Just yesterday we looked at the fact that the Turkish lira has lost roughly one third of its value since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began consolidating his power into what amounts to a tyrannical regime. Their once thriving private sector economy is fading and many stores now sit empty, with foreign businesses being less willing to risk operating there. But it’s not just the economy which is suffering these effects. A new report from Der Spiegel reveals that Turkey’s once mighty military is also losing strength and the cause is almost entirely the fault of the president and his post-coup policies.
In the wake of the coup attempt, Erdogan has been tough in cracking down on suspected conspirators. He has fired close to 100,000 public servants while the governors of 47 districts and the deans of all Turkish universities have been forced to resign. Nearly 200 media organizations have also been forced to shut down. But no institution has been as hard hit by the purge as the military. One-third of all generals and admirals have been suspended from service and the air force has lost 265 of its around 400 fighter pilots. The repression has also been directed at Turks abroad. Erdogan has recalled at least 270 officers and military attachés at NATO bases, including those in Mons, Naples and Ramstein in Germany. NATO Supreme Commander Curtis Scaparrotti warns the dismissals have “degraded” the alliance’s military capabilities.
Part of the problem is the massive number of officers who have been discharged or imprisoned, having been “suspected” of either being in on the coup or having some allegiance to Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, who now resides in Pennsylvania. But even those who have not been removed are suffering from depression, low morale and infighting according to some some of them who were willing to risk talking to Der Spiegel’s reporters. Their numbers are down and confidence in the leadership is waning.
The article tells the compelling story of one very prominent officer, Eyüp Özcan, who had risen quickly in the military and was widely expected to hold a high ranking leadership position. Now he is essentially exiled in Belgium with no rank and no valid passport. According to him he was as shocked as anyone when the coup was attempted and he wasn’t even in the country at the time. So what brought him under the gaze of Erdogan’s party? One of his uncles has an account at a bank which is supposedly tied to Gulen’s organization. For that he was banned.
The one big card that Turkey has left to play is the strength of their military and their key location near the conflict in Syria. If that begins to crumble, western tolerance for Erdogan’s abuses and the erosion of democracy may soften as well. On top of that, he may become less useful to Russia, leaving him to find out how reliable of an ally Vladimir Putin actually is. Either way, none of this bodes well for the people of Turkey.