Turkish Elections: Why Erdogan grabbing the top role again matters for the West
Turkey’s global strategic significance – which has starkly increased amid the war in Ukraine – is well evident as a number of world leaders rushed to congratulate Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his election win on Sunday night.
Erdogan has entered his third decade in power, and it seems Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first to congratulate his Turkish counterpart.
He was so keen to express his good wishes that he didn’t even wait for the official results before highlighting Erdogan’s “independent foreign policy” as a reason for his victory.
It is safe to assume that the Turkish policy Putin is particularly interested in is Erdogan’s refusal to exclude Russia from Turkey’s affairs after its so-called special military operation in Ukraine, even as other members of NATO – an alliance the country is also a part of – imposed heavy sanctions.
Trade between Turkey and Russia has seen significant climbs since the invasion.
But despite their dislike of the situation – to US President Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, Turkey is a crucial ally of the West.
Moreover, despite Erdogan possibly maintaining close relations with Russia, he also provides essential military supplies to Ukraine.
In a famous instance, he brokered a deal that saw Moscow ending a blockade on its neighbour’s grain supplies, allowing them to reach parts of the world that depend on them.
Erdogan also recently gave his approval to Finland joining NATO, although after initial hesitation. The Turkish president is yet to approve NATO membership of Sweden, and the White House has made its impatience to persuade him to give Stockholm the green light quite evident.
While Turkey used to be called the bridge between Europe and the Middle East, the brutal year-long war in Ukraine has transformed its status. While few expect significant foreign policy surprises from Erdogan, Ankara’s strategic allies are keeping a close look.