1. Economic Development based upon Foreign Debt is no Recipe for Success. For long, Erdogan justified his autocratic ways upon his economic credentials, which on paper do look impressive. In 2002 when the AKP swept to power Turkey’s GDP was a mere $240 billion. The Netherlands, which has a population smaller than Istanbul had a larger economy. Today Turkey’s GDP has grown threefold and is valued at $850 billion, it is just a matter of time when it will reach $1 trillion. This strong economic performance even earned Erdogan the title of ‘Erdogonomics’. This is all coming apart at the seams as it was not based upon domestic economic development, manufacturing or technological development, but upon foreign debt. Unlike other high-growth countries such as China, which focused its economy on manufacturing and exporting products to the global market. Turkey’s boom was largely based on domestic consumption via imports and a building explosion financed by easy credit. When Erdogan came to power Turkey’s external debt stood at $110 billion, todays it has skyrocketed to $466 billion – 52% of GDP. Foreign debt will always cause problems as you will be beholden to foreign entities if you cannot repay the debt. As Erdogan did not pour the debt into developing an industrial base, research and development or into emerging technologies Turkey is now struggling to repay this debt as it was denominated in dollars and a change in the dollar-lira exchange rate has increased the debt threefold.
2. Turkey is Not Built Upon its Strengths or Advantages. Turkey’s economy is 64% services, 27% industry and 8% agriculture. Its largest sector – services, is driven by banking, transport, tourism and communications. A nation’s heavy industry is critical for any nation that wants to be independent. But Turkeys textile industry dominates the manufacturing sector, constituting 16.3% of total industrial capacity. Textiles also constitutes the largest share of Turkey’s exports. Erdogan has been in power for 16 years and despite Turkeys mineral wealth and economic development, this has all been stimulated by borrowing. This type of growth is sustainable as long as foreign investors believe they can achieve a better return for their money in Turkey than somewhere else; when they lose faith, the ensuing loss of liquidity can cause sizable problems. Turkey’s basic industry is well developed and uses the latest technology; however this should have resulted in Turkey being an industrially developed nation having a wide variety of industrial machinery and electronics coming off its production line. But the focus on consumer items and services has stifled the possibilities of becoming an independent power.
3. America Only Has Strategic Interests, not Permanent Allies. Ever since Erdogan came to power back in 2002 he has sighted his relations with the US as necessary to counter the Kemalists and to turn Turkey into a worthy power. The AKP has never hidden its relations with the US and has used it to project an image of strength. However, if there was ever any doubt that this was not reciprocal, then it is now, as the US refuses to sell the F-35 fighter jet to Turkey and it has slammed tariffs on Turkey’s steel and aluminium exports to the US. Despite working with the US in Syria, Iraq and a whole host of regional issues, this meant nothing to the US when its strategic interests were in question. The US Congress in July passed a bill which was integrated into the National Defense Authorization Act, which is the bill that passes America’s defence budget. Even though President Trump and the White House were inaugurating the first F-35 to Turkey in June and as Turkish pilots began their training on the new jet. Congress completely undercut the White House and passed the bill which bans sale of the jet to Turkey for three months. Despite Erdogan’s closeness to the US, US Congressmen threw Turkey under the bus when it came to Turkey’s critical moment. For the US its relations with Turkey are a means to an end, it sees Turkey as a tool to preserve its interests in Iraq, Syria, the wider Middle East and the Caucuses. It does not want to share the region or the issues with Turkey, but wants Turkey to execute its agenda. Erdogan thinking otherwise, is either his naivety or he’s in cahoots with the US agenda. Slapping sanctions on Turkey, banning the sale of a strategic, 5th generation fighter jet, are not how allies deal with each other.
4. Turkey Is in a Position of Strength, not Weakness. Turkey like much of the rulers in the Muslim world operate from a position of weakness, thinking they need the US when the reality it is the US that needs the rulers. Turkey is today critical to the solution to numerous strategic issues that without it they would practically not be solvable. Where it not for Turkey securing northern Iraq during American occupation, the US would have drowned in the insurgency that was bleeding it to death. Turkey financed the construction of infrastructure in northern Iraq and ensured the region became a viable entity. In Syria, Turkey is central to any final settlement. It has armed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and numerous other rebel groups that have become central to the whole conflict in the country. The EU’s migration deal with Turkey has ensured the number of refugees coming into Europe from war torn areas was curtailed, without this agreement Europe would be struggling with the influx. Similarly, Turkey is central to Europe’s future energy security strategy as much of Central Asia’s energy and Caspian energy will have to traverse Turkey. Despite this position of strength, Erdogan’s response was nowhere close to proportionate. Turkey was publicly threatened by Trump and other US officials in a bid to release American Pastor Andrew Brunson. Despite this Erdogan and his officials did not respond with similar harshness or threats. Rather, they just criticised the harsh American style. Turkey is in a position of strength, but Erdogan operates from a position of weakness.
5. Turkey Should Be Presenting a New Order for the World Rather Than Upholding the Crumbling Liberal Order. Despite all of Erdogan’s bluster and references to Islam he is merely upholding the current global structures and institutions and not in any way working independently of them. Despite his use of the country’s Ottoman heritage, it does not go beyond this rhetoric into firm actions and policies. As the global liberal order crumbles and as US policy makers fall over themselves: China continues to chip away and undermine the global liberal order. Erdogan has no such grand agenda and is happy with being a player amongst many players in the international political scene. In all the issues Turkey is central to solving, Erdogan is not proposing any political solutions to them, but has worked to become a part of America’s political plans. No nation in history ever became a power by doing the bidding of other nations. In fact, the US itself fought a bloody war of independence against the British and then engaged in a 100-year battle to rid the American continent of the European colonialists. Despite everything Erdogan has done for the US, he was slapped with sanctions and tariffs. The world is looking for an alternative, Erdogan needs to decide if he wants to be pioneer of a new world order as his ancestors were, or just another footprint in history.