As Turkey spirals further into economic crisis, ever-strong willed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has intensified his anti-American rhetoric, calling for Turks to convert U.S. dollars into Lira and now urging that Turkish citizens boycott American electronics.
Erdogan’s call for Turks to unite around his anti-American policies has drawn predictably polarized reactions – his entire presidency has been predicated on pitting his ardent supporters against those who disagree with him, and categorically labeling those opponents as “terrorists”.
It remains to be seen if Erdogan’s calls to rebuff America in favor of his preferred allies – China, Germany, Russia, and others – will have any real effect on the Turkish economy, but it is almost a certainty that they will only embolden President Donald Trump to hold his ground.
After all, it was Erdogan’s strong-armed crackdown on political opponents that is arguably responsible for the recently-levied U.S. sanctions against the Turkish ministers of Interior and Justice.
American-born evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson had been living in the Turkish town of Izmir for 23 years when, in the wake of an alleged coup attempt against the Erdogan government by his primary political opponent, Brunson was swept up as part of widespread arrests. Brunson was, like so many tied to the opposition regime of Fetullah Gülen, indicted on charges of espionage, accused of spying on behalf of a Kurdish opposition group. Kurds are one of the minority groups which Erdogan unabashedly labels as terrorists, so Brunson had three strikes against him – connections to the Gülen movement, Kurds, and the fact that he was an American.
That is more than enough reason to be considered a spy in Erdogan’s Turkey, even though those connections are not inherently incriminating at all.
Brunson was imprisoned for more than 600 days before being released to house arrest last month because he had fallen in poor health, having lost 50 pounds will in the Turkish jail. These conditions were ample reason for the Trump administration to demand Brunson’s release. And they did, along with stipulations that, were Brunson not to be released, sanctions would be levied.
And, after Erdogan stood his ground – as Erdogan is almost always known to do – the sanctions were levied, ostensibly worsening the already dire economic climate in Turkey. This Monday, the Lira hit an all-time low, having fallen 40% in comparison to the dollar. This grim reality has not compelled Erdogan to act any more diplomatically, as a nation in Turkey’s position would be wise to do. It has instead led him to declare an all-out “economic war” against the United States.
This move spells out the arrogance of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Despite an economic giant such as China harboring legitimate concerns about their ability to outlast a trade conflict with the United States, Turkey’s egomaniacal president thinks that Turkey – already reeling – can somehow do just that.
“Together with our people, we will stand decisively against the dollar, forex prices, inflation and interest rates. We will protect our economic independence by being tight knit together,” Erdogan told members of his AK Party in a speech.
“If they have iPhones, there is Samsung on the other side, and we have our own Vestel here,” he said, referring to the Turkish electronics company, whose shares rose 5 percent.
Turkey’s defiance of American policy in Syria, revelations that a Turkish state-owned bank may have assisted Iran in circumventing American sanctions, Erdogan’s penchant for detaining Americans, and the nation’s general drift towards hardline Islam has strained an already tenuous alliance with the United States. Erdogan has proven comfortable moving closer to the likes of China, Russia, and those in the EU who remain affected by the state of the Turkish economy – namely Germany, whose Chancellor met via telephone with Erdogan this week to discuss improving relations.
But spitting in the eye of the United States is never a wise move, especially considering the state of the Turkish economy and the elephant-memoried man at America’s helm. Erdogan supporters are reportedly liquidating their U.S. dollars and even burning the American currency in a show of solidarity with their President. However, Turkey was itself a politically and culturally divided nation before the economic hardship hit, as evidenced by the mass arrests and dictatorial climate the nation has taken on.
Is Erdogan really banking on such strong national support that he would antagonize the U.S. President so boastfully?
One has to understand the mind of Recep Tayyip Erdogan to answer that question. Yes, he does believe the nation will support his anti-American reaction play, but even if they don’t, Turkey has plenty of prisons, and can always build more…