With Turkey’s presidential elections now in the rearview mirror, and the second round “a forgone conclusion”, the United States and Europe face a tough road ahead, said former Pentagon official and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Michael Rubin.
Rubin argued that the US State Department was wrong to advise both the White House and Congress to go easy on Turkey in the run-up to the national elections on the grounds that any punitive response could play into Erdoğan’s hands.
Erdoğan will do everything he can to consolidate his role at Turkey’s helm for a full quarter of a century, suggested Rubin, and he added that if the opposition’s joint presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu loses in the second round, Erdoğan’s actions – not just his rhetoric – will become more extreme.
“Turks have been fed a steady stream of nationalism if not fascism and racial superiority. The Turkish media bubble is as extreme as Russia’s. The Turkish public is primed for both aggression and distraction. The only question is whether Turkey’s target will be Greece, Cyprus, Syria, Iraq, or Armenia,” he said.
Erdoğan’s disdain for the US will only intensify after the elections, warned Rubin, and he cited “The ballot boxes will have an answer for Biden”, a headline published by Turkey’s pro-government Yeni Şafak newspaper on the day of the 14 May elections.
Supplication is a bad strategy and will only put off Erdoğan further, Rubin insisted, calling on the US to be ready for an ensuing crisis directly manufactured by Erdoğan. “He is likely to take Americans hostage in order to humiliate America to his constituents and extract concessions, much as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea do,” he said.
Rubin went on to suggest that there is no analogy for quite how bad Turkey’s relationship with the West has been up to this point, nor how bad it is about to get, and he predicted that the country is in for much worse days ahead. For pundits who see a silver-lining of hope in the fact that the Turkish elections have gone to a run-off, Rubin reminded us of Iran, where second-round elections are common but not a sign that true democracy is at play in the country.
“Erdoğan is not only Turkey’s most corrupt ruler; he is in competition with Vladimir Putin, Kim Jung-un, Ali Khamenei, Masoud Barzani, and Ilham Aliyev to be the world’s most corrupt person,” said Rubin, referring to the fact that as mayor Erdoğan left office with 13 corruption files, and that the President has eight Switz bank accounts, according to US Embassy documents disclosed by Wikileaks.
The problem Turkey faces is not only Erdoğan’s corruption but also his destruction of Turkey’s once-promising economy, concluded the former Pentagon official. “Nothing in Erdoğan’s record suggests a man capable of recognising, let alone correcting, mistakes,” he said.