan’s surging authoritarianism. “Turkey is a state of law. No state can give order to Turkish courts on judicial proceedings”, the Turkish international ministry mentioned because it lashed out. Ever since, not every week has passed by with out verbal scuffles between the 2 governments.

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Clinical Psychologist Melis Akyurek sits in her Istanbul home with an ankle bracelet hooked up to her proper leg after she was positioned below arrest for having taken half in a protest towards the appointment of a brand new rector of Bogazici University. The appointee is a staunch loyalist of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Since its founding, the top of the college was chosen in a free election course of, February 13, 2021. EPA-EFE//SEDAT SUNA

The confrontation is proof of the degradation of the bilateral relations. One main level of rivalry that radiates past the bilateral stage, and impacts Turkey’s relationship with the Western Alliance as a complete, is the difficulty of Ankara’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 air protection system. When Erdogan invested within the hyper-modern weaponry he will need to have been conscious that by so doing he crossed a purple line.

For the Americans, Ankara’s S-400 take care of Putin’s Russia has been, and can proceed to be, a purple flag. In the ultimate days of the Trump administration, the US Congress imposed sanctions on Turkey over its possession of the Russian missile system.

Among the primary statements on Turkey from the Biden camp after coming into workplace was that the US stands agency on the sanctions: “We continue to urge Turkey not to retain the system,” the State Department mentioned. Among the varied controversies at hand, the S-400challenge is arguably essentially the most critical. More than different issues, it symbolizes the superior alienation within the strained relationship. For the Americans, the acquisition of the weapons is a political sin akin to betrayal and must be corrected earlier than issues get again to regular. The Turks argue that they had no selection however to purchase Russia’s rockets after the West refused to promote weapons of an equal high quality. 

It will not be clear but how Ankara will deal with Washington’s robust discuss.  Meanwhile, the Turks have engaged in a notable diplomatic effort to restore the broken relations with the European Union. For comparable however not essentially similar causes, the Europeans too aren’t on good phrases with Erdogan. EU-Turkey relations have deteriorated dramatically. The important motive for the downward spiral are – to cite from the conclusions of the EU leaders’ summit in December – Turkey’s “unilateral actions and provocations” within the dispute over power claims within the Eastern Mediterranean.

Under the specter of EU sanctions, Ankara has withdrawn its analysis vessels from the disputed maritime zones. This, in flip, led to a de-escalation of a doubtlessly explosive state of affairs on NATO’s southeastern flank. German mediation has been the primary driver of the resumption of the Turkish-Greek diplomatic course of. Berlin has made it clear it is going to proceed to work for a rapprochement between Athens and Ankara.

The Americans and Europeans have introduced that they intend to work collectively to handle international challenges, together with on how finest to take care of Erdogan’s Turkey. Washington and her European allies will be part of forces. What we’re seeing for the second is a good-cop-bad-cop state of affairs with Washington cracking the whip and Europe, significantly Berlin, taking part in the mediator and displaying a pleasant face. 

The coming months will present whether or not this division of labor will result in a behavioral change in Turkish politics. I counsel towards an excessive amount of optimism.    


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