As the storm approaches
Turkey is going through very turbulent times – not only economically but politically as well. The difficulty in navigating through this kind of a storm is that it is unlike any we have ever had before. The lines are blurred and money is fluid.
Ankara is still busy trying to define its relations with the West from the perspective of anti-terror activities. If you are a country that has penalized the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) or at least distanced yourself from them, things are relatively OK. But if you are a global power like the United States and your priorities are very far from Ankara’s worries, the language sounds odd and offensive.
Contrary to the sour grapes between Turkey and European Union, Washington and its new inhabitants are familiar with Turkey and the changing political climate. Ret. General Mike Flynn and generals James Mattis and David Petraeus are seasoned hawks from the Pentagon who have seen the best and worst in relations.
Donald Trump is a pragmatic businessman who wants to see Turkey as a trusted and reliable partner in the area with its secular roots. Now the sad thing is Ankara may not be too happy to hear this.
Yet, it is in these times that U.S.-Turkish relations prove to be resilient, practical and result-oriented. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seems to be threading carefully in his approach toward Trump which is a very smart move these days. If a U.S. president-elect can choose to bypass traditional diplomacy, bash China with two tweets and cause the Yuan to lose value, Ankara will have a formidable ally and/or adversary on the other side of Atlantic.
An important businessperson who recently returned from the U.S. after a roundtable meeting with journalists, businesspeople and a candidate for U.S. secretary of state told me that the new administration and financial circles just want an open and regular line of communication with Turkey. “We did not have to explain everything,” she said. “With two sentences, they brightened up and gave credit to our vibrant economy and social stability.”
Trump’s policies will be interventionalist in a minimum sense. And if he does intervene, it will be through two of the U.S.’ biggest hard powers: the business and the military. Luckily, Turkey has good relations on both fronts. So Ankara should quickly abandon the sad rhetoric about FETÖ, how big powers are out there to topple Erdoğan and move on to business as usual. U.S. financial markets and fund managers are keeping a close eye on Turkey and one thing they stress is the “rule of law.” As the FED moves to raise interest rates and invite global money back to the U.S., Turkey should double its efforts to prove that it is a stable market in which to invest. And burning fake U.S. dollars is not the way to do it.
2017 will be a rough year all along. Bekir Ağırdır, a very respected pollster and the CEO of KONDA Research, told me that for corporations and nations alike, it will be the year to hold tight, take root and avoid adventures. “The world is going into this interim ice age,” Ağırdır said. “The political and social climate will be heavy and less tolerant. So we should all stick together and be ready for turmoil.”