While we’ve been writing about the declining situation in Turkey for a while now, events in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s post-coup dictatorship continue to head in the wrong direction. After essentially shutting down the media and disappearing thousands of perceived enemies, their president has now sat down for his first meeting with Vladimir Putin in an effort to mend fences and “reset” their relationship. Why is there something so familiar about that phrase? (NBC News)
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sat dowb with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Tuesday for a diplomatic reset — just as relations with the United States and Europe show strains after last month’s failed coup.
The summit was aimed at ending a period of high tension and trade sanctions after Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border last November — an act described by Putin as a “stab in the back.”
Turkey’s relations with traditional allies including the U.S. have faltered over Ankara’s post-coup crackdown, which has seen nearly 18,000 people detained or arrested and tens of thousands suspended or fired from their jobs on suspicion of being associated with the movement of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
I won’t have too much to add to this story because the implications are so completely obvious. Ever since the coup attempt, Erdogan has been consolidating his iron grip on the nation and assuming a role much more suited to a dictator than the democratically elected government head which Barack Obama, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton all said we needed to be supporting. Despite our leaders’ vocal calls to back him up, the Turkish president has been angling for excuses to cut ties with the west and any agencies who would demand transparency and democratic leadership. It didn’t take long at all for Erdogan to begin blaming the United States for the coup and demonstrating that his relationship with us was little more than a matter of convenience for the moment.
But this has been going on for a while now. Recall that Erdogan seized all Christian churches in Diyarbakir back in April, well before the coup. Shutting down freedom of religion, the free press and any political dissent are all trademark moves of a dictator who probably has much worse in store for his citizens and his neighbors. But he still needs allies, so where does a would-by tyrant turn for new friends? Look no further than this week’s meeting with one of the strongest strongmen on the world stage. Don’t be terribly surprised if you see a meeting with Kim Jong-un in the near future or an announcement of economic, military and food assistance for Venezuela. Erdogan fits the mold perfectly, and if he wants to side with the world’s repressive regimes he’s certainly off to a good start.