Take the long view on Erdoğan’s Turkey, urges analyst

The director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy has called on U.S. policymakers to see beyond President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and consider their longer-term relationships with Turkey as a nation.

“American leaders must not make the mistake of equating Turkey with Erdoğan,” Svante E. Cornell wrote for RealClearDefense. “They must devise a policy that maintains a long-term view of Turkey as an American ally.”

It is not always easy to maintain such a view in the face of a Turkish government worldview that sees America as constantly seeking to undermine their country. As Cornell puts it:

Erdoğan’s conspiratorial worldview cannot countenance that a network led from Pennsylvania could operate without guidance from American authorities – or that American prosecutors can hold an Erdoğan acolyte, Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab, without guidance from the “deep state”.

Cornell argues that Erdoğan is in a weaker position than he seems, losing popularity with the public while the economy continues to lose its vigour.

In preparation for a post-Erdoğan Turkey, Cornell believes U.S. officials need to work on regaining respect in Turkey lost by the Obama administration’s policy of appeasement in the face of constant criticism by Turkish officials.

For eight years, Washington responded with appeasement to Turkish provocations – such as Erdoğan’s threat to expel the American ambassador, or his repeated accusations that America orchestrated the 2013 protests against him. Summing up the mood in Ankara, a key advisor to President Erdoğan was once overheard telling his president that “Americans are weak, if we push hard they will back off.”

In fact, Cornell says, one big reason why Turks feel so hostile to the United States is that the country has seen itself as being too important to need to counter anti-American propaganda abroad.

With the field left empty, America-bashing – and not only from Erdoğan – has proliferated.

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