The Doorstep: Turkey's Gamble, with Soner Cagaptay

May 26, 2022

Ahead of NATO's Madrid summit in June, The Washington Institute's Dr. Soner Cagaptay joins Doorstep co-hosts, Nick Gvosdev and Tatiana Serafin to discuss Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's strategy to reset relations with the West and get what he needs out of potential NATO enlargement.

With Turkey's inflation skyrocketing and Gen Z voters threatening to unseat him in next year's nationwide elections, President Erdogan is betting that demanding concessions from Sweden and Finland and staying friendly with Russia may not only strengthen Turkey's national security but also score him points at home. Will this also win him friends in Washington, DC?

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Welcome, everyone, to this edition of The Doorstep podcast. I am your co-host, senior fellow here at Carnegie Council, Nick Gvosdev.

TATIANA SERAFIN: And I'm Tatiana Serafin, also a senior fellow at Carnegie Council, and am very excited to speak with The Washington Institute's Dr. Soner Cagaptay in a moment about Turkey, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), history, the present, and Gen Z, my favorite topic.

Before that, though, I want to take a moment to acknowledge something that has happened in the United States that I think may take over the conversation for our midterm elections and for U.S. global engagement and what it means as we turn internally—the Texas shooting this week that has completely devastated the nation because it brings back memories of so many recent shootings, Buffalo, and Sandy Hook in the past, which is now the present again.

I want to turn to the BBC chart that I saw, Nick, and want to share with you. They did a really interesting look at the top ten civilian gun-owning countries. Their statistic was "Estimated Number of Firearms per 100 Residents." It was from 2018. Guess what country was number one?

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Well, it would be us.

TATIANA SERAFIN: Yes, the United States, followed by Yemen, which happens to be in a civil war, so that kind of makes sense. The United States in 2018, according to the small arms survey, had 120.5 firearms per 100 residents. Yemen had 52.8 per 100 residents. The disparity is phenomenal. There are many reasons for it, but I think it might change the conversation in November.

Nick, what do you think? You are in Washington, DC now. Have you heard rumblings that the conversation might be turning more inward, that U.S. global engagement might not be a thing in the fall discussion?

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: I think what the school shooting in Texas, that tragedy, on top of some other domestic issues—such as whether or not the Supreme Court is overturning the Roe v. Wade decision, inflation, poor economic performance, and COVID-19 resurgence—all point to the reality that Americans' interest in foreign affairs waxes and wanes with the prevalence of domestic threats. I think for the last three months the Russian invasion of Ukraine has dominated coverage of the news, and now it is being displaced by these other events, including these tragedies. It also speaks to the fact that Americans, and the polling data shows this, by a large majority support giving aid to Ukraine but also don't rank foreign policy challenges—the Russians, the Chinese, the international system—as anywhere near the top things they are worried about.

As events happen that touch on the top things that they are worried about—security, school shootings, how much they're paying for food and energy, the concern about inflation, and the concern about jobs—all of that will push global engagement off the agenda, and as we are seeing, while there is a broad bipartisan majority in Congress for the Ukraine aid package as we saw pass this past week and the bill being flown out to the president in South Korea to sign, the dissenting voices on that aid bill specifically cited domestic concerns. That then may be a harbinger that as we move toward the fall the domestic doorstep concerns will outpace international and global engagement.

TATIANA SERAFIN: We will keep track of that. I just was reading The Cook Political Report, and they are now looking to have even more seats swing to the GOP I think to your point looking at domestic concerns.

Yet Biden is out there still trying to make connections. It didn't get as much press as I thought it should have, but he was in Asia doing a round of meetings with the Quad, with South Korea, and Japan. What do you think the result of it was, for all the lack of detail that we heard coming out of meetings? Was it an impactful trip?

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: It's impactful in that the president is trying to weave together a group of partners in the Asia-Pacific region that will work together not only on security but on economics, technology, and supply chains, and connect it to partners in Europe. The problem that the president has is that you can have all of these great declarations—of course he also raised some questions about his declaration that the United States would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan if it were to be attacked by China—but he is doing so in the context of really at the margins.

The president is laying out a narrative in Asia about democratic countries working together, that our economies will all benefit, but he doesn't have a Congress that is going to pass some of that necessary legislation. The fact that it didn't get as much coverage suggests that it is not yet resonating as a message among Americans. The president is in Asia, but they are not necessarily seeing how it's connected directly to these concerns about jobs, energy, and security.

TATIANA SERAFIN: Speaking of looking for partnerships, we are going to speak now with Soner Cagaptay about our new potential partner with the reset, Turkey.

Thank you again so much for joining us, Dr. Cagaptay. We are so excited to speak with you about a topic that we believe needs to be getting a little bit more in-depth discussion. I think what we are seeing in the headlines are sound bites—Sweden, Finland, NATO yes/no, Turkey yes/no—and I think there is so much more to it.

I am going to start off with elections because we are in an election season as well and so is Turkey, and domestic politics play into how Turkey wants to be perceived in the world. I would love to start out talking about the elections next year and what Erdoğan is expecting.

A subtext to that, a favorite part of my research, is how Turkey's Gen Z is going to impact those elections and how Turkey perceives itself in the world because I read that there are going to be 5 million new voters, and that is about 10 percent of the electorate. That is a lot of votes, and it could upend a lot of things I think, maybe, I don't know. Talk to us about what's going on domestically that may be impacting Turkey on the world stage that we need to understand.

SONER CAGAPTAY: Absolutely. First of all, thank you for hosting me. It is a great pleasure to be with you guys.

Elections matter. Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who ruled the country as prime minister between 2003 and 2014 and as president since, is one of the most consequential leaders in Turkey, in Turkey's region, and globally. He is probably Turkey's first international brand. Everybody knows his name, how to say it, and how to spell it.

But Erdoğan also has challenges. Notwithstanding autocratic rule, he is still presiding over a democratic culture and democratic institutions, many of which he has gutted, but he faces a very vibrant opposition and has some challenges. He has won until recently a dozen nationwide elections, primarily on a platform of strong economic growth. That is Erdoğan's bright side.

He also has an illiberal side. He is a nativist/populist leader. He demonizes, brutalizes, and cracks down on demographics unlikely to vote for him, so that has created an immense amount of polarization in Turkey.

Until recently Erdoğan was able to bypass that problem by delivering growth, and he has lifted masses out of poverty and built a base not only that loves his conservative message but also loves him because he has done well for them economically. That is no more the case. Turkey's economy went into recession in 2018 for the first time under Erdoğan after an unbroken record of 15 years of growth. That is why the shock has been pretty severe, especially for Gen Z voters who have never experienced recession in their lifetime because they were born and raised in Erdoğan's prosperous Turkey. They are having an especially hard time.

Turkey's population is 84 million people. There are about a million people in every age group, so about a million voters join the rosters as voters every year, and they are the people who are suffering most from this crisis because they have nothing else to compare it to. They only remember prosperity.

On top of this, of course, Erdoğan's political style has created a very vibrant but also angry opposition that wants to vote him out. Erdoğan now knows that he has to deliver economic growth again if he wants to build his base. Luckily for him elections are not until next year, June 2023, but some analysts are saying that the economy in Turkey is in such bad shape, inflation is approaching triple-digit levels. Imagine what we have here, where we are worried that it is going to reach 7 percent. In Turkey it is 70 percent and may reach 100 percent, so the economy may not hold, and some people are thinking he might want to do early elections later this year.

Enter the Turkish crisis in NATO with Sweden and Finland. Historically speaking Turkey's population has a love/hate relationship with Europe. I would actually argue it goes both ways. I think Europe has a love/hate relationship with Turkey, at least most European countries do. That means that Turkey's citizens love a good fight with Europe that they win.

I think Erdoğan is doing that. It is not the reason why we have this crisis in NATO. I think Turkey has legitimate concerns that there are fundraising networks by this group called the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Sweden. It is a terror-designated entity by the NATO alliance, so these networks should not be allowed, and the Swedes also have contacts with this PKK's Syrian branch called the People's Protection Units (YPG). Publicly it doesn't look very good. The defense minister in Sweden did a teleconference with a military commander of this group—which is an offshoot of the terror group that Turkey is fighting—and put it on their Twitter feed. That is legitimate.

What Erdoğan is doing, of course, is that he always overlaps what is good for Turkey with what is good for Erdoğan. That has been his foreign policy signature. Turkey has concerns regarding PKK networks and Sweden's contacts with them, and of course if Sweden wants to get into NATO, Turkey is a member and Sweden has to satisfy Turkey's demands. But Erdoğan has many other layers to his move, one of which is that Turkey's population as I said earlier loves a good fight with Europe that they win.

I mentioned earlier that Erdoğan is among the inventors of nativist/populist politics globally in the 21st century together with Viktor Orbán I would say in Hungary. He has perfected this model and other leaders have tried to copy it, but Erdoğan and Orbán are still I would say its inventors, and they do a very good job of it. Erdoğan thrives on his global strongman image domestically.

If he can get the Swedes, and I think he will, to agree to some of Turkey's demands regarding PKK—he may not be able to get them to agree to all his demands—with his control of 90 percent of the media in Turkey he can write a narrative of complete victory. It is the reversal of the Ottoman defeat in Vienna. This is going to be the victory of Stockholm. Of course he is going to take this back home, and the voters will love it.

Whether Gen Z voters will take this is a different story because there is another part of Erdoğan's legacy, which is that he has been in charge for about 20 years now, just about two decades, and support for him among voters above the age of 40 to 45, meaning people who remember Turkey before him, is roughly at a ratio of one for him and one against him. That was until recently. Support for him among voters under 35, people who don't remember a Turkey before him is at a ratio of one for him and two against him.

That has a lot to do with the fact that Gen Z voters abhor the fact that Erdoğan is a Jacobin politician also. He likes to shape Turkey in his own image using government resources, public funding, and education policy, and Turkey's Gen Z voters I would say are Turkey's first horizontal generation—they share more with their peers outside of Turkey in their own age group than with the other age groups in Turkey. They don't understand a world in which you have an autocratic president who bans Twitter and who tells you, "You have to live like this, you can't do that, and socially that is not acceptable." I think his biggest problem is that his top-down socially conservative Jacobin political style does not sit well with Gen Z voters, so he is a politician with multiple challenges, which is why I call him in my latest book a "sultan in autumn."

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: You are talking about socially conservative, top down. You mentioned Orbán, but of course people have also drawn some comparisons to his neighbor to the north, Vladimir Putin. Erdoğan has had a pretty interesting frenemy relationship—friend sometime, opponent other times—with Putin, but we now have the Ukraine invasion. On the one hand, Turkey has been supplying Ukraine with some of the equipment that has been most effective in helping the Ukrainians stem the Russians but, on the other hand, not joining the sanctions.

Turkey is still a hub for Russian energy, but of course that energy is needed in Europe and elsewhere. Also, if Europe is going to diversify further from Russia, the Eastern Mediterranean becomes more important, and Erdoğan has been alternatively helpful and constructive and unhelpful based on whose perspective you listen to.

How do you see Turkey under Erdoğan navigating the demands of its different partners—Russia, Ukraine, the Europeans, and the United States—moving forward, and is that a source of vulnerability for him in terms of how the Turkish electorate will view him as they go to the polls?

SONER CAGAPTAY: One of the reasons I love studying and writing about Turkey—and I have been doing this for just about three decades now—is because I believe if countries could be vegetables, Turkey would be the analytical onion. It doesn't have a core. You peel it, you think you get to the core, it's not there. It is a country that defies Manichean binaries and broad generalizations. That is also the case in terms of Turkey's democracy, whether the country resembles Russia because a lot of people compare Erdoğan to Putin.

I would say while Erdoğan and Putin, the Turkish and Russian presidents respectively, have a strong bond, which I will explain in a second, Turkey is not like Russia when it comes to its democratic record. Again using the analytical onion concept or comparison, I think Turkey is not a dictatorship, so it is not Russia, but it's also not a democracy. It is a democracy that has fallen under an autocrat. To me it looks more like Hungary and Poland, similarly democratic countries that have fallen under autocratic leaders.

As happened recently in Istanbul, Ankara, and Budapest in Hungary, these autocratic leaders have lost their big cities to their liberal opposition parties. That could never happen under Putin's Russia. That is why I think the analogy is that Turkey is more like a democratic country that has fallen under an autocratic leader.

But Erdoğan and Putin get along quite well, and that is interesting because Russia is Turkey's historic nemesis. If you wanted to write a short history of the fall of the Ottoman Empire, you could write it in reverse through the rise of the Russian Empire. Pretty much everything that the Ottomans owned in Europe and around the Black Sea once has been taken from them by the Russians—the Caucasus south and north, Crimea, Ukraine, Southern Russia—or has been helped into independence by Russia in the case of the Balkan States. The Russians, starting with contact during the time of Catherine the Great, brutalized the Ottomans. This was an asymmetrical relationship in which the Russians defeated the Ottomans over and over again. By my count there were 17 major wars, all of which were started by the Russians and all of which overall the Ottomans lost.

That is still the case. Turkey and Russia do not see eye to eye on East Med issues, on Cyprus, on Ukraine, Black Sea security environment, or Russia's annexation of Crimea, which Turkey will never accept. That explains why Turkey supports Ukraine militarily and also Syria and Libya, where it looks like Turkey and Russia share power. These are actually areas where they have a proxy war and have agreed to come to sort of a ceasefire. It does not make them allies.

A lot of people jump to conclusions because Erdoğan and Putin get along so well to say that Turkey and Russia are allies. They are not. But Erdoğan and Putin have a bond. So recently when Erdoğan's candidate lost elections for Istanbul's mayor, Putin called Erdoğan. A friend in government called me and asked: "What do you think Putin was telling Erdoğan? Was he congratulating him?"

I said: "No. Putin probably called him and said, 'How do you lose elections, because that never happens to me?'"

Erdoğan's challenges are multiple at home, but what he is trying to do, as I said earlier, in Ukraine is that he is a Janus-faced politician. He delivers growth but also polarizes to sustain power. He helps Ukraine militarily but wants to keep economic ties with Russia open because remember for him it is all about winning the next election, and that cannot happen if Turkey's economy does not open strongly after the pandemic, meaning Erdoğan wants to deliver double-digit growth or growth nearing 10 percent. Russia is an important partner to Turkey in terms of tourism and trade, so he wants to keep those channels open.

I think the U.S. government understands this because Turkey's support of Ukraine military is so significant and it has made a difference. Drones that Turkey sells to Ukraine have given the Ukrainians the upper hand in the sense that this allows them to deny Russians air superiority. This is still going on—the drones are still being provided, although Turkey denies it. They say: "Oh, it's a company that has nothing to do with government. It is privately owned." The company is owned by Erdoğan's son-in-law. You can't be closer to the government than that. These drones are shipped daily or weekly, and they help Ukraine.

Turkey says it sold Ukraine 24 drones. Russia says it shot down 36 drones. Then I always say, "What is the number of drones still flying over Ukraine?" People joke on Twitter and say hundreds or whatever, but clearly this is a game in which Turkey is militarily supporting Ukraine while economically keeping lines open with Russia.

This also applies to Erdoğan's new foreign policy openings in the region. His Middle East policy, pivoting from the Black Sea to Turkey's south, has left Turkey isolated. This policy, led by Erdoğan for about ten years, was all about singularly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, a political faction that Erdoğan found akin to his own faction, the Justice and Development Party. That has not worked out so well for Turkey. The Brotherhood has been ousted from power in a number of countries, starting with Egypt. It is now considered an illegal organization, and countries in the region, from the Egyptians to the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Emeratis and Saudis, see the Brotherhood as their greatest external and domestic threat and therefore have been hostile to Turkey.

So Erdoğan is trying to reset with wealthy Gulf countries to attract investment to Turkey. He knows that this will help him with elections. The reset is moving forward with the Emeratis, not so much so far with the Saudis and Egyptians, but it is a new era in Erdoğan's politics. It is an era of "charm offensive," it is an era of trying to attract investment, and even trying to curry favor with President Biden. So it is all over resets, and it serves only one goal—helping Erdoğan win elections again. Let's see if that will work out.

TATIANA SERAFIN: Fascinating. I love the historical background that you have taken us through because I think it's so important to understanding a country's psyche and mindset. Certainly with the war in Ukraine history is everything. I think that we are getting that sense.

How historically would you talk about U.S.-Turkey relations for our audience to understand why we are talking about Turkey now. Oftentimes what we try to do here at The Doorstep is explain why everyday Americans need to look outside. What is that relationship?

SONER CAGAPTAY: I love using history to explain contemporary politics. I am a historian of the late Ottoman Empire and early modern Turkey. In fact I wrote my dissertation at Yale on the Atatürk era in Turkey. It explains so much because that is when the house that we call Turkey, the country, was built and finished. Although that happened a hundred years ago it still explains so much of Turkey's psyche, its relationship with the West.

Atatürk wanted Turkey to be completely Western but to compete with European countries and to be better than them, so there is always this competitive aspect, even in the most pro-Western politicians' thinking in Turkey. That meant after Atatürk died in 1938 Turkey's vocation remained Western. The presidents who followed him after Turkey became a multiparty democracy in 1950 took Turkey into NATO in 1952. NATO has been the bedrock of the Turkish-U.S. relationship.

Turkey's ties with different countries are driven by a variety of dynamics: ethnic kinship with Azerbaijan; under Erdoğan religious brotherhood with Qatar; and of course many cultural similarities with Mediterranean countries such as Italy; and proximity and geographic similarities with countries such as Bulgaria and Georgia. By the way, Turkey loves its Black Sea neighbors because they provide Turkey with allies against Russia. So Turkey's best relations are with its Black Sea neighbors, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine of course, which explains Turkish support, Georgia, and Bulgaria. Then there is trade—Turkish-German ties are driven mostly by trade—and diasporas.

When you look at the U.S.-Turkish relationship none of these factors are at play. It is not driven by trade, diasporas, historic or geographic proximity, or ethnic or religious ties. The U.S.-Turkish relationship is mainly defense-driven. It started with Turkey's accession to NATO. The Soviet Union represented to Turkey the Russian threat continuing in a disguise that made Turkey a very staunch NATO ally.

Following the fall of the Soviet Union cooperation in the Balkans—first in Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovo in the 1990s, but also defense projects—kept the two countries connected. The F-16 fighter plane project, which Turkey joined in the 1980s, has kept the relationship strong. Now the F-16s are going to be phased out, and a new fighter jet project is in place, the F-35. That was supposed to take the U.S.-Turkish relationship forward for the next three to four decades because these defense projects are multi-decade projects, but Turkey recently purchased a Russian-made missile defense system, S-400, and for that Congress has legislated sanctions as a result of which Turkey has been kicked out of the F-35 project. That doesn't bode well for the future of the U.S.-Turkish relationship, which means you no more have the bond that ties Turkey and the United States, and in the absence of that I think the two countries risk coming undone.

Why would Turkey do something like that and purchase the S-400 missile defense system? It goes back to Erdoğan's relationship with Putin that we discussed briefly earlier. While Turkey and Russia are not allies, Erdoğan and Putin have a bond. It goes to the aftermath of the failed coup attempt against Erdoğan in 2016. At that time, while most of Turkey's Western allies sat on their hands trying to see what the outcome of the coup attempt would be, Putin reached out to Erdoğan. I think he is a smart politician. He did not commit what I call "reductio ad Erdoğan." He did not reduce Turkish policy down to his passions for Erdoğan. Turkey is, was, and will always be bigger than Erdoğan.

It is a very complicated place. There are so many actors, it is so democratically resilient, and while a lot of people dismissed Turkey and Erdoğan together after the coup, Putin reached out to Erdoğan and invited him over for a visit. Erdoğan's first visit after the coup attempt should have been in my view to Brussels to a NATO summit showing Turkey's support. That didn't happen.

Instead his first visit was to Russia two weeks after the coup attempt, and not to Russia's capital, not to Moscow but to its imperial capital St. Petersburg. And guess where Putin hosted him? At the Konstantinovsky Palace built by Catherine the Great. So his message to Erdoğan was: "Look, my predecessor, Catherine the Great, the tsarina, started the tradition of fooling you Turks. I, Putin the Great, can end it. Let's have a handshake." The handshake meant that Turkey and Russia now had power-sharing deals in Syria and other places.

Erdoğan I think also sees Putin as the protector of threatened leaders globally, and he appreciates the support Putin has given to threatened leaders, which means if Putin stands behind you, you don't fall. Examples include Chávez, Lukashenko, Maduro, and Assad. Not that Erdoğan is like any of these leaders, but the point is that Erdoğan feels safe, that if there is a protest movement against him or he is in trouble at home he can always turn to Putin.

Of course, Putin's platitudes don't come for free. If you were to ask me: "Soner, when do you think Erdoğan decided to buy the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, a purchase that has caused a near fissure in U.S.-Turkish and Turkish-NATO ties?" I would say at his meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Konstantinovsky Palace. I wish I was a fly on the wall and could have heard this meeting content.

I think that purchase Putin knew would fissure maybe permanently U.S.-Turkish ties, and of course six years later here we are, Turkey purchased the system, Erdoğan will not return it because that means the end of his bond with Putin, and the U.S.-Turkish defense relationship faces its biggest crisis in decades and from which there seems to be no graceful exit at the moment.

TATIANA SERAFIN: Fascinating. It leads me to think because here at least you have seen the news that Putin is going to be ousted soon. If that happens, does the Turkey-Russia relationship remain strong, or is it person-based?

SONER CAGAPTAY: I think it's completely person-based. I think this will be Erdoğan's exit. He would be able to return the S-400s because his bond is mainly with Putin. This is an opening that did not exist a year ago. Say Putin is not in office anymore. I think there is a golden opportunity in the U.S.-Turkish relationship that Washington should embrace. It should come with Turkey returning the system and being invited back to the F-35 project and also the defense relationship being reset.

Just as the Erdoğan-Putin relationship is personality-based, the U.S.-Turkish relationship is value-, interest-, and institution-based, so I think it is important to bring Turkey back to the fold of the United States. I am a proponent of keeping the military relationship strong, Turkey being invited back to F-35, and sanctions against Turkey de facto on the Hill being lifted, such as Turkey wants to purchase a new round of modernized F-16 planes before they are phased out because Turkey's own fleet of F-16 planes is too old. Even that is blocked. In Turkey that looks like the country faces an arms embargo. Having said that the U.S.-Turkish relationship is defense-based I think it is important to keep the defense base alive and rocking.

TATIANA SERAFIN: One of the other areas we have talked a lot about over the last few months is China. Where is China in this story?

SONER CAGAPTAY: China is not a huge player in Turkey in the political context because it has got so much other stuff going on. Its Belt and Road Initiative kind of bypassed Turkey. They purchased a port in Greece next door. The Chinese are also buying assets and infrastructure in the Western Balkans. They have made some investment in Turkey, soft loans, which have helped President Erdoğan build highways, tunnels, bridges, and metro systems, creating demand and jobs and of course helping to build his base.

The Chinese are largely missing. Turkey is being completely quiet on the Chinese persecution of Uyghurs, which is shocking because Uyghurs are Turkic and Muslim. They are related to Turks through language, history, and culture. I am a native speaker of Turkish. When I hear a Uyghur I would say I understand at least what is going on, so these similarities are real.

Turkey has been completely quiet regarding the Chinese persecution of Uyghurs. That is because Erdoğan is trying to secure further soft loans from the Chinese and even maybe a swap line. There is already one with the Chinese Central Bank. He has got another swap line with the United Arab Emirates after reset with them.

He wants to broaden the content of the swap line between the Chinese and Turkish central banks, but the Chinese are not taking the bait. Here is why: They know that Turkey is one of the centers of the Uyghur diaspora globally. The Chinese Xinjiang or East Turkistan was a nominal part of Chinese empires for centuries but kind of ran its own affairs. It became part of China only after the Communist Revolution in 1949. When the Chinese went in the rulers of the area fled. Turkey was eager to get into NATO, so it was trying to prove that it was a great U.S. ally. It not only sent troops to Korea, but it also accepted émigrés and exiles from China including the leadership of the Uyghurs.

So Turkey is the first hub of the global Uyghur diaspora. Uyghurs have since migrated to Germany, to Northern Virginia, across from where I live here in Washington, but everybody in China and their cousins all know that Turkey is the first hub and one of the global hubs of this diaspora, so I think the Chinese are never eager to bail Turkey out, to help it, and they kind of stay outside.

That also explains one of the challenges that Erdoğan has. Other than the United States, China is the only global economy that can bail Turkey out if Turkey's economy goes under. I hope it does not, but it does not look very good. That leaves Erdoğan with just one option—the United States and President Biden, which is why Erdoğan has been eager, almost desperate, to establish a rapport with President Biden so that if Turkey has to be bailed out the United States is there, but before that I think he also wants to create a narrative of good ties with the United States in general.

I think Otto von Bismarck once famously said, "Turkey is East if you come from the West, and it is West if you come from the East." I think Turkey is actually East and West at the same time. The point is that when markets invest in Turkey they don't look at just macro indicators. They also look at Turkey's vocation. They want to know where it's going. They want to know if it's leaving the West. Erdoğan wants to create a narrative that it is not leaving the West and that it's okay, and for that he wants to have regular conversations with Biden and photo ops. That hasn't happened yet, and I think that is one of Erdoğan's goals going forward.

TATIANA SERAFIN: A lot of resetting going on and elections going on. I think we will be looking to you to come back and talk us through all of these changes over the next year.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and ideas with our audience. I think this has been really helpful in understanding the region and the issues in a much deeper sense.

SONER CAGAPTAY: Thank you so much for hosting me. It was great fun to be with you today.

You may also like

MAR 10, 2022 Podcast

The Doorstep: Is the U.S. Already at War? with Politico's Nahal Toosi

As we enter week three of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Nahal Toosi, senior foreign affairs correspondent for "Politico," joins "Doorstep" co-hosts Nick Gvosdev and Tatiana ...

NOV 12, 2021 Podcast

The Doorstep: Reversing Missed Opportunities in Africa, with Howard W. French

By 2030, Africa is projected to be home to 60 percent of the world’s working-age population. Columbia Journalism School’s Professor Howard W. French, author of ...

MAR 26, 2021 Podcast

The Doorstep: Assessing Trump's Legacy on Biden's Foreign Policy, with George Mason's Colin Dueck

The Biden-Harris administration made a host of foreign policy promises for their first 100 days in office. Leading the list was linking foreign and domestic policy ...