In the age of Trump, Erdoğan represents a new vision

Under the Trump administration, the United States will continue to ignore its global responsibilities.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan provided a comprehensive review about Turkey’s transformation at the opening ceremony of the second legislative year of Parliament’s 27th term. Recalling that the presidential system was the product of the country’s struggle against the military guardianship regime, Erdoğan said that his administration had taken market-friendly measures to address economic turmoil. He proceeded to talk about the ways in which the diplomatic efforts of the past month influenced Turkish foreign policy. The president also highlighted his country’s rapprochement with Europe and criticized Washington’s Turkey policy.

As a matter of fact, Erdoğan’s speech provided a summary of his administration’s steps against the backdrop of global turbulence and shed light on the rationality of Turkey’s role within the changing balance of power.

Over the past three years, I have personally witnessed how Erdoğan conducts diplomacy on international trips. In addition to bilateral meetings, he regularly finds time in his busy schedule to meet with businesspeople and representatives of nongovernmental organizations. The main purpose of his trips to Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, Russia and Europe has been to keep diplomacy and trade alive. In this regard, the Turkish president concentrates on finding middle ground with his counterparts and work with other countries on equal footing.

Ultimately, he wants to be able to cover the costs of turbulence. It would appear that Erdoğan opted for this approach in order to help Turkey overcome post-2013 unrest. Indeed, the country encountered a series of challenges, which indicated that Turkey’s domestic problems were a product of its international role and policy choices. In this sense, the Gezi Park revolts, the December 2013 judicial coup attempt, the Russian jet crisis, the July 15 coup attempt and tensions with Europe and the United States were all responses to Turkey’s efforts to play a more prominent role in the world.

In the end, Turkey, under Erdoğan’s leadership, showed the necessary will to successfully overcome those challenges. Nowadays, it is taking steps to overcome the economic turmoil fueled by Washington’s threats. The question is what those experiences entailed: On the one hand, we encountered domestic political tensions, a refugee crisis, terror attacks and economic hardship. On the other, those problems made it possible for Turkey to withstand attacks and become more resilient.

The history of the Syrian civil war is full of such examples. In recent years, Turkey has launched military operations, delivered humanitarian aid and engaged in active diplomacy due to the crisis next door. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA), Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), the Maarif Foundation and other public institutions have thus learned to operate at the regional and global levels.

The turbulence of the past five years made it possible for Turkey to develop a new brand of politics, which involves a strong ability to manage tensions, repair strained relations, concentrate on new areas, adapt to weakening alliances and conduct leader-to-leader diplomacy. Other features include being on-the-go all the time, flexibility, pragmatism and putting knowledge to practice. Those experiences inform Turkey’s diplomatic efforts at a time when the international system faces uncertainty and turbulence. It is therefore crucial that Erdoğan was able to respond to U.S. President Donald Trump’s remarks with a vision for the future at the United Nations.

Under the Trump administration, the United States will continue to ignore its global responsibilities. The world must brace for a new reality – a superpower involving itself in various issues to look out only for its own national interest. In other words, there will be more turbulence down the road. The only great powers that woke up to this fact and started making preparations are China and Russia. Germany, a European leader, has been taking baby steps as well – hence its rapprochement with Turkey. By contrast, the United Kingdom remains stunned by Brexit and France remain hopeful that it can work with the United States. World leaders are looking for ways to avoid the coming turbulence. No wonder German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been reaching out to African nations. But none of them are as experienced as Erdoğan.

[Daily Sabah, 3 October 2018]

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