by Richard Weitz (vol. 6, no. 1 of the Turkey Analyst)
Whether within a NATO context, acting in parallel with the United States, or as an autonomous actor, Turkey’s importance to U.S. strategy will likely continue to grow in coming years. Turkey has already become a much more prominent global actor backstopped by a dynamic diplomacy, one of the world’s most energetic economies, and a turbulent neighborhood whose security vacuum propels Turkish involvement. Turkey’s rapid economic growth is facilitating the modernization of the Turkish armed forces and the country’s domestic defense industry. Turkey is located astride multiple global hotspots in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. With Europe’s possibly entering a period of prolonged stagnation and with U.S. attention drifting eastward, Turkey could become one of the most influential NATO countries.
The reactions to the resumed talks between the Turkish government and Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), are generally cautious among the Turkish commentators. What is especially notable is that several of those Turkish commentators who have earned a name as experts on the Kurdish issue are particularly circumspect, expressing severe doubts about the prospects of the resumed peace process; notably, they question the motives of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and point out that the Turkish government isn’t offering any comprehensive solution to the Kurdish question, only talking about disarming the PKK. Although that secures the consent of the Turkish majority to having talks with Öcalan, an agreement that disregards the Kurds’ demands will not be viable, they warn.
The protests that started on May 31 in Istanbul after riot police attacked environmental activists, and which subsequently became a wider protest movement against what is deemed the authoritarian rule of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have been hailed by commentators who are critical of the Turkish government. These commentators note that the protests amount to a rebellion against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which they hold has governed – especially since the 2011 election – without showing due respect for the other half of the population that did not vote for it. However, several leading pro-AKP commentators have also joined the chorus of critics by expressing criticism against the way Erdoğan has reacted to the protests. They implore the prime minister to moderate his stance and show empathy for those who are protesting.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.