Turkey’s Erdoğan’s new friends are temporary partners - analysts

As Ankara is back to crisis mode with deepening economic problems, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is reaching out to new friends, who see themselves as underdogs, fighting against U.S. hegemony, Aykan Aydemir and John A. Lechner from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said in the American İnterest on Friday.

A recent diplomatic row between Turkey and the United States over an American pastor detained for almost two years in Turkey has exacerbated an already precarious Turkish economy, after the U.S. government imposed sanctions on Turkish ministers and increased tariffs on Turkish aluminium and steel.

Turkish lira fall by around 40 per cent against the dollar since the start of the year, hitting a record low on Aug. 10, when President Erdoğan was attending the tenth summit of the BRICS bloc, which groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

After the summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, President Erdoğan told reporters that he proposed Turkey's inclusion in BRICS, suggesting to name it as BRICST.

“Since then, Erdogan has found himself in a currency crisis of his own making,” Aydemir and Lechner said, which he can only explain “in the context of an “economic war” against the nation,” and has started a quest to make new friends to alleviate the economic problems in the country

“Erdogan is indeed reaching out to new friends: Russia, Iran, and Venezuela. Like the Turkish President, Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei, and Nicolas Maduro all see themselves as underdogs on the world stage, fighting against American imperialism and its dollar hegemony,” Aydemir and Lechner said. 

These leaders, hoping to establish a new multipolar world order, according to Aydemir and Lechner, might “form their own acronymic club: the Machiavellian VIRTUs of Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and Turkey.”

Though these four countries are temporary partners rather than permanent allies, their warming ties are bearing fruit as they are collaborating in the short term to minimise the effects of U.S. sanctions, Aydemir and Lechner said. Increased U.S. pressure will only drive them closer to each other and form an “axis of anger.”

“One area in which the VIRTUs are already cooperating is cryptocurrency,” the authors noted, as Venezuela, Iran, and Turkey are all in the process of creating their own cryptocurrencies in an attempt to establish an alternative system for financial transactions. 

However, the VIRTU group “will continue to be caught in a very un-VIRTUous cycle of currency depreciation, hyperinflation, unemployment, and increased populist attacks on America and the West,” Aydemir and Lechner said, reminding Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson’s argument that countries lacking inclusive institutions are destined to fail.