Turkey’s Opposition Leads in the Polls. Would They Move the Country Closer to the West? 

By Conor Gallagher

In recent years, Türkiye under president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has forged closer ties with Moscow, and has profited from being a middleman between Russia and the West that helps both sides bypass sanctions.

Following the Iran-Saudi Arabia rapprochement, it’s clear which way events are moving in the region.

Turkiye’s normalization talks with Syria continue. Moscow hosted diplomats from Ankara, Damascus, and Tehran last week in an effort to continue the thaw. Türkiye, as part of its turn east, has abandoned the US-led effort to topple Assad, and Russia began leading the detente efforts last year after more than a decade of hostility between Syria and Türkiye.

But Turkish general elections are on the horizon, currently scheduled for May 14. The key question is would the Erdogan opposition change Türkiye’s current trajectory vis a vis east and west?

Long-standing issues between Türkiye and the US/Nato have stressed the relationship in recent years, and Ankara, while sending weapons to Ukraine, has moved closer to Russia economically since the war began. By refusing to join sanctions on Moscow, Türkiye has come under immense pressure from the US.

Six opposition parties (the center-left Republican People’s Party, the Felicity Party, the nationalist İYİ, Democracy and Progress Party, the Future Party, and the Democrat Party)  are joining forces to oppose Erdogan.

They chose the leader of the Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, as their common candidate against Erdogan who has ruled the country for 20 years.

The elections are expected to be Erdogan’s toughest ever due to economic problems and criticism of the government’s response to the devastating earthquakes last month. Polls bear that out:

Another poll conducted on March 6-7 by Alf Research showed Kilicdaroglu at 55.1 percent and Erdogan at 44.9 percent.

Additionally, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is deciding whether to run its own candidate or join with the Nation Alliance. Should they choose the latter, the opposition might win in the first round without needing to go to a runoff due to the HDP having 8-13 percent of the vote.

So what are Kilicdaroglu and the Nation Alliance proposing regarding Russia and the West?

There is a lot of talk in the bloc’s “memorandum of understanding on common policies” about maintaining good ties with everyone (which is impossible with the West’s current with-us-or-against-us attitude), but a few items stand out from the document:

The alliance pledges to “take initiatives” in order to make it possible for Türkiye to be reaccepted to the F-35 fighter jet program. The memorandum does not expand on this, nor does it mention why the US expelled Türkiye from the program in the first place. The reason was that after years of ignored requests for the US Patriot system, Türkiye purchased the arguably superior Russian system in 2017. Would Kilicdaroglu and the Nation Alliance get rid of the S-400? Would they make amends in other ways in order to rejoin the F-35 program? It remains unclear.

The alliance also states it will do the following:

We will conclude contracts with new source countries to reduce the risk of dependence on certain countries/companies in natural gas imports and reduce the cost of natural gas imports. We will renegotiate existing high-priced natural gas contracts.

It’s pretty clear who they’re talking about here as Türkiye receives nearly half of its natural gas from Russia (and a quarter of its oil). Erdogan and Putin are also discussing expanding their energy relationship, which would allow Türkiye to increase its transfer fees when sending gas to Europe – if they want it.

Lastly, the Nation Alliance vows to review the contract for the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant that is currently being constructed by a Russian company.

So while Kilicdaroglu and the alliance say they want to maintain relationships with both Russia and the US, it’s fairly obvious which way they lean.

Kilicdaroglu made a six-day visit to the US in October, which was a bit of a head scratcher considering recent public opinion surveys in Türkiye show the public there views its NATO “ally” as the biggest threat to Türkiye.

Beyond stops at MIT, Harvard, John Hopkins University, the Washington Post, and a meeting with World Bank executives and “digital industry stakeholders,” it’s unclear who else Kilicdaroglu met with. He mentioned that he would also be visiting with NGOs, think tanks, investors, and human rights groups.

The trip opened Kilicdaroglu to attacks that he’s a Washington stooge. Turkish media do not tire of replaying Biden’s declaration during his 2020 election campaign that Washington should help the Turkish opposition “take on and defeat Erdogan.”

Speaking at John Hopkins University during his trip, Kilicdaroglu said, “we will develop our relationship with Russia but we want to stand with the West. There is no logic in fighting against Russia.”

And yet, many of the positions of the alliance he leads would move Türkiye into the Western camp, which is indeed fighting against Russia.

Kilicdaroglu is also all in on joining the EU – despite the process being dead for all intents and purposes. Türkiye has been a candidate country since 1999, has been negotiating for full membership for 18 years, and has gotten nowhere.

Turks have mostly given up on the prospect of EU membership ever happening. A recent Metropoll survey showed that 73 percent of Turks thought the EU discriminates against Türkiye in accession process, and only 29 percent thought Türkiye would be admitted even if it met all of Brussels’ criteria.

Barçın Yinanç, a foreign policy columnist at the Turkish news site t24, believes that should the Nation Alliance win, it will orchestrate a distancing from Russia and “reset” Türkiye’s relations with its Western allies. More:

The Nation Alliance promises nothing less than a reset: it reasserts Türkiye’s place in the West and as Western democracy. The [“Memorandum of understanding on common policies”] deems NATO to be of “critical importance in terms of the deterrence it provides for Türkiye’s national security,” and emphasizes the importance of the EU as well as of the Council of Europe. While the Nation Alliance remains committed to Turkish EU membership, the emphasis on “the modernization of the Customs Union,” nonetheless shows that the opposition is well aware of the difficulty of a speedy revival of the accession process.

Although Türkiye’s accession process to the European Union is de facto suspended, the Nation Alliance trusts the democratic reform process it holds forth will break the ice in the frozen relations with the West in general. The opposition alliance reiterates that “our goal is full membership in the European Union.” That explains why the statement that Türkiye will comply with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights appears under the headline “foreign policy” instead of “rule of law”. The AKP’s resistance to amend the law, so as to adapt it to universal democratic standards has been a key obstacle to visa liberalization; the Nation Alliance’s pledge to “prioritize and finalize visa liberalization process with the EU countries,” implies a commitment to change Türkiye’s anti-terror laws. Meanwhile, the pledge to review the 2016 migration deal with the EU together with the statement “we will not let Türkiye be a buffer,” is clearly intended to appeal to anti-migrant opinion. But it also represents the Nation Alliance’s wish to end the “transactional nature” of Turkish-EU relations.

The primary reason Erdogan is so vulnerable in the upcoming election is due to the economy and 25-year-high inflation, but Russia has played a key role in helping to keep the Turkish economy afloat through tourism, natural gas deliveries, as well as Türkiye’s role facilitating the transfer of goods between Russia and Europe to avoid sanctions.

Russia is also trying to pressure the Assad government in Syria to move past Erdogan’s participation in US efforts to overthrow it and normalize ties. It would be a major boon for Erdogan ahead of the election to make progress in efforts to repatriate Syrian refugees in Türkiye, although that looks unlikely.

It would also snatch the issue away from the Turkish opposition, which blames Erdogan for causing the crisis due to the involvement in the Syrian conflict. There are more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Türkiye, which has strained the already fragile economy and generated popular sentiment against the presence of so many refugees.

But should the Nation Alliance emerge victorious and turn away from Russia to the West, it would be a major blow to the already fragile economy.

Kılıçdaroğlu, should he win, plans to rely more on western financial institutions to aid the Turkish economy. After receiving criticism for meeting with investors in London in November, Kılıçdaroğlu said, “yes, I visit foreign countries and hold talks. Don’t get concerned. I have already found the clean money.”

The stakes couldn’t be higher for Washington, Moscow, and the wider region in the election. Should the National Alliance emerge victorious and shift towards the US, it could mean some or all of the following:

  • Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Erdogan has thus far refused to agree to the countries’ accession (which all NATO countries must approve) without his conditions being met, which include Sweden extraditing individuals Türkiye considers Kurdish terrorists and ending further support for such groups.
  • Cutting off one of Russia’s links to bypass Western sanctions. The ports of the Azov-Black Sea Basin increased activity by 2.7 percent to 263.6 mln metric tons in 2022. Türkiye, despite constant pressure from Washington, has transformed into a transport, logistics, and gas hub between Russia and the West.
  • Opening the Dardanelles and therefore the Black Sea to NATO warships, which Erdogan has refused to do under the 1936 Montreux Convention. Moscow’s updated version of the Naval Doctrine of the Russian Federation lists the eastern Mediterranean basin, the Black Sea and the Turkish straits as “important areas,” in which the use of force will be available as a last resort after other options have been exhausted.
  • A lifeline for the US positions in Syria, which are becoming untenable with the Tehran-Riyadh rapprochement and nearly every country in the region now wanting the Americans out.

We’ll see. The election is 55 days away.

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  1. Savita

    As we’ve just learnt, Erdogan/ his government, has conceded to Finlands request to join NATO. I’m unsure as to what inspired the reversal.

    1. Yves Smith

      It was in Links Saturday morning, but all I had then was a pretty bare report from Anadolu Agency. I assume sexual favors were exchanged.

        1. Savita

          Thanks for the nod Yves.
          David N, my guess to Yves closing sentence. She alludes to the irrationality, for want of a better word, of the decision. As in, so lacking in substance and foundation that only gratification of the most basic of motivations could justify or compell it.

          1. Yves Smith

            No, not quite. It means Türkiye must have gotten a meaningful payoff, and not necessarily above the board, as in Finland must have made a bloody good concession and both sides are keeping quiet about because it would embarrass at least Finland.

            I realize it has the overtones of personal payoffs, so I should have elaborated.

      1. Matthew G. Saroff

        I know that your comment is snark, but given that sexual misconduct is pretty much the only area where Erdogon and his Evil Minions™ are not accused of wrong doing, it’s unlikely.

        I think accepting Finland is more about a **familyblog** you to Sweden, and an attempt to drive a wedge between Finland and Sweden.

        Sweden is (rightly, IMHO) not going to extradite Turkish dissidents, so I do not see a way to square the Sweden Circle.

      2. kemerd

        This was always the case, I believe Erdogan wanted to gain some positive points from Putin before the election so that he could pose with Assad for a photo. Assad rejected to talk to him before Turkish soldiers leave Syrian soil, and so he considered Putin’s word not hold and approved the membership of Finland just afterwards.

        His relations have always been transactional and does not hold any position for long. But, you need to remember that he started as a CIA asset and has always been on the side of the west. Occasional deviations does not change that. BTW, the expansion of NATO is a going to be accepted by Turkey with or without Erdogan.

        1. Savita

          Kemerd. Erdogan started as CIA asset? I reread your paragraph a few times to try and see if your ‘he’ pointed to someone other than Erdogan. Unqualified declarations as extreme as this require some solid proof, do you have any?

          (Oh, and it begs the question. If someone ‘starts’ as a CIA asset what becomes of them when they ‘stop’ – if indeed they are able to ‘stop’ ?)

          Per your point; ‘he does not hold one position for long’. He has been in present office since 2014.

          1. Yves Smith

            I have been too swamped by competing obligations to follow comments on all posts as closely as I should.

            Thanks so much for calling this out and being civil about it while registering severe disapproval.

            If kermerd can’t substantiate this, and pronto, he is history.

            1. kemerd

              Erdogan and his party is a CIA project which has been said by many of the former leaders of the party openly. Pictures of him meeting with Graham Fuller and George Soros at the times he was forming his party surfaced later. He, indeed, was accepted in white house when he was not even major of Istanbul.

              Journalist Merdan Yanardag have a book about it: “bir abd projesi olarak akp, yeni muhafazakârlığa, liberalizme ve akıl tutulmasına itiraz” (AKP as a US project, an objection to neo-conservatism, liberalism and insanity), which includes pictures, interviews about the days AKP was established.

              BTW, perhaps you don’t remember but he was a strong supporter of American invasion of Iraq but he lost the vote in the parliament for allowing US opening a second front from the north, thanks to CHP and few of his defiant deputies. At that time, he was bragging to be co-chair of greater middle east project of united states.

              He is/was a CIA asset as can be proven Saakashvili or his co-conspirator Fettullah Gulen can be proven to be a CIA asset.

              They might not want him now but he was a US favourite for a long time.

              1. kemerd

                BTW, Islamists openly talked about it at that time because they think they outsmarted the US. They have a tradition of “takiyya” which calls for doing anything necessary, like Mike Pompeo mentions for CIA, for the advancement of Islam.

                But many was disappointed with Erdogan who seem to want power and money and not much of an Islamic republic, so it seems CIA read him better than his comrades, after all.

                1. Savita

                  Kemerd I love that you rose to the challenge to follow through on your statement, and provided a detailed description. And remained cool about it. It’s not my area of expertise, but thank you :-)

  2. Stephen

    The US / collective west certainly knows how to deploy soft power to influence “elites”.

    All empires do.

    I wonder how many National Alliance politicians have children who want to attend top flight US universities one day.

  3. DJG, Reality Czar

    Thanks for this: The post is thought-provoking indeed.

    Some observations:
    –Turkiye’s talks for EU accession are in suspension. An underlying factor is the status of Cyprus, and with the U.S. raising tensions in the region, I don’t see a way to resolve the division of Cyprus.
    –I note that Turkiye’s population is estimated at 85 million, and Germany’s is at 84 million. Trying to bring a country into the EU that would immediately be the most populous is a hindrance.
    –Even as Ursula Van der Leyen is excited (indeed) to bring Ukraine and those strapping blond nazifascists into the EU, there is little regard for Albania, a small country with a Muslim majority, patiently waiting to accede. Hmmm. I wonder why.
    –Nationalism is a major factor in Turkish politics. I tend to doubt that the Republican People’s Party is a pushover.
    –If you have been to Istanbul, you know that the Bosporus is much narrower than one would expect. I see no advantage whatsoever for any government of Turkiye to allow warships through.
    –I was in Istanbul when the big demonstrations broke out in Syria–and Turkiye then was in a kind of golden period of democracy. The dilemma here is: Fomenting war throughout the region has meant that the U.S. is shoring up authoritarians. The talk of human rights is a figleaf–and Turkiye is a good example of the degradation of human rights in wartime. So a new government would have as its first task the delicate issue of lifting the heavy weight of Erdogan’s version of the state meaning addressing: Freedom of speech and the press, less overt use of Sunni orthodoxy to oppress religious minorities, rights of the Kurds, that “coup” or whatever it was.

    It will take years for a democratic government to make repairs.

    Of course, Antony “Banality of Evil” Blinken will be in Ankara in a minute, trying to get U.S. aircraft carriers into the Sea of Marmara…

    1. Kouros

      Aircraft Carriers are banned in the Black Sea by the Montreaux Convention. Plus, the Pentagon would be the first to say Hell No! to such a stupid decision.

      1. Neddie

        He seemed to have changed his tune on NATO membership, for finland, after the devastating quake, curiously. Makes you wonder

    1. pretzelattack

      The US is trying to keep a lot of spinning plates in the air at once; maintaining the regime change in Pakistan, “convincing” Australia to be its proxy naval base against China (https://www.algora.com/Algora_blog/2023/03/17/caitlin-johnstone-australias-real-fear-isnt-china}, keeping our abused partner Germany docile and submissive despite blowing up the pipeline, etc., and now installing new puppets in Turkey. All of this is in support of the main goal of staving off threats to its hegemony from China and Russia. What happens when the Russian forces break the Ukrainian defense lines and start rolling toward Kiev? I’ve read that the US is putting a lot of pressure on Zelensky for a spring offensive, no matter how unlikely it is to succeed. The US has little to lose by this, and potentially much to gain, no matter the cost to Ukraine.

      Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode in this exciting new Netflix series “The Velvet Glove”! As if you have a choice!

      1. digi_owl

        At this point I am not sure if Russia wants to take Kiev.

        After all, they were poised to encircle it a year ago and withdrew.

        More than likely they want instead for Zelensky to accept Russia’s terms regarding Donbass and neutrality.

        Anything else will be decried as illegitimate by the west.

        It may well be that the worst that can happen right now is for Zelensky to take a bullet to the head, as then any diplomatic solution between Ukraine and Russia can be ignored by the west.

        1. hk

          Russian goal has always been an independent, but neutral Ukraine (that might lean towards Russia). Perhaps not unlike Finland during the Cold War, but with a lot more people who are genuinely friendly towards Russia. I don’t think their grand strategy has fundamentally changed even now: conquering and administering the parts of Ukraine that don’t want to be part of Russia will be very costly (and Putin always opposed secession of Donbass to Russia since that was going to significantly reduce the number of pro-Russian Ukrainians needed to keep Ukraine neutral.) The problem for Russia, as far as I can imagine, though, is how to keep the rump Ukraine neutral in the future, after the war and the departure, one way or another, of so many pro-Russians.

          Personally, I don’t think that’s possible, at least for a good long while. But what Russia can look forward to sooner than that, not improbably, is breaking NATO and securing “surrender” by France and Germany (essentially, commitment to neutrality and kicking out US from the European mainland.) This will still take a while, though, although, ironically, the antics of E. Macron might be hastening the moment in Paris.

            1. hk

              Has she changed her words since last May?

              As far as I can tell, I don’t see LePen becoming president of France just yet. I’d assign higher chance to Melanchon and I don’t think he has a snowball’s chance on Mercury. But I do think a lot of things will be in the air if and when Macron is kicked out of power.

          1. pretzelattack

            that’s the reason I think they might want to take Kiev now, because NATO is inevitably going to use the rump to continue to destabilize Russia. I’m not sure they fully appreciated just how many sacrifices Washington was willing to make to continue to try to break up Russia–as Obama said, Ukraine is not a vital strategic interest for the US. but it’s a vital strategic interest to the Blob, or some portion of it (I don’t think of it as a single organism, even if it appears that way).

      2. jsn

        All while self sanctions and Fed incompetence implode banks AND purchasing power!

        Interesting times indeed.

        I think the Pritzkers want the Convention in Chicago next year because they’re putting arsenic in Sleepy Joes Ensure.

      3. Mike

        Poland is now making noise of directly “helping” Ukraine if it can no longer defend itself. Coming on the bad news of Russian victories in the east, this can only mean occupation of Galician Ukraine and possible confrontation that has the ability to draw NATO in on the action (although only if they can pass off a Polish advance as response to a Russian provocation). Of course, the USA stands behind all this, as there is constant reminding of favors that USA can do for these countries, plus electoral intervention is no stranger to us (haven’t we stacked the deck in Eastern Europe to the neoliberal side?). In summary, the so-called dying rules-based order still has some viper ability, and is doubling down on opposing the Russia-China duality.

        It remains to be seen how Putin and Erdogan respond to this threat. Polls are something to watch, but they have not been the harbinger of results lately. What will happen?

  4. The Rev Kev

    Erdogan may have stuffed up with his response to the earthquake but the opposition sounds like they are all in on being in the Collective west. I mean, ‘stops at MIT, Harvard, John Hopkins University, the Washington Post, and a meeting with World Bank executives and “digital industry stakeholders” ‘ tells me all that I want to know. If Türkiye had followed the dictates of the west a year ago, their economy right now would be even worse than that of the EU. The money that they are making off oil and other goods would have never appeared and the place would be a train wreck. The alliance trying to get their country back in the F-35 is just a signal to the MIC that they are willing to play ball, even though that would put the country at risk of falling behind militarily. And where does this Alliance think that they will be able to find new sources of natural gas. They would be in direct competition with the EU who would have deeper pockets. And no way will the EU let Türkiye in. That is a pipe-dream that Erdogan finally had to recognize which led him to orientate to the east. As much as I despise Erdogan because of what he is, I am forced to recognize that if he is not re-elected, that the Alliance would only succeed in setting their country on fire for the benefit of other country’s geopolitical ambitions.

    1. thoughtful person

      On natural gas, possibly they hope for the same sort of arrangement that Hungary was able to negotiate?

    2. pjay

      – “As much as I despise Erdogan because of what he is, I am forced to recognize that if he is not re-elected, that the Alliance would only succeed in setting their country on fire for the benefit of other country’s geopolitical ambitions.”

      Yes. Turkey is such a key piece of the regional puzzle that I fear what would happen with a pro-US government. At best it would seem to be a major drag on the current momentum toward a multi-polar world, but it could be much worse depending on how “Westernized” the leaders might be. I also hate rooting for Erdogan, and I’m sure there are some sincere “democrats” in the opposition coalition. But we all know what an alliance with the West means. There are a growing number of Western “allies” that are beginning to get the message – though not, it seems, in Europe.

    3. Young

      Just wondering if the architects of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan have something to do with the construction of the National Alliance in Türkiye.

  5. vidimi

    i never though i would say this, but i’m really hoping for an erdogan election victory now

    1. ArvidMartensen

      Yes I see your point. Let’s hope Turkiye doesn’t use electronic voting, or there may be a “glitch” part way through.

  6. Lex

    55/45 probably isn’t enough to move hard towards the west without the potential for fairly significant popular push back. So in a scenario where the alliance (itself a pretty diverse coalition) wins power and the nominal leadership decides to pivot towards the US/EU, will the coalition survive? More importantly, will the population jump on board being a sizeable minority? If the coalition fractures or there’s protest/push back, then Turkiye’s in a far worse position than it is now.

    It’s one thing to aspire towards friendship and acceptance in the west, but there’s no reality in the aspiration. Turkiye will never be accepted. So if it moves away from “Eurasia” it will likely pay a significant cost since it has less leverage with its neighbors than it has with the west. I haven’t followed the domestic politics of Turkiye closely, but usually the deciding factor is which side the military is on. And we should never discount the Turkish military’s willingness to step in if things go in the wrong direction (by the estimation of the generals). My recollection is that Erdogan completed a fairly serious purge after the attempted coup.

  7. spud

    the minute Erdogan loses, you will see a flotilla the likes the world has not seen since the germans look out the window in france on d-day, or the japanses in Okinawa, pass through the straights heading for the Crimea, Odessa, and the kersh bridge.

    there will be so many ships that you can no longer see the water, and sailors will simply move from ship to ship on foot.

    the turkish people will immediately be put on a strict diet of free market principles, that will instill rugged individualism, self reliance and obedience.

    there will be violence against this, but turkiys macron will simply yawn taking checks from the worlds oligarchs.

    the economy will crash and burn, but thats the point, next stop predation.

    The capturing of prey for food.The act of robbing, victimizing, or exploiting others.The act of plundering or pillaging; robbery; predatory incursion.

    as bad as Erdogan is, the average turk who voted against him will be completely bewildered as to what happened.

    1. Kouros

      Montreaux Convention limits the tonnage of military vessels from countries not littoral to the Black Sea allowed at any one time within the Black Sea.

      1. Janeway

        Don’t think NATO won’t donate some aircraft carriers and other warships to Ukraine and not have to comply as Ukraine is littoral.

        WW3 in about 3 minutes if Erdogan loses.

        1. hk

          How big a vessel can physically pass through Bosporus without doing damage to Istanbul, regardless of the Montreaux Convention?

    2. Kouros

      Montreaux Convention limits the tonnage of military vessels from countries not littoral to the Black Sea allowed at any one time within the Black Sea.

  8. Piotr Berman

    The largest party in the opposition block is for normalizing relationship with Syria and by extension, they do not want to worsen relationship with Russia. The core of their support are Alevis, sympathetic to Syrian Alawites. Leftist/Kurdish HCP is similar. Other parties of the block are most probably strongly pro-West.

    Thus the pre-election platform is a compromise within the coalition, and the eventual policies are uncertain. On economic grounds, neutrality is better, and avoiding changes in foreign policy is easier. Erdogan unleashed internal repressions and corruption, while he arrived at his current foreign policy stand after several sharp swings. The biggest question is if CHP got corrupted by the West, or if we see the compromise platform papering over differences within the coalition.

    1. pjay

      There are usually sincere and rational people in the “reformist” parties and coalitions in nations with which the US disagrees. That’s what makes them such appealing Trojan Horses for Western propagandists and liberal New Yorker readers. I genuinely hope I might be wrong this time. It’s just that my skepticism keeps getting reinforced with each passing decade. This passage in Conor’s essay especially caught my eye, as it has other commenters:

      “Kilicdaroglu made a six-day visit to the US in October, which was a bit of a head scratcher considering recent public opinion surveys in Türkiye show the public there views its NATO “ally” as the biggest threat to Türkiye.”

      “Beyond stops at MIT, Harvard, John Hopkins University, the Washington Post, and a meeting with World Bank executives and “digital industry stakeholders,” it’s unclear who else Kilicdaroglu met with. He mentioned that he would also be visiting with NGOs, think tanks, investors, and human rights groups”.

      “The trip opened Kilicdaroglu to attacks that he’s a Washington stooge…”

      It’s an absolute cliche by now: the promise of “reform,” “democracy,” and “Western values” is especially appealing to the educated urban elite, many of whom are sincere leaders of movements for “reform.” And if they win, and the doors to Western capital and security “cooperation” are opened…

      Again, I would like to be wrong. As many (including me) have said above, I’m no fan of Erdogan. But history tells me that the odds favoring “corruption by the West” are very high.

      1. Kouros

        “But history tells me that the odds favoring “corruption by the West” are very high.”

        That is a given, and at limit, in the long run, oligarchy will always trump democracy, as Aristotle mentioned almost 2500 years ago. As such only a tyranny allied with democracy can overcome.

  9. kemerd

    I feared that there would be a definite turn to the west, and indeed there are strong factions within the alliance that wants just that. But Kilicdaroglu is interviewed recently about his future Russia policy and it is much more nuanced than assumed. He also explicitly ruled out complying with any sanctions not approved by UNSC. In fact, his positions could be closer to Russia’s in many areas especially Syria. Here is a link to the interview, which is cited broadly by Russian media.


    And, here is an op-ed about why Turkey cannot really completely turn to NATO and West even if it wanted to:


    1. Piotr Berman

      I regret that I never learned any of languages related to Turkish, and I would rather not bother acquantances who do (past co-author who learned Turkish in high school in Almaty). So it would be nice to see main points of the article paraphrased to English.

      That said, Turkey at this point is blessed by not being in EU and enjoying benefits of neutrality like India. Like India, Turkey can get away with it. Embargoes, price cap etc. created a financial centrifugal force through price differentials etc. Interestingly, according to polls of the kind “which country you like/trust”, Turkey scores pretty low in all directions, polar opposite to Australia that trusts Anglo-Saxon brothers (forever grateful to be released from prisons into not-so-bad country). So any “turn to the West” should be limited, transactional relationships go back to at least 2000 BC in Anatolia.

      The most interesting is evolution of policies in respect to Kurds and Syria. Turkish Kurds and Alevis having a voice in new government, pig headed attitudes of AKP+MHP combo should be attenuated, but how far?

      1. kemerd

        Google translate works OK, give a try. It essentially refutes the claims of this article that
        1. Turkey would not change the essence of its Russia policy, if anything it would not have to suffer the antics of Erdogan
        2. Turkey would take a Syrian policy a lot closer to the position of Russia
        3. Turkey would not impose any sanctions other than approved by UNSC
        4. Turkey would not allow any foreign warships in Black Sea which is not a littoral country
        5. But, membership of Finland and Sweden is a done deal also with CHP (this is not mentioned but my view)
        Most does not understand CHP, it is the party of Ataturk and even though there are a lot of cadres who are pro NATO, there is a tradition of anti-imperialism within the party still very strong. And, it cannot taka pro-US position even if the leadership wants to.
        It was that party who organized rejection of Turkish participation to the invasion of Iraq, and it is the same party who openly wants all uninvited forces to leave Syria.

        Read the article, it also talks of Turkey/USSR relations when both countries were revolutionaries

        1. Conor Gallagher Post author

          Kemerd, thanks for the additional point of view from the op-ed in Cumhuriyet.
          While it sounds like the rational course of action, we shall see. The National Alliance and Kilicdaroglu seem to be talking out of both sides of their mouth, e.g., saying they want to maintain good ties with Russia while simultaneously parts of their platform would harm ties with Russia. I’m not sure a wholesale selling out to the west (opening the Bosphorous to warships, supporting US in Syria, etc) is in the cards, but that’s definitely what Washington and the west will be pushing for. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

  10. Mickey Hickey

    I was in Turkey pre Covid. I was in the business district of Istanbul. There is a brisk tourism business from Russia. My wife is German and was surprised at how many Turks speak perfect German. Turkey has been a very difficult country to govern and Recep Tayyip Erdogan has done an excellent job since 2014 when he became President. Turkey does a lot of business with Russia and I would not describe it as being pro West it could best be described as neutral to Russia and the West with a business is business attitude. Turkey has been in NATO since 1952 but could not be described as being opposed to Russia. Any new government in Turkey will likely continue with policies that have worked well for Turkey. China and Turkey have a good relationship possibly related to BRI should problems arise North of the Black Sea.

  11. Piotr Berman

    “. My wife is German and was surprised at how many Turks speak perfect German. ” Not noticing Turkish banks, supermarkets etc. in Germany is not easy, at least where I lived for a while. Surely, many Turks were going back and forth.

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