Turkey’s unlikely new friend

Turkey’s unlikely new friend

I am very concerned that there may be no way out from the vicious circle that Turkey’s foreign relations have become stuck in. Turkey has for some time been turning away from Western alliance, the EU and the U.S., and in response the Western alliance has started to be more critical and dismissive of Turkey. Or perhaps the situation is vice versa. But regardless of how it all started, when one side takes a new step in that direction, the other responds in a feedback loop and the situation becomes deadlocked for both parties.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s recent visit to Ankara is just the latest sign of Turkey’s marginalization in the international order. I could never have imagined that the ruling party would go so far as to portray itself alongside such a pariah regime.

It is not just that the non-alignment movement’s heyday is long gone; it is that the new “protest regimes” like Madoro’s have no coherent ideology other than anti-Western populism. I am no friend of the current international system, which is based on much hypocrisy and injustice; I wish Maduro’s claim about “the birth of a new world, based on more justice and equality” could be justified; and I wish that Turkey could be plausible as a rising power in this new world order. I also wish that the critics of the Western-dominated world order like Venezuela could be a model for a better world.

Alas, today’s critics of the West are a long way from presenting a better alternative for humanity, as all of them are authoritarian regimes that have brought their countries to disaster. Their anti-Westernism is little more than disguised contempt for universal values like human rights and freedoms, and their claim for independence from global hegemony only leads to an escape from democratic accountability. They try to justify political suppressions at home under the banner of left or right-wing protest politics.

Their definition of democracy is “majoritarian authoritarianism” at best and “emergency rule” if necessary. They are left or right-wing nationalists who despise individual and minority freedoms. Their so-called anti-imperialism is an excuse for bad governance.

I wish that less powerful countries could develop the kind of politics that could challenge the present world order in the name of more equality, justice and freedom. The inconvenient truth is that this is not the case for the current critics of the West-dominated world order.

Unfortunately, Turkey and Venezuela have nothing in common but their authoritarian politics. However, Turkey still has the chance to differentiate itself from such regimes - and also the stakes are higher for it in not blundering through such whimsical friendships, as we live in the danger zone of Middle Eastern political turmoil. Not only does it not make any sense to gain curious new far away friends (instead of improving relations with neighboring countries), having friends like Venezuela is also bad branding for Turkey.

Ultimately, the Western friends of Turkey should also try to refrain from further marginalizing Turkey by provoking its fears and resentments. Western allies should not turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of Turkey’s politics, but their criticism should be balanced with the sense of trying to avoid further conflicts that will lead Turkey and the region into more chaos.

Nuray Mert, Opinion, Turkey