TURKEY

Risks and opportunities

risks-and-opportunities

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is gradually realizing that he no longer has a friend in the White House. Former President Donald Trump is busy playing golf in Florida and he can no longer take decisions regarding Turkey on his own. Nor can he cancel out all the recommendations of the responsible agencies with a single phone call. 

Decisions in Washington are once again made in the old-fashioned way; the system is working and policy-making is no longer influenced by brothers-in-law and best men.

Ankara already has many opponents in Congress. And very few friends. It used to have the pro-Israeli lobby on its side, but this is now systematically backing the positions of Greece and Cyprus. This is not some minor loss. A key pole of the American political system is now alien to Turkish interests.

It would certainly be premature to draw safe conclusions on how relations will evolve in the Athens-Washington-Ankara triangle. To be sure, the US is making a comeback in the region and it will no longer outsource East Med diplomacy to Berlin. America will have a strong presence and engagement.

Erdogan is bracing for a bargaining that will not be easy. The Turkish strongman is finding it hard to make the necessary moves because his judgment is being undermined by egoism and his perception of his own status on the global stage. Nor does Erdogan have anyone around him that could tell him things as they really are. Improving Turkey’s ties with the US will require courageous concessions and good-will gestures that he probably cannot stomach. The mistrust of the American establishment toward contemporary Turkey, even inside the Pentagon, runs very deep. It is almost structural.

At the same time, the cost of basic goods in Turkish stores is increasing. The Turkish lira is in no condition to face a second major currency crisis. Maintaining good relations with the US is of paramount importance in supporting the Turkish economy. This “game” requires nerves of steel. Greece should prepare itself for erratic behavior and knee-jerk reactions by the Turkish leader. The pressure will be immense.

For the first time in many years, Greece could potentially be seen by the US as a geopolitical counterweight to Turkey. This means that we must ready ourselves. We must be aware of our goals, what we can offer, and what to expect in return. We are on the precipice of a new era. Full of risks but also strategic opportunities.