The West fails to see Turkey’s united front on national interest - analysis

The United States and the European Union interpret Turkey’s foreign policy decisions as the whim of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and fail to see there is a united front in the country when it comes to issues that are related to national interest, wrote two analysts working for the pro-government think tank SETA.

While relations between Turkey and the United States have soured over the Turkish government’s to buy Russian S-400 air defence missiles, Ankara is also at odds with the EU over gas drilling off Cyprus.

Both the United States and the EU have threatened Turkey with sanctions. Washington halted the delivery of 100 F-35 stealth figures to Turkey, removed Turkish companies from the F-35 joint production programme, and is considering imposing further sanctions. 

In response to Turkey’s drilling off Cyprus, the EU announced a list of measures this month, including reducing the pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020 and to invite the European Investment Bank, Turkey’s biggest single lender, to review its lending activities in the country. 

The West associates all those foreign policy choices with Erdoğan, analysts Ömer Özkızılcık and Kutluhan Görücü wrote on the web site of state broadcaster TRT World. But, they said, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the opposition nationalist Good Party, along with Erdoğan’s far-right allies have all declared their support for the government on both issues.

“If the West continues to associate Turkey’s national decisions with Erdoğan alone, it won’t try to address Turkey’s national interests and could make the mistake of thinking that hurting Turkey with sanctions will help to boost the opposition against Turkey in order to change the behaviour of Erdoğan or to change him directly,” said Özkızılcık and Görücü. 

This extreme focus on Erdoğan as a result would only fuel tensions with Turkey’s Westerns allies, the analysts said.