Triangulation: Erdogan's Secret Weapon

A former colleague of mine from Turkey, Oya Dursun-Özkanca, has just published an informative monograph on “Turkey-West Relations.”  The author examines Turkish foreign policy since the ascendancy of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as Turkish prime minister in 2003 and as Turkish president (presumably for life) since 2014. Clearly Erdogan has become an object of irritation for the American State Department and for Congress because of his fondness for “boundary-breaking.” The Turkish leader increasingly acts in a way to spite the U.S. and other members of NATO. This may be partly related to Turkey’s failure to enter the EU, most recently in 2014. Turks were rebuffed for varied reasons, from charges of “human rights violations” to the fear of increasing Turkish immigration into Europe, to Turkey’s historic antagonism to Christian Europe.  In 2012 Erdogan pulled Turkey into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a group dominated by Russia and China, which shares intelligence information as well as economic markets. The Turkish government gave assurances that nothing in this relation would interfere with Turkey’s continued membership in NATO, a connection that the country had had since the beginnings of the Cold War.

Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $10.00 (as of 08:25 EST - Details) Erdogan stirred the pot even more when in 2019 he purchased an S-500 missile defense system from Russia. Presumably the necessary parts for its maintenance would come from the same country; and although the system seems to be top-of-the-line, presumably more than military protection is at stake here. Erdogan has been teasing the “West” by dealing with its designated adversary, even to the point of being willing to suffer the predictable consequences. Turkey has been removed from an international program to build stealth missiles (pending the cancellation of its arrangements to have the Russians install the ordered defense missile system, a process that’s already begun). Dursun-Özkanca considers the “rekindled relationship between Turkey and Russia,” two countries that historically have been at loggerheads, as part of the “costly signaling” that the Turkish government has been sending to the “West.” In April 2019 Vice President Mike Pence reacted by stating emphatically that Turkey was risking its membership in “the most successful military alliance in history.”

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