Monday, January 16, 2017

This, Too, Shall Pass?

I've been worrying if Erdogan would take Turkey out of NATO in order to team up with Russia over Syrian issues, in an effort to make Turkey a major regional power that plays off America, Europe, Russia, and China against one another.

Sometimes I read things that say that Turkey is really just trying to gain some leverage against NATO and that the mutual outreach is nothing to worry about. I'd like to think that is true. Turkey under Erdogan is a highly flawed ally but they are an ally rather than a foe. So there's that. I feel much the same way about Pakistan. Or Saudi Arabia, for that matter. Things can always be worse.

So here's another entry in the don't-worry-about-Turkey camp:

The harsh Turkish critique of the Obama White House should be seen as a gambit for the incoming Trump administration. Ankara is hoping that the incoming administration will not be invested in supporting Syrian Kurds and, therefore, will be more amenable to prioritizing Turkish interests. In view of Donald Trump’s conviviality toward Putin, Turks may also be counting on Russian support for Ankara’s new position with Washington. ...

Still, it would be foolhardy to suggest that Erdogan would contemplate abandoning NATO. Turkey lives under the shadow of the Russian giant — its anger at the United States and its Western allies notwithstanding, it needs the protection the alliance offers. Without it, the Russians would be able to intimidate Ankara at will. ...

For now at least, two repressive populist leaders, Erdogan and Putin, have struck up a marriage of convenience.

Of course, Russia no longer borders Turkey. That lessens the Russian threat that once existed when the Soviet Union (and Czarist Russia before it) controlled both Turkey's eastern border and the access through the Balkans to the European Turkey and the Turkish straits. Unless you really believe Russia would nuke Turkey over some issue.

So I'm not so sure that Erdogan is convinced Turkey needs NATO any more.

And Lord knows what Erdogan will think is a good solution out of the financial mess he finds himself in that could result in a crisis this year:

Turkey has yet to make the tough decisions that will mend its economy. And, it seems, it will not. Erdogan prefers to blame economic problems on a nefarious conspiracy of international financiers. Though there is a consensus that the only remedy in the short run is for Turkey to raise interest rates dramatically. Erdogan is against it because, obviously, high interest rates will prevent economic growth.

The danger now is not only that Turkey’s economic growth will stop, but that it will stop under rising inflation. The worst-case scenario for economists — stagflation — might be awaiting Turkey.

I had heard Erdogan say that currency problems were like a terrorist attack on Turkey, but didn't realize there was a real problem here (and the problem isn't that Turkey is under financial assault).

But Erdogan may believe his rhetoric. What might he do?

And even if the Russian-Turkish detente is "a marriage of convenience" that is only temporary, I recall that some really bad things happened because of another marriage of convenience between two repressive regimes to reconcile differences over a third country that turned out to be temporary--the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.

So I remain far from comforted about recent trends in Russian-Turkish relations.