The recent Turkey – US economic spat threatens to drag many other countries down, and serves to enhance Putin’s strength on the world stage. At a time where China has been expanding their own influence, this is dangerous to the continued strength of the United States.
Erdogan has successfully leveraged an economic boom into domestic power. He has done this by borrowing extensively from other nations and funneling the cash both into direct domestic growth and incentives to international business investment. (Bloomberg)
The result has been a moderately strong economy, after years of uncertainty, which he has been able to talk up as historic, inasmuch as it has been stable and independent of aiding military action by the United States. Years of It has also resulted in a mountain of debt. Now that the lenders are calling on repayment, Erdogan is scrambling to find a way to pay it without triggering an economic collapse.
Economic illusion is one way that Erdogan consolidated power. The other was by appealing to the religious leaders of his country to present him as a figure anointed by God to save his nation. They happily complied, eager to seize some power from a government they saw as too secular. This, despite concerns over Erdogan’s drift toward demanding an idolatry and actual questions over his sanity. (Washington Examiner)
A coup attempt secured Erdogan’s desire to gain dictatorial powers over the country. Accurately or not, an American Evangelical pastor, Andrew Brunson, was convicted of participating in the planning of the coup attempt, and sentenced to two years in prison. The US government demanded he be released and deported home. Instead, Erdogan shifted him to house arrest in an attempt to placate President Trump.
Trump, however, is still in the process of appealing to the religious leaders of his country. Merely shifting Brunson to house arrest does not sit well with the Evangelical community, nor with their President. The resultant back and forth threatens to trigger the economic collapse for which Erdogan has set the stage.
Neither side shows an indication of backing down. (CNN) To do so would potentially damage their leadership’s narrative.
Who wins in all of this? Vladimir Putin.
There are four key players here. Trump, Erdogan, Jinping, and Putin. Trump and Erdogan both want a positive result from their conflict, in the form of continued support from their base. Their conflict is fueling further cracks in the NATO alliance, as both countries are members.
Meanwhile, Putin and Jinping have been strengthening their alliances and expanding their international reach. Putin, in particular, is helped by damage to NATO.
Erdogan has sown the seeds of his destruction in his arrogance but even more so in his recent efforts to forge friendly ties with Putin. (Fox News) His efforts to treat Putin as an equal or an ally instead of an adversary are only now rearing up to bite him, and at this point it is unclear if there is any “good” option remaining for him in the long run.
It is a lesson other nations would be well served to learn. The adage of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is predicated upon knowing about your enemies, not on treating them as if they are actually trying to help you.