Dr. Aykan Erdemir is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish Parliament who served in the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee. He briefed the Middle East Forum in a conference call on August 28, 2018.
Three interconnected trends will determine Turkey's position in the foreseeable future:
1. On the domestic front, Erdoğan's centralization of power is careening towards the dynastic, as illustrated by his recent appointment of son-in-law Berat Albayrak as minister of finance and treasury.
2. Economic trends include the ongoing devaluation of the lira, rising unemployment and spreading bankruptcies as Turkey stands on the brink of stagflation (hyperinflation with a contracting economy). Qatar has pledged $15 billion notwithstanding, the only conceivable remedy is an IMF bailout of $100-150 billion. This option, however, is likely to be rejected by Erdoğan because of the strings attached, notably the requirement for good governance, accountability, and transparency.
3. Trends in foreign and security affairs include mercurial, rapid and incoherent anti-Western bouts. Specifically, the crisis in NATO-Turkish relations will deepen as Ankara draws closer to Moscow and Tehran and is about to absorb Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles, which are not interoperable with NATO systems and could compromise the stealth capabilities of F35 jets. In addition, Erdoğan's persistent refusal to release American hostage Andrew Brunson reflects his post-failed-coup policy of "hostage diplomacy," using detained nationals as bargaining chips for Western concessions.
Apart from his broader Islamist outlook, these policies reflect Erdoğan's growing need for distractions from Turkey's deteriorating position. Having failed to deliver economic stability, he continues to rely on conspiracy theories to boost his legitimacy, blaming foreign machinations and Turkey's minorities for the country's domestic ills. And while Ankara has so far refrained from exerting its leverage over the Incirlik airbase, U.S.-Turkish relations will likely remain at an all-time low.
Summary account by Marilyn Stern, Communications Coordinator for the Middle East Forum