The February 6 quake could deal a heavy blow to the administration led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, commonly seen as the man responsible for the disregard of building safety codes. The Turkish president came under heavy criticism for the authorities’ sluggish response to this disaster, which affected primarily the Kurds and the Alevi. The quake might equally exert a heavy toll on Turkey’s foreign policy, considering that Ankara’s traditional enemies have shown solidarity with the Turkish people.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is trying to consolidate his regime by jockeying a third term at the helm of the country. The general elections this spring will take place amidst a severe economic crisis. To increase their odds, the Islamists have resorted to electoral handouts and sabotaging the opposition. The elections take place in a very special year: 2023 marks a century since Mustaka Kemal Atatürk proclaimed the republic, a republic which today is facing a full-blown crisis and is drifting further away from the vision of its founder.
Turkey has bombed Kurdish positions in Iraq and Syria in response to the bomb attack in Istanbul, warning this is just the beginning. A wider operation in Syria would help the Erdoğan regime draw attention away from the country’s economic troubles. Besides, it might also be a first step towards solving the refugee crisis. Russia, a country involved in the Syrian conflict, could turn a blind eye to Ankara’s moves because it is interested in exporting natural gas via pipelines transiting Turkey.
In the first half of 2022, Turkey seemed to be trying to tone down its aggressive policies in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. Yet all these efforts were but a ruse. In fact, Ankara never renounced key elements underlying its aggressive strategy. It has recently actually dialed up its aggression in relations with Tripoli, which can further deteriorate the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.
The relationship between Turkey and Greece is once again marked by tension, and Ankara's tough statements have made some observers wonder if this time there will be military confrontations. However, the current crisis seems to be related to the efforts made by the regime in Ankara to divert attention from domestic problems rather than to the old rivalry between the two countries.
Turkey’s threats to veto Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession were interpreted as an attempt to secure certain concessions from the West in the context of economic difficulties at home. The previous policies of the Erdoğan administration – and of post-Ottoman Turkey in general – suggest that Ankara is actually pushing for more: it wants to impose its own agenda and perception over its allies.
More and more international observers wonder if Turkish leaders, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in particular, are truly capable of implementing a change. There are some signs indicating this might be possible, although the more knowledgeable pundits remain sceptic, claiming that a return to the reformist agenda of the early years of the government’s mandate (2002-2009) is impossible.
Ever since the appearance of the Internet and the advancement of the World Wide Web, in the 1990s, it was generally thought that they would decisively contribute to the global democratisation of information. And this they initially did, the demos all over the world gaining unprecedented access to an immense variety of information in all fields of human thinking and action. However, governments and inter-governmental organisations also entered this digital arena and their first instinct was to try to control it.