Speculation about Turkey’s alliance with the West

Why there is speculation about Turkey’s allegiances

Ever since the failed military coup d’etat in Turkey two years ago, the relationship between Turkey’s President Erdogan and his western NATO alliance partners has been strained. In fact, soon after the coup, Erdogan questioned Turkey’s relationship with the West, claiming the “script” was “written abroad,” subsequently focusing on his US-based former ally Fethullah Gulen.

But Erdogan’s animosity toward the West is much deeper than Gulen. Other threads include the conflict in Syria and US support for Kurdish forces there, the flow of migrants out of Syria and into Europe, Turkey’s accession to the EU, and, importantly, the West’s muted response to the coup.

Erdogan’s perception – shared by many of his supporters – is that many in the West would have been just fine if the coup had actually succeeded. And while Erdogan is a demagogue and a tyrant, he has won election for election and re-election for well over a decade. Moreover, he says he has maintained Turkey’s secularism in the face of a countertrend all across the Muslim world. And clearly, many voters in Turkey prefer an authoritarian Erdogan to rule by a military coup.

Look back at what was being said just after the coup. There was a wide perception inside Turkey that it wasn’t just Gulen but the US government behind the coup via the CIA. Even Erdogan was saying that the West was “supporting terrorism”. And he was incensed over Dutch decisions to forbid Turkish electioneering in its countries during the April 2017 vote to change the Turkish constitution in the wake of the coup.

Al Jazeera captures the mood of mistrust of the West

A piece from Al Jazeera just after the coup’s failure captures the pro-Erdogan sentiment. Don’t just view it as propaganda:

The coup attempt targeted the whole nation, not just the president and the government. The public, political leaders, parliamentarians, mainstream media, security personnel, and top military officials resisting the coup planners stood tall and strong.

What did the Western media miss?

Many in the Western media and their analyses failed to show respect and extend credit to the society of Turkey, undermining the critical fact that these people will not accept a regime change by force any more.

A predominant part of American and European media outlets gave the initial signs of failing objectivity during the first 24 hours of the coup. Their accounts of events in the first few hours were full of vague and distant messages.

There was a clear shortcoming in following and reporting the stream of events, such as the instant emergence of thousands of people to stand against the coup and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s departure from his holiday location and his safe arrival in Istanbul.

Instead, CNN International chose to portray Erdogan as “Turkey’s beleaguered president” right at the moment when he was inviting everyone to the streets and announcing that he would soon meet them in the squares.

Meanwhile, an MSNBC reporter published a – now deleted – tweet saying a “Senior US military source tells NBC News that Erdogan, refused landing rights in Istanbul, is reported to be seeking asylum in Germany.”

It was no surprise that this quote was retweeted by hundreds as breaking news, some of who are regarded as experts on Turkey.

However, soon after, this news was falsified as Erdogan addressed the nation in front of cameras in Istanbul.

Is this an opportunity for Russia?

So when you see stories about Turkey rejecting the West and turning toward Russia, this is the background.

Here’s a piece that ran yesterday on that subject under the headline Advisor to Turkey’s Erdoğan proposes “Turkish-Russian empire” .

An economic advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called for Turkey to break away from the U.S. sphere of influence through the establishment of what he called a Turkish-Russian empire, independent news website T24 said .

“We need to re-evaluate our relationship with the West over the last 200 years. They have become used to dollarizing us. Russian-Turkish relations are being rewritten and these relations could stretch as far as Japan,” Yiğit Bulut said on state news channel TRT Haber…

Turkish citizens should be using Russian search engine Yandex rather than the American Google, Bulut said.

Rather than being free, Americans were in fact the world’s most oppressed people, he said.

But yesterday, Reuters also reported that Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had discussed bilateral ties and the situation in Syria by phone. And they added that Erdogan and Merkel had pledged to try and strengthen bilateral ties. They have a face-to-face meeting already planned for the end of September in Berlin.

So I don’t give a ton of credence to this “Turkey ditching the West” meme. Instead I view it as bluster. I would never say never. But my odds are on Turkey’s remaining allied to the West, only using ‘the Russia card’ as a ploy to extract concessions in bilateral negotiations.


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