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Erdogan's future is uncertain, but Turkey's ties with Russia and tensions with the United States are going nowhere

Erdogan's future is uncertain, but Turkey's ties with Russia and tensions with the United States are going nowhere


Istanbul Türkiye Recep Tayyip Erdogan

A garbage collector walks past a bus with an image of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on May 10.Aziz Karimov/Getty Images

  • Turkey is heading toward elections that could oust its longtime leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

  • Western observers dislike Erdogan's foreign policy, but another leader is unlikely to change course.

  • Matthew C. Mai is a research associate at Defense Priorities.

On May 14, Turkish voters will go to the polls to elect their next president.

At a time of global upheavalTurkey's unique geopolitical position allows it to play a role disproportionate role in international politics. As a result, Turkey is frequently castigated for adopting positions that contravene Western preferences.

Reviews charge that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's foreign policy is a direct consequence of his illiberal stance at home rather than astute geopolitics. But this interpretation is false: Turkey strong economic ties with Russia and regional security concerns mean that it highly unlikely another leader will seek to align himself more with the West.

Whether it is Erdogan or his challenger, Kemal Kilicdarogluprevails, the interests guiding Turkey's foreign policy will require the same balancing act as avoids alignment with any great power bloc and maximizes Ankara's freedom of action. As difficult as American decision-makers may find Erdogan deal withNor will Kilicdaroglu's approach to foreign affairs be pro-Western.

Most notably, this balance was evident throughout the Russian-Ukrainian War. Turkey served as the main intermediate between Kyiv and Moscow, facilitating prisoner exchangesTHE Black Sea Cereals InitiativeAnd peace talks at the start of the conflict.

Russian amphibious assault ships Russian amphibious assault ships

The Russian Navy landing ship Korolev passes through the Dardanelles Strait towards the Black Sea on February 8, 2022.Burak Akay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In Ukraine requestAnkara's management of Montreux Congress prevented warships from transiting the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to the Black Sea. (Although there is evidence that Russia uses civil ships to transport military goods.)

However, Ankara has not joined the campaign of Western sanctions against Russia. Since the start of the war, Turkey has become a major hub for trade. Russian investmentwith a post-invasion monthly payment trade volume increasing by 198 percent and bilateral payment systems being adopted to facilitate financial transactions outside of SWIFT.

Unsurprisingly, Turkey is under pressure from American officials to “conduct enhanced due diligence on transactions with Russian entities and individuals” to avoid “potential loss of access to G7 markets and correspondent relationships.” But given Turkey's situation economic crisis and dependence on Russian imports, Kilicdaroglu promised not to apply G7 sanctions and to maintain economic relations with Moscow.

As Erdogan, there are signs that Kilicdaroglu would seek to “resolve” the Russo-Ukrainian war by advocating a “face-saving solution” acceptable to both sides. Furthermore, according to an official of the Turkish oppositionto avoid a prolonged standoff between Russia and the West after a settlement is reached, “[we] need a stable [security] architecture and we cannot leave Russia out of the picture. »

This perspective is markedly different from that of Western capitals, most of which focus exclusively on post-war security guarantees for Ukraine without considering how Euro-Atlantic order can be restructured to stabilize relationships with Russia in the long term.

Türkiye SyriaTürkiye Syria

Residents applaud a convoy of Turkish trucks carrying tanks near Turkey's border with Syria in October 2019.Associated Press/Lefteris Pitarakis

Strong differences between Turkey and the United States will persist elsewhere. In Syria, where the United States is allied with the Ankara Kurdish militias considered Alongside terrorist groups, Washington will not find a more conciliatory interlocutor in Kilicdaroglu. Erdogan has initiated a process of rapprochement with Bashar al-Assad, but Kilicdaroglu indicated that it would be even more open to dialogue with Damascus for facilitate the return millions of Syrian refugees residing in Türkiye.

And whatever happens Washington says, Kilicdaroglu will also continue to rely on military force to protect Turkey's southeastern border against attacks launched by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). An opposition leader describe the conditions for a Turkish withdrawal from Syria conditioned on the revitalization of Adana Agreement of 1998 which prevented Damascus from harboring terrorist groups and allowed Turkey to carry out military self-defense operations up to five kilometers from the Syrian border.

However, recent events should encourage U.S. policymakers to consider the benefits of giving in to Turkish interests in the region. During an operation in northern Syria last month, Turkish special forces reportedly raided the compound of ISIS leader Abu Hussein al-Qurashi, who detonated a suicide vest to avoid capture.

This episode showed how Turkey, which has a a strong army, driving experience counter-terrorism operations, and information sharing relationships with its neighbors, is capable of neutralizing the remnants of ISIS in its backyard. Rather than continuing to run the risk of a confrontation with Iran-backed militias Or Russian forcesUS troops should withdraw and allow Ankara to seize a complicated situation in northern Syria.

By prioritizing independence and autonomy, the foreign policy of a future Kilicdaroglu administration will embody a significant degree of continuity from its predecessor. American policymakers would be well advised to take the same approach to whoever wins over the Turkish public and not expect either candidate to make a sharp turn toward 'west.

Matthew C. Mai is a research associate at Defense Priorities.

Read the original article on Business Insider




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