En terms of capacity for nuisance, Recep Tayyip Erdogan fears no one. NATO is experiencing this with the blocking of Swedish and Finnish candidacies by Turkey for reasons that do not correspond very well to the new situation created by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The Turkish president does not care, privileging his interests over the elementary rules which should in theory allow the functioning of an Alliance of which he is the free rider, even the parasite.
It is probably useless to wait for the slightest pressure at the summit of the Organization which is to open on Tuesday June 28, in Madrid, given the circumstances which already place the Turkish president in a position of strength. They allow him to scull between Russia and the official Western allies according to his strategic calculations, and underline the loss of influence of the United States. The values professed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, have little to do with those of NATO, and his mode of governance increasingly resembles that of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jiping: muzzled civil society, rump parliaments , justice to orders.
We saw this in April with the sentencing of the Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala to irreducible life imprisonment, after a mock trial. This is the sentence demanded in France against Salah Abdeslam for his participation in the attacks of November 13, 2015. In the Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, journalists, deputies, mayors, academics, all accused of “terrorism”, are often taken to court, sometimes heavily condemned for having criticized the actions of the “Reis” (“leader”, one of the nicknames of the president). Is he really the best placed to chapter Sweden and Finland on the fight against terrorism, the accusation of passivity being one of the specious arguments used to justify the blockage?
The intoxication of impunity could however turn out to be a trap. Does Recep Tayyip Erdogan have an interest in despising his Western allies in this way at a time when his electoral situation is deteriorating, less than a year from the presidential and legislative elections, scheduled for June 2023?
Turkey’s economy has become Erdogan’s burden
Long brandished as the strong point of the president, the economy has become his main burden. The standard of living of the population continues to decline. Annual inflation reached 73.5% in May, the worst rate since 1998, while the country’s external debt is around 180 billion dollars (170.2 billion euros) and seven out of ten households are in debt via consumer loans that they cannot repay.
The president’s unorthodox policy, convinced that high interest rates promote inflation, has led to the fall of the currency, the depletion of central bank reserves, and the flight of foreign capital. This collapse has already forced him into a humiliating patch-up with Saudi Arabia and above all with its crown prince, Mohammed Ben Salman, the presumed orderer of the assassination in Istanbul, in appalling conditions, of the dissident Jamal Khashoggi, in 2018.
But the war in Ukraine risks “to make the situation worse” Turkish interior, touching “imports of raw materials, the tourism sector and investments”, underlines the financial agency S&P Global in a recent note. The Turkish president may think that his chin-twisting diplomacy will help him win the next election. It should be more attentive to the effects of its monetary policy. He himself is fueling a crisis that could well end up winning after nineteen years in power.