Erdoğan regime can't survive without constantly radicalizing itself - Prof Bozarslan / EHESS

Dr Hamit Bozarslan from Paris’s School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS) spoke with Ahval’s Yavuz Baydar on Turkey’s ongoing conflicts abroad, and how they are symptomatic of imperial desires and necessary for the perpetuation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hold on power.

  • Erdoğan believes that the moment of historic vengeance over the past is upon us, and that Turkey is finally ready to fight against all foreign powers - including Europe, the United States, and Russia. 

  • According to Erdoğan, the Turks’ historic mission was interrupted by the 19th century Westernisation in the Ottoman Empire and the empire’s subsequent dissolution. 

  • Turkishness as defined by Islam, which in turn redefines Islam itself, has a mission to dominate the world, for Erdoğan.

  • Turkish foreign policy has come to be defined by hubris. 

  • Erdoğan has shifted the focus of his plans from 2023, Turkey’s centennial, to 2071, the thousand-year anniversary of the victory of Manzikert against the Byzantine Empire.

  • Erdoğan believes that to restart the interrupted mission, the Turkish nation has to be restored to its ontological purity. 

  • Compounded by the COVID-19 crisis, and the crises in Syria, Libya, eastern Mediterranean and the Caucasus, Turkey’s economic woes will not end anytime soon. 

  • However, perpetual conflict is not an undesired state for Turkey’s domestic policy, as Erdoğan’s regime can’t survive without radicalizing itself. As domestic issues become more insoluble, external fronts will become more of a tool for legitimacy.

  • Turkey’s current foreign policy resembles that of Iran, but Iran has a clear strategy of hegemony in the Middle East.

  • Erdoğan has definitely increased Turkey’s military capabilities. “But you can’t multiply your military capabilities and the number of your enemies at the same time. You can’t face the EU, United States and Russia all at once.”

  • As much as the EU and the United States want to avoid sanctioning Turkey, at one point they will have to. 

  • Despite Turkey possibly crossing red lines in the Mediterranean, and its interference with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, neither the EU nor Russia have taken much action. But, as seen in the case of Pastor Brunson, it only takes a miniscule degree of sanctions to stop Turkey once the United States decided to go down that path.

  • Russia may tolerate Turkish interference in the Caucasus, but it won’t tolerate the presence of Syrian jihadists, especially after the Chechen experience.

  • There is a power vacuum in the international arena, and the United States for the first time since former president Andrew Jackson has such a bizarre administration with no continuity at all in its policies.