Mr Erdogan’s rival, Kemal Kilidaroglu, has pledged to reset relations between the two countries. He might not be up to the mark, but for an ally, the direction to go would be refreshing.
go through Dominic Waghorn, International Affairs Editor @DominicWaghorn
UK Sunday 28 May 2023 03:19
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be Vladimir Putin’s favorite in this election.
That’s a hard truth to swallow for his NATO allies, who have been hoping, albeit privately, for change.
Mr Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule, economic eccentricities and willfulness within NATO have all fueled growing panic among the allies.
His defeat would have been welcomed as a harbinger of things to come, the humility of a populist strongman that others might follow.
Those hopes were dashed.
As his position has clearly strengthened before the second round of these electionsthe West will almost certainly be disappointed.
Mr Erdogan’s rival, Kemal Kilidaroglu, is not well known outside Turkey but to Western policy makers he offers an example of the friction and frustration Mr Erdogan has caused. supplements.
An accountant and bureaucrat known as a clean-cut politician and secularist, he wants to restore Turkey’s relations with the West and trust with its NATO allies. What’s not to like in the prime minister’s office in Europe and Washington?
Contrast that with Mr Erdogan.
The man who started advocating for his country’s membership of the European Union is steering Turkey in a different and unpredictable direction.
He mismanaged the economy.
Mr Erdogan is old and, contrary to all economic orthodoxy, does not believe that raising interest rates will lower inflation. Combined with chronic corruption and mismanagement, the Turkish economy is headed for ruin, with an inflation rate of over 80%.
Economic failure can be a prelude to political instability. Both of these countries are not desirable in NATO countries, and a country as important as Turkey is on the doorstep of Europe. In addition to threatening to bring misery to the Turkish people.
Mr Erdogan is the Kremlin’s choice, and even if their relationship is strictly transactional, Putin has known and found the devil useful.
He talked about his special relationship with Putin and how the two countries need each other. He has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia. His purchase of Russian air defense systems has drawn the ire of the entire NATO alliance.
Turkey’s ambivalence has played a role in this conflict with the West. Ankara was instrumental in brokering the deal that allowed Ukrainian grain shipments. When war does eventually occur, it may play a role in negotiations to end it.
Turkey did provide drones to Kiev, but it also continued to prevent Sweden from joining NATO and did not play the supporting role the alliance might have hoped for.
For Western governments, Turkey is cynically exploiting the conflict for financial gain, buying Russian energy at razor-thin prices and profiting from sanctions-violating trade.
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Then came democratic backsliding, Turkey’s increasingly troubling human rights record and growing authoritarianism, all of which caused more unease in Western capitals.
Mr Kilicdaroglu promises to change all that. Relationship reset. He may have failed in the end, but for an ally, the direction of travel would be refreshing.
Mr Erdogan offered the opposite. A wayward and unpredictable ally, the economy looks increasingly dangerous. His Western counterparts will be happy to announce the era of Erdogan. Instead, they may have to live with his reign for many years.