Turkey’s Perceptional Geopolitical Downslide under President Erdogan
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Issue Courtesy: South Asia Analysis Group | Date : 01 Oct , 2020

Geopolitics focuses on political power and international relations and in the case of Turkey under President Erdogan there is a perceptible geopolitical decline chiefly arising from pursuit of Ottomanesque imperial impulses that have cost Tukey strained regional and global relations.

Turkey undoubtedly has immense geostrategic locational significance but in contemporary geopolitical environment it is how well a nation encashes its geostrategic location to add political credibility towards the conduct of its international relations.

Turkey under President Erdogan has perceptionaly failed in doing so simply because today under his leadership Turkey is at odds with its traditional Major Power backers like the United States and the European Union.

Turkey is also at odds with its neighbours in the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and even within the OIC Islamic Grouping.

Turkey under President Erdogan, boxing much above its weight, now that its geostrategic significance as the Eastern Frontline State of NATO stands diluted, attempted strategic dalliances with Russia and China but here too, the expected gains to Turkey have not flown-in

To those who admired Turkey as a secular, Western-oriented, moderate Islamic democratic State, as envisioned by the visionary Founder of Modern Turkey, Kamal Ataturk, Turkey in 2020 seems to be under President Erdogan in the disappointing process of regressing into the trappings of an Islamist State.

Turkey continues to be a Member State of the European military alliance of NATO. There are murmurs within NATO that because of its present policy attitudes under President Erdogan, Turkey should either voluntarily relinquish its membership of NATO or NATO formally ask Turkey to leave NATO

The US-Turkey relationship was the cornerstone of both United States policies and that of Turkey till President Erdogan came along. Relations between United States and Turkey in 2020 can be said to be frosty and one can venture to state that Turkey’s intentions are mistrusted in Washington.

Turkey was much valued by the European Union not only as the largest contributor of troops to NATO and providing bases to NATO but also that a Western-oriented moderate Islamic democracy, Turkey stood out to be considered for membership of European Union.

Turkey under predecessors of President Erdogan had set their hearts to become a full-fledged member of European Union. But that was not to be presumably because EU Nations read the straws in the wind and became unsure as to how long would Turkey continue as a Western-oriented moderate Islamic democracy.

Turkey’s present day resentment and bitterness with the European Union and the West arise from this perceived snub.

Turkey under President Erdogan has indulged in military interventions not only in its neighbourhood of Syria and Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean but also s far as Libya in North Africa. Presumably like China, Turkey seems to be in an expansionist mode.

In the OIC Grouping of Islamic Nations, there too, Turkey departing from traditional policies has sought to challenge and divide the Islamic World by attempting to form a new Islamic grouping of Turkey-Pakistan-Malaysia to challenge the traditional leadership of OIC held by Saudi Arabia as the ‘Custodian of Holy Places of Islam’. Two of my recent Papers have analysed this Turkey-Pakistan attempt challenge and divide the Arab Monarchies hold over OIC.

This has set Turkey on a collision course with the leading Arab Monarchies of the Gulf Region, something which Turkey can ill-afford geopolitically or geoeconomically.

In South Asia more noticeably, Turkey under President Erdogan has decidedly adopted an adversarial stance towards India, just to please Pakistan’s obsessive psychological disorder on Kashmir. Turkey’s short sightedness in South Asia stands exposed when ignoring the prevailing geopolitical equations when President Erdogan prefers to ignore an Emergent Power like India and side with Pakistan without any geopolitical gains for Turkey.

Turkey under President Erdogan in conjunction with China has compulsively and persistently raised the Kashmir issue at UN and in his utterances stands derisively rejected by the Indian Government and the people of India.

Turkish President Erdogan by such stances has positioned Turkey alongside India’s enemies—China and Pakistan, forgetting existing geopolitical reality that India today figures in geopolitical calculations in world capitals. What has Turkey gained from such adversarial stances under President Erdogan against India?

Turkish President Erdogan may be very popular in Turkey by generating populist nationalistic emotions within Turkey’s domestic politics, but then it cannot be forgotten that to adopt patently Ottomanesque interventionist hyperactive policies in the international arena requires national cohesion and a powerful and vibrant economy.

National cohesion in Turkey cannot be viewed in positive terms as President Erdogan’s political coup against Turkish Armed Forces as the guardians of Turkey’s ‘Secular Constitution has left in its wake intense bitterness which may be latent but can sprout.

Turkey also is beset with terrorism incidents and the long-standing issue of Kurds self-determination demands. This has greatly affected Turkish international tourism arrivals with consequent impact on the economy.

As per Turkish economy watchers and those in business of ‘Risk Forecasting’ on Turkish economy, the reports are not inspiring. The once strong and vibrant Turkish economy now is in a slow-down not only because of global slow-down but also because of foreign investors lack confidence in the Turkish political directions and turbulence under President Erdogan.

Concluding, in an overall analysis, what emerges is that Turkey till about a decade back stood tall with consolidated geopolitical gains of decades encashed from the United States and the European Union imparted to it by its geostrategic location and positive policy directions emerges in 2020 to have perceptionaly downslided geopolitically under President Erdogan.


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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Dr Subhash Kapila

is a graduate of Royal British Army Staff College Camberley and combines a rich & varied professional experience in Indian Army (Brigadier), Cabinet Secretariat and diplomatic/official assignments in USA, UK, Japan, South Korea, and Bhutan.

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