Post-July 15 period: Turkey, Russia and beyond

By: Cemil Ertem*

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg is undoubtedly of historical importance for both Turkish-Russian relations and the region where the two countries are located. The meeting is even more significant as it took place in the wake of the July 15 attempted coup. Coupled with the U.S. and EU’s unconvincing objection to the attempted coup and their insincere stance on the matter, the significance of the Erdoğan-Putin summit becomes even clearer.

Certainly, the Erdoğan-Putin meeting went beyond restoring the Turkish-Russian relations that broke down after Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet on the grounds that it violated Turkish airspace in November 2015. Perhaps, this is the most important step taken toward a new world. Unlike during the Cold War period, Turkey is not a country that will act like the satellite of any “super powers,” as it is a central country that is poised to establish a new world. The Cold War period was a bipolar world; however, the period from the end of the Cold War, namely the fall of the Berlin War, to the 2008 crisis, the world seemed to be a unipolar one where the U.S. was left alone. Now, we must acknowledge that this unipolar world is becoming a thing of the past as well.

We are stepping into a new and multipolar world where countries like Turkey will determine the fate of their own regions and contribute to the functioning of the global system. This is why Erdoğan reiterates that “The world is bigger than five” at every occasion. Former Prime Minister İsmet İnönü once said, “A new world order will be established and Turkey will take its place there,” in response to former U.S. President Lyndon Johnson’s letter where he requested Turkey not intervene in Cyprus in 1964. However, the “old world” has continued since then and Turkey has been an ordinary country in it. Now, a new world is being established, and Turkey is not a passive country striving to have a place in it but is the key founding country. The resistance on the night of July 15, democracy watches in the squares and the Yenikapı rally showed that the Turkish public believes in this. The West also knows this reality but consistently turns a blind eye to it. The Western media’s distortion of the July 15 attempted coup and aftermath is related to this fact.

We can suggest that the world system that was established after World War II rapidly dissolved after the 2008 crisis. Moreover, the economic and political unions, as well as basic institutions of the system that were established at the helm of hegemonic countries became rapidly dysfunctional. The world trade system, which was developed under the U.S.’s leadership, the monetary and fiscal policies managed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the monetary system where the dollar and euro are basic reserve currencies as required by the Bretton-Woods agreement do not have the dynamics to overcome the crisis, and moreover has shortcomings that intensifies the crisis.

The gradual intensification of the EU crisis, the EU becoming a direct systemic threat and the U.K.’s evaluation of the EU as unnecessary and a point of crisis shook the foundations of U.S. hegemony. In this period, the U.S. tried to control the Pacific region to avoid losing the thread there. However, President Barack Obama’s administration hasn’t been that successful in this policy. In a short time, China and South Korea built the economic and technological pillars of a new world following Russia where they would enter without asking the U.S. The Obama administration left Eastern Europe to Germany and the Middle East and North Africa to neocons. As a result of this, DAESH emerged and began applying a kind of “Balkanization” process that started in Syria, passed through Turkey and reached Europe.

The advocates of the old world did not pay much attention to Putin and his Eurasian union project. This was because a Eurasian union that excluded Turkey would not go beyond a small cartoon of a new, but rotten Soviet Union. Now, however, there is an opportunity to achieve a Eurasian union that is supported by Turkey.

On the other hand, neocons thought that Putin’s “off-system” stance would facilitate their work, like in North Korea, and pave the way for operations in the Middle East and Turkey. In this regard, they thought Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, Crimea and Syria would negatively affect Turkish-Russian relations and reckoned that hot issues like the fighter jet crisis would initiate a new process similar to the 1853 Crimean War that would be a pertinent tool for the West. Perhaps, the downing of a Russian fighter jet and the escalation of DAESH’s attacks on Turkey were the first indicators of an attempted coup. DAESH’s attack on Istanbul’s Atatürk airport in late June was certainly a very important step that laid the groundwork for the coup and aimed to create a coup psychology and raise the social anxiety to the highest level. As such, we cannot regard the July 15 incidents merely as a conventionally attempted coup like the military coup of Sept. 12, 1980. It was a new-generation occupation and pro-mandate move that was staged on an earlier date depending on Turkey’s restoration of its ties with Russia and Israel.

Now, everybody is preoccupied with the question of what would happen if the coup had succeeded in Turkey. I do not think that the neocon circles that guided the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in plotting the coup would prefer a civil war in Turkey, like in Syria. The most convincing scenario is that conflicts would settle down after Erdoğan and his circle of acquaintances was eliminated and the coup-making soldiers would not abstain from allying with FETÖ in the administration and, moreover, hand it over to “civilians” who had past experience in administration. This is because the outward-oriented Turkish economy has dynamics that cannot be left to the uncertainty of a civil war, even for a short time, for global capital.

The schemers of the attempted coup did not plan a civil war in Turkey, but imagined an autocratic Turkey without Erdoğan and thought that this kind of Turkey would be a country where they could do “stable” business. They are mistaken, as Turkey’s stability is only possible with Erdoğan’s leadership today and it will be so in the near future. This is the public’s democratic preference. The July 15 attempted coup is a historic democracy lesson for the West and a democratic revolution for Turkey. The U.S. and EU must acknowledge this fact and respect the will of the Turkish public at least as much as Putin does. As you can see, a new world is being established.

*Cemil Ertem is a Turkish columnist at Daily Sabah Turkish newspaper

(Published in Daily Sabah on Wednesday August. 10, 2016)