“Trouble Brewing: Can the U.S. and Turkey Cooperate?”

“Trouble Brewing: Can the U.S. and Turkey Cooperate?”


>>Good evening,
everyone. Welcome to
this meeting of the World Affairs
Council of Western Michigan, and our third in the 2018
Great Decisions series, with topics
suggested by the Foreign Policy
Association of America. I’m Michael Van Denend, and
I’m the Executive Director of the World Affairs Council
of Western Michigan, and our mission is
to equip the people and organizations
of West Michigan to engage thoughtfully
with the world. We are pleased to
partner with numerous West Michigan businesses
and educational institutions to bring you this
important series, and we particularly
appreciate the extra effort of the Calvin and
Aquinas College staff and faculty
as our hosts. We’re also very grateful
to the friends of the World Affairs
Council Endowment Fund for being today’s
series sponsor. After Dr. Ciddi’s
presentation this evening, there will be ample
time for questions. You may use the
response cards that you received
when you came in, or you can text
to the number that’s on that response card
to ask a question. Our World Affairs Council
Director of Programming, Dr. Erica Kubik, will moderate the
Q&A discussion, and that phone number
will also be displayed on the screen
behind me. We also want
to remind you that there are Great
Decisions Guidebooks for sale, with informative
articles on each of this year’s eight
foreign policy subjects, and you can get
those in the lobby. And now,
Dr. Polly Diven, who is a Professor
of Political Science at Grand Valley
State University and a member of the Great
Decisions Planning Committee, will introduce
our speaker. Let’s welcome
Dr. Diven. (applause)>>Thank you,
Michael. Grand Valley State
University is pleased to be a long-standing
educational partner of the World Affairs Council
and the Great Decisions series. I’ve been doing this for about
as long as I can remember, so. Grand Valley has a very
successful relationship with the World Affairs Council,
and we really enjoy it. It’s an educational
opportunity for everyone, including my
students. Dr. Sinan Ciddi is
the Executive Director of the Institute
for Turkish Studies at Georgetown
University. He was born in Turkey and
educated in the United Kingdom. He was awarded his PhD
in Political Science from the School of Oriental
and African Studies at the University
of London in 2007. He was previously an instructor
at Sabanci University from 2004
to 2008, and he also completed his
Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the same
institution. From 2008
to 2011, Dr. Ciddi established the
Turkish Studies Program at the University of Florida
Center for European Studies. He’s also worked
at the school– he’s worked at the
School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University
since 2011. Dr. Ciddi’s areas of
expertise include Turkey, Turkish politics, and Turkish
domestic and foreign policy. He’s written many
scholarly articles, opinion pieces,
book chapters, and other works on
contemporary Turkish politics and foreign policy. He’s also frequently seen in
the media as a guest expert. Dr. Ciddi’s book titled
“Kemalism in Turkish Politics– “Secularism, Nationalism, and
the Republican People’s Party” was published by
Routledge in 2009. It focuses on the
electoral weakness of the Republican
People’s Party. Tonight’s presentation
is titled “Trouble Brewing– Can the
US and Turkey Cooperate?” Please join me in
welcoming Dr. Sinan Ciddi. (applause) (applause)
>>Thank you. (indistinct speaking) Okay, let’s
put this… Okay. Well, thank you very much for
those wonderful introductions. And thank you to both, again, to the World Affairs
Council of Western Michigan and to Aquinas College here,
as well as Calvin College, for taking the time and
resources to bring me out here. But also, thank you
for taking the time to voluntarily come
and speak to me. Most people who do usually
have to in classrooms. You do not. So thank you for
giving up your time. Increasingly, I find it
less and less common to find individuals who actually
attend speaker events across the
country, whether it’s me speaking
or where else– where there are– or other
colleagues speaking. It’s just– it seems to be
something that I perceive to be somewhat
dwindling, but I find it immensely
rewarding, so… thank you very much for
taking the time to do this. There is an aspect of this
talk which is actually specific to the bilateral
relationship that undergirds US
and Turkish relations, in its own sort of
sphere of interest, but there is also, you know,
for people who are interested outside of that obviously
American foreign policy, which I am in no shape
or form an expert in, but also just
questioning where America’s sort of
foreign policy decision-making in the example of
Turkey is headed, is something that I try to
sort of touch upon here. And so, the essential thing
that I want to try and do in the next 30 minutes or so,
hopefully a little under, so to give you as much
time as possible to grill me under
these lights… is to pose a very, at one level,
simplistic question. And it’s not an
academic question. This is a conversation
between myself and you from the perspective
of interest in global and regional affairs, which is
to basically ask the question, “What has
gone wrong “in the bilateral relations of
two seemingly very committed “and very
longtime allies?” That in itself might
not be interesting, but I also believe
it is a harbinger of a wider array
of issues in terms of the United
States’s relationships with other countries
and other alliances, not necessarily under the
present administration, but something that has been
in the offing, I would say, since the
mid-2000s, and certainly something
to take note of. So here’s my
starting point, and this is where I
become honestly useless with visual aids. And in classrooms
that I teach in, it’s usually without
PowerPoints, so some people might not
like me, but there we are. The picture I always
have in my mind when I try to typify
or position the US and Turkish historical
partnership and relationship… is an image. And that image is
one that was in 1946. It’s a photograph that
was taken by a bystander in Istanbul– and for those
of you who’ve been there, you might be able to visualize
this– of the USS Missouri. And for those of you
who are history buffs and Navy buffs and ship buffs,
which I sincerely am not, this is quite
interesting because the ship itself
was the USS Missouri, which was the flagship of
the US Navy at the time. And if you’ve ever
seen the USS Missouri, you will understand
that this is– and this is how
I understand it– it’s a big ship. It’s really big. As far as warships go,
again, it’s really big. It really essentially
does two things. One, in what it was designed
to do probably at a time was to blow things up
and sink things. But in this instance, it
didn’t come to Istanbul in 1946 to do that, but it
was a powerful symbol. It’s a
message. And the message that it was
intended to sell at the time was directed solely
at the Soviet Union. In 1946, the USS Missouri
came to Istanbul and moored off its shore
in the Bosphorus Straits that connects the Black Sea
to the Mediterranean, one of the most strategic
waterways in the world, if you’ve
ever seen it, to basically say to
the rest of the region and reiterate the
president’s and this– and that at the time’s
administration, to the
Soviet Union, that Turkey and Greece
would not be left alone at the hands of
Soviet expansionism. And I think that is
the enduring image that I have in my
mind as to where the substantive
relationship between the two
countries began. But it’s important
to note this… the nature of the relationship
that was established– and it’s something that’s
going to come back to us towards the end of the
conversation and of my talk– and it will say– and it will
draw your attention to this. This was a relationship
that was established out of necessity, out
of existential needs, more so for the Republic
of Turkey at the time, which had come into being as
a republic formally in 1923, when the Ottoman Empire
was dissolved at the end of
World War I. And it also
underscores that without additional strong
economic and values components to what extent can the
relationship be maintained as it has been throughout
the Cold War era? Now, the
United States has, then as well as now,
has a lot of partners. It also has a
lot of allies. It also has a lot of what is
referred to, in this case, also– not a lot,
but a smaller number of what is referred to
as “strategic partners,” in the case of Turkey,
in the case of Israel, in the case of the
United Kingdom, which is referred to as
a “special relationship.” And the Turkish relationship
was born out of, from the
US mindset, an occupying area of
the Republic of Turkey on the
geostrategic map, which is directly located
below the Soviet Union, right? And so, it occupies what a lot
of Turkish Foreign Ministry or diplomats refer to as one
of the most strategically valuable pieces of real estate
in the entire world. The immediate south
of Turkey is… where, historically
and even contemporarily, where two-thirds of the world’s
proven fossil fuels exist. And that was more important
probably a few years ago than it is now, but it’s
still critical to US security and economic interest,
as well as regional, if not global,
security interests. For the Turks, its relationship
with the United States or establishing
that relationship with the United States
was absolutely critical. The Turks didn’t just wake
up one morning and think, “We need a new friend, so
let’s reach out to the US.” Now, Turkey had been
a noncombatant power for the majority
of World War II, but it did declare war on
Germany and Japan in 1944, but was probably
the only country after declaring war
on Germany and Japan never actually firing
a shot in active war. But its desire to reach out
to the Western alliance or the evolving
“transatlantic alliance,” as it came to be
known at the time, was predicated upon
an existential threat that Turkey felt. Which was, if you look at the
map where Turkey is located, right above it, to the
entire east of it, and mostly to
its northwest. Turkey was surrounded
by the Soviet Union. And Joseph Stalin,
in 1944, made his first
expression saying that Turkey needed to
cede some territories, sovereign
territory, land, from itself back to
the Soviet Union. And also, the Soviet Union,
under Joseph Stalin, decided that they should
jointly administer the Bosphorus and
Dardanelles Straits, the narrow waterways which
connect the Black Sea to the
Mediterranean Sea. Now, this, if you
look at the map again– and, again, this is
where I fall short and maybe I should have
done this earlier– connecting the Black Sea
to the Mediterranean, where there is a
direct water flow, would have allowed direct
access for the Soviet Navy, the entire
Soviet Navy, warm-water access to
the Mediterranean. That was a non-starter
for the United States. That is not
an advantage that this country wanted
to see at the time. Similarly,
for the Turks, having seen the ravaging
consequences of World War II, the last thing they
wanted was to be, quote-unquote, “liberated
by the Soviet Union.” So it was a relationship that
was born out of necessity and, in return, a
mutually beneficial one. Turkey joined
NATO in 1952, became a world-class
military power, and gained influence
in the world. I always say that
Turkey’s application and joining of NATO
was the most sensible and most high-yielding
foreign policy decision that Turkish statesmen
have ever taken, simply because if you carry
the seal of a NATO country, but also a NATO country
that possesses the second
largest military, a contributing member of NATO
in peacekeeping operations and active combat operations
across the world, then you have a reasonably
high amount of stature within your
organization. And in return,
you get two things. During the Cold War,
you’d get assurance, even by the Soviet Union,
a superpower of its time, would think twice
before attacking or requesting territory to be
ceded over to the Soviet Union. Even though Turkey was
militarily inferior to the Soviet Union
at the time, having NATO credentials
provided you a shield. But secondly, it also assured
that, even after the Cold War, Turkey was very much protected
from the instabilities and the various conflicts
that ensued the Middle East, and it allowed Turkey to
prosper and develop economically to a G20 country and an economic
powerhouse in the region. Now… this has not always been
a mutually beneficial and glad-handing
relationship where everybody’s been very
happy to talk to each other. Although American
military personnel as well as American
and Turkish diplomats, they’ve had a very good
and lasting relationship, which lasts
to this day. There have been various
crises, up and down, in the
relationship. The first one–
for history buffs, you will like this, I’ll
only mention a couple ’cause there’s been
a lot of them. The first one is the
Cuban Missile Crisis, which basically landed
Turkey right in a hot seat. The United States, at the
11th hour of negotiations with the Soviet Union, said,
“Okay, what will it take “to remove these missiles
stationed off Cuba, “so we don’t have to go to
World War III or attack Cuba “and, by default,
the Soviet Union?” Or “preemptive strike,”
as it was being decided– talked about
at the time. And smart people in
Washington, at the time… kind of smart at the time,
they came up with a good idea. They said, “Look, if we offer a
quid pro quo to the Russians “to remove–”
at the time– “short-range, tactical nuclear
weapons stationed in Turkey, “aimed at the
Soviet Union,” which were already
scheduled to be removed because they
were obsolete. They were to be replaced
with a newer form of missile. “Then maybe the Soviets will
remove theirs from Cuba.” So they thought,
“That’s a great idea.” And that’s what they
successfully negotiated with the
Soviet Union. But when
Turkish diplomats and the Turkish government
found out about this, there was understandably
a huge sense of resentment and a sense of fear and anger,
because it was looked at, from a Turkish perspective,
as well as other NATO members, saying that the
United States, under duress, under direct
threat from its main adversary, was and did
sell out that ally. So how dependable is
this relationship? A second one that I
can sort of elucidate– there’s a few more–
is more recent, in 2003, when the United States and its
coalition partners invaded Iraq, right, to remove
Saddam Hussein. The Turkish government,
at the time, was not excited
about this. This caused a huge
amount of friction for a newly elected
government in Turkey, which had very little
foreign policy experience, had the leadership
of the country– President Erdogan,
at the time– had virtually
never been abroad, let alone stand
up to George Bush, who demanded, “You’re either
with us or against us,” and that Turkey should
open up its airspace and military bases
for Northern Front, and that would facilitate
a quicker turnaround time for a successful deposition
of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Okay. That caused such a stir amongst
Turkish parliamentarians and the leadership
that Turkey said, “No.” And at that time, that
caused a huge rebuke by military hierarchy
here in this country, as well as the
Bush administration and their Turkish
counterparts, really resulting in a
very bitter breakdown of the relationship, that Turkey couldn’t be
seen as a trusted ally, they didn’t come through
for the United States in its newly forming Global
War on Terrorism, right? In each of these instances–
and this is where my– one of the main points that
I would like to emphasize, and it actually goes
beyond the Turkey example, for the wider sort
of perspective and takeaway
from this. In each of these
instances or breakdowns– and there have been more
than two that I’ve mentioned– what you have when
such a crisis occurs, whether it’s the
Cuban Missile Crisis or the Iraq War Crisis and
the bilateral partnership, at the very base level, you have
American and Turkish diplomats, at the level of
the embassies, but also at the level of the
State Department in Washington and also the Foreign
Ministry in Ankara, who have established ties
and working relationships. These aren’t people who
don’t know each other. These are people
who have interacted frequently with
each other. They have
served together. They have experience and
trusted relationships that have taken
years to mold. They trust one
another’s intentions. They work behind the
scenes to work through a public disagreement between
two political entities. That’s what ordinarily
resolves bilateral disputes between countries such as
the United States and Turkey. In addition to that,
in the Turkish case, not necessarily the case for
other US allies and the US, you also have
the militaries. The Turkish
Armed Forces and the US Department
of Defense, all right, again, have very
long-established relationships. They serve in
NATO together. You have Turkish
military commanders who come here
and vice versa. They are in joint
combat operations. They’re in joint
diplomatic operations. Or they serve in
the same arenas. They have colleagues
and friends. The communication levels between
senior military commanders, also, is an additional layer
whereby disputes are resolved. And in the case of Iraq
and the Iraqi invasion, that was pivotal to
overcoming the difficulties. And if, when all else fails,
if those things aren’t enough and there needs to
be a higher level, then you have the level
of heads of government. In the case of the US,
you have the president, who can pick up the phone
to his Turkish counterpart, the prime minister, or now
it’s the president of Turkey, and say, “Hey, look, I know
you have issues about this,” or “We thought through about
this, etcetera, etcetera. “Here’s a way to overcome
this difficulty.” And that has
always prevailed. Now, what has led
some since about 2012, but more so, if you want to
take it back slightly more, in 2010, each of those layers
have started to fail as a way of defusing
major bilateral disputes. And it has led some analysts,
particularly in Washington, but also Turkish
counterparts, who, you know, in think tanks
across both countries or, you know, current
or former diplomats or former military commanders,
or former presidents, saying the relationship is,
quote, “at breaking point,” that we may have
reached the precipice whereby the relationship
cannot be repaired. And there are two,
I think, major reasons as to why this
is happening. There are more nuanced
and more detailed things that we could
bring into this, but to save time
and just sort of make the boldest points that I can,
that might encourage discussion, I’m going to
concentrate on two. One is based on the
immediate dynamics of the region that
Turkey’s related in and the US position as versus
the Turkish position there. And the second aspect is
entirely from the perspective of Turkey’s domestic
or political– domestic, political
happenings. On the regional
politics, on the regional sort of
politics playing out, what you have that
has really brought the relationship
to a breaking point is, amongst other things,
but most spectacularly, the case of the
Syrian Civil War and the fight against
the Islamic State that has really frayed up
since– particularly since 2012. Now, we could– I could
spend several more hours talking about this, but
the essential problem boils down
to this… the United States,
since 2012, has lacked a
broad-ranging policy as to what its
role should be or what an equitable solution
for the Syrian Civil War and the Islamic
State should be. The Turks allege and state that
this is too narrowly focused on the defeat of
the Islamic State, without having any
sort of scenario for what will happen to
Syrian regime stability, who will get to
run the country, the position of
the Assad regime, whether he
stays or goes. And that’s important because
that broader perspective is necessary because,
if it’s not, then the region
could destabilize, and the interests of ally
countries, such as Turkey, but also foes or adversary
states, such as Iran and Russia, also will try to
fill that vacuum. And that is exactly
what is happening now. At the outset, the
United States and Turkey, on the big picture,
were united. Assad had to go ’cause he
was a destabilizing factor. Right? And secondly, the Islamic State
had to be eradicated. Now, over time, this
scenario has changed. First of all, the United States
withdrew its position from trying to get rid
of the Assad regime or insisting on the
removal of Assad. Whereas, for Turkey,
the existence of– on this– the longevity
of the Assad regime presented an existential
national security threat to Turkey. Furthermore, the United States,
according to Turkey, focused all
of its efforts in trying to defeat
the Islamic State, without giving
any consideration to regime stability
or country stability, and what will happen after the
Assad or IS regimes falter. The United States’s answer
to that was work with… disparate elements of
the only fighting force, which the US
wanted to back to defeat the
Islamic State in Syria, which was the Kurdish PYD/YPG,
People’s Protection Units, forces, Syrian local actors
to defeat the Islamic State… as opposed to having
US boots on the ground or possibly working with
allies, such as Turkey, to defeat the Islamic State
and, as Turkey requested, defeat or overthrow
the Assad regime. And what you have
to understand, this brought the United States
and Turkey head to head. The Syrian Kurdish
fighting forces in Syria, local Syrian Kurds, the YPG and the political
faction, the PYD, are considered, by Turkey,
as a terrorist organization. They are the
direct offshoot, direct ally of
the separatist– pro-separatist Kurdish
organization in Turkey that has waged secession
in war in Turkey since the
early 1980s. President Erdogan’s words,
at the time, were to say– asked the US administration,
just a few months ago, “How can you seek
to defeat terrorism “by working
with terrorists? “Why don’t you
work with us?” Now, this has come to
such acrimonious level of distrust between
the two countries, whereby diplomats,
military personnel, and the presidents
cannot overcome this ’cause it’s reached
the boiling point, whereby 23 days ago, the
Turkish Armed Forces, the military
of Turkey, began a military incursion into
the northwest Syrian province of Afrin. You have combat troops,
Turkish combat troops targeting and shelling
and killing YPG elements directly backed by
the United States. And Turkey’s also
declared its intention to carry on after the
capture of Afrin into the nearby
town of Manbij, where there
are US troops, where the US military
said, “We would advise “our Turkish partners
not to come close “or fire upon us
because we will resist.” And Erdogan’s response has been,
“I would get out of there “if I were you, because
we’re coming no matter what.” That looks like a very
escalatory situation to me. As we speak, the US
Secretary of Defense as well as the US
Secretary of State are in Ankara trying
to defuse this. This is kind of
a Hail Mary pass because the Turks
aren’t listening. So this is
a particular– this particular point I’m
making is concentrated upon a lack of clear US strategy
beyond the defeat of ISIS, which local actors,
such as Turkey, but broadly speaking, other
actors such as Russia and Iran, are taking
advantage of. Now, if you ask
the question, “Well, what should be the
United States’s position “in Syria beyond the
defeat of Islamic State?” That is not an answer
I can provide you with. And I think this is a question
that the previous administration as well as the present
administration also grapples with. And it’s not an easy
decision to make because there is no
good answer to that. If you say, “Well, the Islamic
State should be defeated, “but we should also
ensure regional stability “so that ally countries, such
as Israel or Saudi Arabia, “certainly shouldn’t
be antagonized. “They certainly shouldn’t
come– fight other– “come into a conflict situation
with other countries. “There needs to be some
sort of clear US policy, “whereby regime
stability “or territorial integrity
of Syria is ensured, “which allies
can exceed to.” That’s a
difficult outcome. That will require US troops to
be put on the ground, possibly. How is that going
to be done, given that the previous
administration looked at this, rather fairly, I
would think, and say, “You tell me– you
draw me a line “between point A
and point B, “whereby we putting another
200,000 troops or more “into Syria gets us an
outcome which ensures “a democratic
outcome for Syria, “the end of its
civil war, “the defeat of the
Islamic State. “Do our troops
stay there? “What is their
mission?” Because the cases of
Iraq and Afghanistan certainly aren’t
winning cases that have given us a clear
answer to questions like that. But a lack of
clear strategy and just backing
one group in Syria to defeat
one enemy has given the pretext to
countries, such as Turkey, to look at it and say,
“That’s not good enough for me, “so we’re going to
take our own action.” It also, to
other powers, such as our greatest adversary,
the Russian Federation, to look at the
United States and say, “Huh. “The US has signaled for the
first time in a long time “that it is not prepared
to do anything.” Therefore, we can do whatever
we like in the region, too, hence you don’t even have
to do anything in Syria. They’ve already taken
territory from the Ukraine, and they’ve also
hinted at the fact that they may be
interested in attacking possibly some of the Baltic
states, even Georgia. Conventional forces,
even in Poland, have been beefed up
by the United States, but it’s local actors
or regional actors, such as Iran and Russia,
are calculating US inaction, therefore basically
encroaching and destabilizing
aspects of the region. In the case
of Turkey, lack of clear policy
or determined policy, which can be
formulated, is driving two
longtime allies apart. The second and
last reason, a big reason as to why
these two longtime allies are coming sort of
to a breaking point is entirely related– or
mostly related, I should say, ’cause now there’s a US
perspective coming to this– at the dysfunction
within Turkey’s domestic
political arena. Now, to save us time,
I can elucidate this in the question
and answer session. But you’re looking at
a leader of Turkey, President
Tayyip Erdogan, who is seeking
essentially to be elected or re-elected as the country’s
first executive president. It’s a term in political science
that doesn’t exist at all, simply because Turkey,
up until last year, was a parliamentary
system. And for a variety of reasons,
Erdogan has interested and has successfully
displaced that system to impose a new
presidential system, which will allow the president
to draft and pass laws by himself, without any
recourse to Parliament, can override any parliamentary
laws that he likes, is not accountable to
any judicial oversight. Okay. And in order to do this– there
are other provisions of this, and he gets to
select two-thirds of the Supreme Court
in Turkey now, under the new system
of government. You’re looking at
phenomenal amount of powers that has been granted to
the presidency in Turkey. In order to do this, he needs
to do one simple thing. He needs to receive 50% plus
one vote in a general election coming up next year
or possibly this year. So he needs
to gain votes, one of the few democratic
institutions left in Turkey, possibly. So in order to essentially
convince a broader section of the Turkish
electorate, half of which has
consistently voted against him in previous elections,
he needs issues. One critical issue, which he
is using to his advantage, is the arena of
foreign policy, what I call the “weaponization
of foreign policy,” to cajole nationalist voter
sentiments in his favor. In July
of 2016, Turkey experienced a coup
attempt to topple Erdogan. That allowed
Erdogan a pretext to look at the international
arena and say, “Huh… “this is your moment of you’re
either against us or with us.” To the United States,
he has attributed a large part of the blame
for why this coup happened. There is a cleric
that resides in the American State of
Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gülen. You may have heard
about him, or not. Michael Flynn is being
implicated for trying to extradite him to Turkey
for $15 million. Who knows? If there is
a Russiagate, there is also a
Turkeygate, believe me. And that will come out
in the Special Council’s investigative report, alleging to some of
these characters that have
been indicted. But in this case, the coup and
the mastermind of the coup was allegedly
Mr. Gülen. And it’s– in my opinion, I
don’t know how one individual in America can carry out
a coup d’état in Turkey, but it also stands, to me,
he had a lot to lose, as an individual, had
the coup not happened. And it does
seem reasonable that a lot of coup sympathizers
and military personnel were sympathizers of
the Gülen movement, but we have no proof beyond
circumstantial evidence. Nevertheless… Erdogan has demanded the
extradition of Gülen based on a joint
extradition treaty that exists between the
United States and Turkey. The US’s position is, “Well,
we’d be happy to take a look “at that extradition
request, “but in order for us to hand
over a US resident to you, “those accusations that
hopefully you can prove “have to stand up in a
court of law in the US.” Turkey’s failed to
produce that material, and Erdogan has
slammed the US for harboring a coup d’état,
a coup-maker. Or, in their rhetoric, they’re
saying, “You are harboring “our version of
Osama bin Laden. “And we have cooperated
with you historically “in handing over
criminals, “and you are not
coming through for us.” To escalate
this tension, Turkey has started detaining
US citizens arbitrarily, without recourse to lawyers
or State Department personnel, and also, Turkey
citizens who work for US missions
in Turkey. One headline case is
an American pastor who has been in Turkish
jail for over 12 months, a person named
Andrew Brunson. And Erdogan is on record for
saying, “What’s the problem? “You have a cleric
in Pennsylvania, “and we have a cleric
here in Turkey. “You hand him over, and
we’ll hand over this guy.” That, in my book, is
hostage negotiation, right? But on another level,
it is really resounding with the base of
Erdogan voters or people who might not
necessarily support Erdogan ordinarily. It is a very powerful message
of anti-American sentiment that Erdogan is using to
cajole voters to vote for him. It’s what I call the
“weaponization of
foreign policy.” October of
this year– if you ever tried to go
to Turkey as a tourist, from October for a
brief period, the United States
State Department announced that all non-immigrant
visas for Turkish citizens would not be processed
in Turkish embassies and consulates. That sent a shock wave
through Turkey, saying, basically, that
that was one step removed from taking
diplomatic measures, such as removal of
ambassadorships or closing down
the embassies. That problem has
been since overcome. But in the Brunson
case, for example, what has been talked
about in the US Congress, and you might see this in the
coming weeks or months ahead, there are sanctions being
proposed against Turkey as a result
of this, simply because the arbitrary
detainment of US citizens is now deemed to be
an unacceptable hostage negotiation
tactic used by Erdogan to essentially shore up
his voter base, and the Americans are
getting fed up with this. What does all
this mean? Three things,
then I’ll be silent. Well, the earlier
point I mentioned, these crises may
have been overcome with a lot more poise, or both
sides, in the case of Syria, or, in the case of Erdogan,
over domestic politics, may have not used
the other, again, as a weapon
against the other. If there were stronger
economic ties… that made the
relationship more vital, an economic
component to this, then Erdogan might think
fairly differently. But the problem is the
Cold War is over, right? There are regional disputes
and security issues, which the both sides really
do need each other with. But at this point in time,
it makes much more sense for one party perceivably
to demonize the other for short-term
political gains. Beyond the diplomatic and
military relationships that have undergirded
the relationship, there isn’t a whole lot to
hold this thing together. The second point is something
that’s a little bit more thought-provoking
for me, with the incoming of this
present administration since January
of 2017. But let’s look from the
glass of a Turkish lens. Historically, decision-making
for foreign policy and security policy in Turkey
is a very institutional process. This is the realm of the
Foreign Ministry in Turkey. Seasoned diplomats, the Foreign Ministry in
Turkey is a very apolitical, career-driven, very shrewdly
and highly regarded institution of Turkish
government, right? None of these people
that work in there– or very few, I would say, or
in the Turkish Armed Forces, who weigh into foreign policy
decision-making in Turkey, would have allowed matters to
get this far down the road in terms of being
so acrimonious. But the problem is the
Foreign Ministry in Turkey as well as the armed
forces in Turkey, as contributors to
decision-making informers, have been marginalized
and sidelined by Erdogan. They do not weigh
into this process. This is President Erdogan in
Ankara, and 7 to 10 guys, unilaterally making
decisions by themselves. There is institutional capture
and capacity failure in Turkey. No Turkish diplomat
that has served in NATO or in US missions
would condone this, what’s going on between
the two countries, but they are
helpless. But conversely, for the first
time in I don’t know when– I’ve only been
here 10 years– you are seeing the same
problem in Washington. United States
State Department is not an entity which is
now weighing significantly, as far as we
can understand, into foreign policy
decision-making that the president
is advocating. And that is a problem
because now you have not two institutions
working behind the scenes to resolve disputes between
two very critical partners, but you have
two personalities which are looking at
the political arena from their own
personal, domestic political gain
situation. And that is not necessarily
something that’s bad for America and
Turkish relations. But from your perspective
or my perspective, from the perspective
of American politics, how else is that being
negotiated with US interest vis-à-vis Europe,
vis-à-vis Southeast Asia, vis-à-vis anywhere
else in the world? Finally,
related to that… again, in the
Turkish case, Turkey, for the first time
in possibly as far as since the founding of
the Republic in 1923, the end of the
Ottoman Empire, Turkey lacks what
foreign policy wonks like to call a
“grand strategy.” Turkey’s grand strategy
was rather predictable. It was based on a pro-West, NATO,
European Union perspective both economically,
strategically, and militarily. Turkey was one of the
most indispensable and one of the most
predictable Cold War allies that held as the
essential Eastern flank of the NATO
alliance intact. Intelligence-gathering,
forward deployment, and basically holding the
Eastern flank together. That has largely disappeared
under Erdogan’s desire to usurp power
into his own hands. We don’t know where Turkey
stands on any given issue, least of all a
grand strategy. And finally,
you should note that Turkey is not
alone in this. For the first time
in a really long time, probably since the
White House of Nixon, what is the United States’s
grand strategy in foreign policy? Where does
that stand? And I do not mean
that facetiously. There is a huge
gaping absence of what the United
States position is in relation to any given
geographical region, and that has been
felt everywhere, whether it’s the
European Union, but whether it’s the
nearer Middle East, such as Paris, such as
Egypt, Turkey, Israel, and allies in the region,
such as Jordan, but also in
Southeast Asia. And that is having
knock-on consequences that we’ll probably
start to feel even more negatively
as time goes on, such as, what will be the
next Russian incursion that will hurt
US or European, and/or European diplomatic,
economic, and military interests in Eastern Europe, the
Baltics, or the region? Thank you
very much. (applause)>>All right,
thank you, Dr. Ciddi. So we’re going to start
with some questions, and actually you’re free
to text in some questions. I may already have some, but
my internet is a little slow. So I’m going to start out by
just asking you quickly to maybe talk a little bit
about the wider issues that are happening
in the Middle East, especially in regard to what’s
happening with other countries. You know, where as Iran,
Russia, Saudi Arabia– what do they have
to gain or lose with the crumbling of
US-Turkey relations?>>That’s a really
good question. It helps me sort of pan
out a little bit more what I was trying
to elucidate. I think the Turkey
example serves as a really
pivotal example, whereby the breakdown in
the relationship, right, signals to other
regional actors and has signaled to other
regional actors, essentially, that everybody is possibly free
to pursue their own interests, as they perceive it,
without a clear US presence and US dependability
as presented in the– as thought
by the Turks. For example, one of the
main things that are being carried out by the Russians
right now, and this is– for the Russians, this is
the lowest cost investment that is paying
off hugely, independent of the
whole Russia election interference
investigation here, again, which was less than half
the cost of one fighter jet, apparently. But in the case of
Turkey, for an example, Russia is explicitly allowing
the Turkish military access to airspace that
it controls in Syria so that Turkish
fighter jets, in their military campaign
to take out the Kurds, which are backed
by the US, Russians are allowing the
use of their airspace so that Turkey bombers can
bomb the Kurdish YPG elements. Now, you might think,
“Well, so what?” Well, the “so what” is this–
when Turkey invaded Afrin 23 days ago, it sought the permission
of the Russian Federation, saying, “Can we
use your airspace?” And the Russians
said, “Yes.” And it just informed the
United States that it was– this is what
Turkey was doing. I guess what I’m trying
to say is the Russians are basically offering
any sort of tidbit, a really
attractive scenario to pull Turkey away
from the sphere of NATO and its relationship– and
embitter its relationship with the United States
because it costs nothing. Even if it doesn’t
work, so what? But in this case,
it is paying off because Turkey’s looking
at this, thinking, “Great, “I can bomb
my adversary, “the Russians are
helping me do this, “and the US, I
don’t really care.” Turkey’s also
poised to purchase a missile defense system
from the Russians, the S-400 defense system,
which is not a NATO system. A NATO country cannot
purchase non-operable or interoperable defense
systems from Russia because no NATO member can–
would stand for that. But the Turks are
doing it because… it’s a message being
sent to Washington, saying, “You’re not
coming through for us, “so here is
our message. “We’re going to buy
Russia-manufactured stuff, “and that’s going
to really annoy you.” Iran is looking at this
and thinking, “Wow, “this is a golden
opportunity for us. “Not only did we secure
the nuclear Iran deal, “the JCPOA,
great, “that allows us to no longer
be imposed on by sanctions. “But again,
in the absence “of the United States
in the region, “we can really try to
impose our strategic will, “our sphere
of influence,” and they are doing that
to quite a high degree, both in Syria, but also
across the greater region in terms of economic
interests for now. But countries are
trying to fill a void where a huge void
left by the US is. And the longer-term
of that could be, whether it’s Saudi Arabia,
whether it’s Turkey, whether
it’s Egypt, that vacuum or
power vacuum that was once very
clearly felt there, what the US
position was, is being taken advantage of
by other regional actors, and that could spill over
into destabilizing elements. What if a Turkish soldier
accidentally fires upon an American soldier in
the days and weeks coming? What will be the
outcome of that? Nobody knows, and no
one wants to guess.>>Just a quick
follow-up, what about some of the smaller
GCC countries, like Qatar, the UAE, do they have a
role to play in this?>>Yeah, they are
extremely worried. Most of the Gulf states are
extremely worried vis-à-vis Iranian expansionism
into the region. I mean, they’re– up until now,
they have been very confident that what essentially
keeps them safe and sound is a steadfast commitment
by the United States, for US sort of presence
that would essentially maintain their interests
and their viability. But as we now know, as
we can see very clearly on the regional strategic map
that that’s no longer assured. The president here has
basically said, “Well, “you know, what do
I get out of it?” And that, that does have
sort of consequences, why a lot of
these countries– for example, Qatar– trying
to find regional alliances to make sure that
that doesn’t happen. So Qatar has allowed
the Turkish military to open up a base
in Qatar itself. The Qataris and the
Saudis, for a time, which is no
longer together, worked with
the Turks to essentially take
down the Assad regime. Now, the Saudis have
pulled out of that because the Turks
no longer insist on deposing
Bashar al-Assad. But Qataris and Turks
still work together. So I mean, it’s fluid alliances
that are typified by uncertainty of where the global
international order norms spearheaded by
the United States really have a clear position,
just in this region alone, not to mention
other regions.>>Thank you, and, you know,
I’m getting tons of text questions now, so we’ll
try and hit as many as possible. Thanks, Mark, for
sorting me out. Can we briefly
talk about power? Who needs
who more? Does Turkey feel like they
are the key to US success in the
Middle East, and so they feel like
they can exert power? Or do you think
that’s reversed? I mean, who holds
the upper hand here?>>Good question,
thank you. You know, if I was– I’ve
never served in government. I’m not a foreign policy
decision-maker. But you know, I’m
a wooly sort of guy who teaches some aspects
of this in class, so I don’t necessarily
have a nuance for the sort of practicalities
of this on the ground. But one of the things,
you know, from statecraft, I would think,
is you don’t want to necessarily think of
relationships in that way. And I know diplomats
tend not to look at– that’s not a very
fruitful way that rational, cool-headed,
calculating actors make, especially allies, but it seems to be where
the Erdogan administration in Turkey is
taking things. That being said, as an
American citizen, if I say, from an American perspective,
if I had to put this out, again, this is
where I fall short. I should’ve put
a map up there. And this is really
a question of a map. If you put the map of
the Near Middle East up with positioning Turkey,
it’s a simple– when you talk about
who needs more in this, you know, Turkey would lose–
if the relationship really became acrimonious and you had
a withdrawal of ambassadors and closing of
diplomatic missions and– I don’t think it’s
going to come to that. I think it’s going
to hobble along just pretty acrimoniously
for a while. But let’s say–
here’s my bit– I say this in class. “If you just look at the map,
the simple fact remains “that without Turkey’s
cooperation, “short or medium
or even long-term, “the US cannot
achieve its security “or economic interest in
the Middle East, period.” That is not me saying it
as a citizen born in Turkey or someone that
has Turkish pride. It’s a simple fact that is imposed upon president
after president after president. “You have to
suffer the Turks “if they don’t fall in line
with you, because you have to.” It’s not simply a case
of, “Let’s just shut up “a couple of
air bases here “and relocate them
to Northern Iraq.” It’s not
about that. If you look at just– you can
Google this and sort of see strategic deployment of
US assets in Turkey, whether it’s nuclear
weapons, air bases, but more than that, joint
intelligence-sharing centers– not kidding, joint
intelligence-sharing centers. The highest and
most secretive level of intelligence gathering in
the region is located in Turkey. But also, airspace– you
can’t change that, right? In the Iraq War,
in the last one, had Turkey opened
up its borders, not to say it would’ve only
lasted– it would’ve been a cost and game-changer
and loss-of-life-changer had Turkey been a
cooperative partner in that. But just in
the longer term, when you can’t put
your finger on it, but military commanders
impress upon this, but more so diplomats
impress upon this in the State
Department. They say, “You can’t achieve
the broad swath of US policies– “strategic, military,
and security– “in the region without
Turkey’s cooperation. “It’s folly.” So, from our perspective,
we would lose huge. Turkey just happens to
occupy a zone of territory that’s critical
to US interest. I’ll give
you one more. You know, it was
the Soviet Navy then. Now, it’s the
Russian Navy. Right, if we came into
a state of active combat with the Russian
Federation, and, you know, Turkey
possesses the unique ability to prevent Russian
naval ships from being deployed into the
Mediterranean and beyond. That alone– it’s the third
most strategic waterway in the entire world,
and Turkey knows this. Outside of the Panama
and Suez Canals, it’s the most strategic
waterway in the world. You don’t want– the
policymakers look at this, and say, “Okay, we
have to suffer this.” But even more
immediately now, why have we degraded
and basically defeated the broad swath of Islamic
State in Northern Syria? Because in the
summer of 2015, Turkey said– lit a green light
to the United States to deploy US military aircraft,
fighter aircraft, and bombers, from the Incirlik Air Base,
southeast Turkey, which is a
NATO base. So it was specifically
designed, and it specifically operates
for NATO combat operations. But the Turkish Parliament
granted it specific permission to conduct– to allow
the United States to conduct combat operations
against Islamic State targets. You can ask, “Well, was it
just one military air base?” Yes. Before the summer
of 2015, US fighters were taking
off from the Persian Gulf and the Eastern
Mediterranean. By the time they reached
their Islamic State targets in Northern Syria, those
planes ran out of fuel. Incirlik Air Base
was a hundred miles short of the Islamic
State strongholds. That allowed
American aircraft to carry out 24/7 bombing
sorties and target strikes, called by the YPG fighters
on the ground to eliminate Islamic
State targets. Just in the
immediate sense, any American military
commander on the ground in Northern Syria would have
said, “Are you kidding me? “You suffer, you do what you
have to in terms of playing “around with your political
counterparts in Washington. “You do what you have to,
but keep this place open.” Just in that immediate
sense, it’s indispensable. But like I said,
there are longer and more strategic things
people are thinking about.>>So you
mentioned Russia. What is the Russian-Turkish
relationship right now? Are we seeing maybe more
interest in establishing a relationship with
Russia and Turkey now, or what’s
going on?>>President Putin,
a couple years ago, looked at Erdogan…
(chuckling) was about 2014– he
commented on the president, “Yeah, I like that guy–
he’s a tough guy.” I think they sort of
gravitate towards each other in terms of the
tough-guy stance. Turkey and Russia have a very
complicated relationship, both historically and
in contemporary times. During the Ottoman times,
one of the main reasons why the Ottoman Empire
dwindled so much was because they lost successive
wars against the Russians. So there’s historical
animosity there. In modern times,
Cold War adversaries. In post-Cold War times,
Turkey is Russia’s second biggest
trading partner. Turkey has a very sophisticated
economic relationship with the Russian
Federation. Turkey is 60% dependent on
Russia for its natural gas. Turkey, I don’t know
if you know this, virtually has no
fossil fuels. We don’t have any oil..
not much, anyway. We are completely dependent
on foreign imports for gas and oil, so that
presents a complication. So 60% of Turkey’s natural
gas comes from a pipeline from Russia, down
the Black Sea, into Turkey, and is
disseminated into cities. So for industry, electricity
production, heating… that’s a pretty
dependent relationship. And in return, Turkish
agricultural producers sell the bulk of their
agricultural produce to the Russians. Not exclusively,
but a lot. Russian tourism to Turkey
is historically a lot. A lot of Russians,
somewhere in the region of, I can’t remember how many, but
8 to 10 million Russian tourists come to Turkey every
year– that’s a lot. But also, services
and trade. Turkey sells a lot of
manufactured goods, cars, semi-manufactured
goods, to Russia. So the economic relationship
is very established, but that’s not necessarily what
undergirds the relationship. In terms of
strategic influence, Turkey and
Russia almost see very little that they
are compatible with. The Russians
consistently back and have very good reasons
to back the ascendancy and longevity of the
Assad regime in Syria. That was true
during the Cold War. But even now, in
the post-Civil War, the Russians are very
investing in the Assad regime. For them, it didn’t
necessarily have to be Assad, but a strong, central,
pro-Russian regime in Syria was something that they
backed very consistently, whereas Turkey is not
interested in that. Turkey shot down a
Russian fighter jet in November of,
gosh, 2015? I can’t quite remember now,
which, if the Russians had reciprocated and
fired upon Turkish jets, then that would have
been an Article 5 NATO…>>Right.
>>So, right now, again, Turkey and Russia
seem to be cooperating… for now… simply because the Russians
are looking at this, thinking, “Yeah, this is kind
of working for us. “What do we gain? “We have a strong relationship
with the regime in Syria. “We can also probably
burn the Kurds “in areas where we have
maintained their independence “and safeguarded
their livelihood “by allowing the Turkish Air
Force and the military access “in bombing campaigns
against them because, hey, “burning Kurds is
more preferable than– “sorry, because
it allows us “to basically tear away a
NATO ally from one another, “undermine the
NATO relationship.” But over the
longer term, can the relationship–
is it a partnership? I don’t think so. This is going to come to a
head at one point or another, but right now, they seem to
be able to work together. And that’s really upending
predictable balances that we’ve become
accustomed to.>>So thinking
about US interests, how do we remove
these thorns, like–>>That’s a really
good question.>>Like the Kurds, the
Kurdish problem or situation? But also, Gülen,
you know? Do we– should we
respond in ways that are different than what
we have done in the past?>>Good questions. I am no fan of
the Gülen movement. I mean, if you
know what it is, whatever, or
whatever exists. And first of all, Gülen
is a powerful cleric, and I believe he has
carried out a lot of bad activities
in Turkey. I don’t think he
masterminded a coup, but I think he
was a big advocate and strong
supporter of it. And he was probably involved,
in one way or another, to topple Erdogan. That being said, he is
a permanent resident of the
United States. If Turkey would like
to extradite him based on charges that it can
prove in a court of law here, which the extradition
treaty requires, and if that holds up in
a court of law, fine. Put him on a plane and–
but that has not been done. And the US should not
be placed in a position whereby you just pick up a guy,
as the Turks would like, shove him on a plane, and
ship him off back to Turkey. We can’t do that. That is a
permanent resident. They have rights in this
country… due process. And this is where it becomes
really warped and weird because it appears,
based on allegations, that has played out
in the US press, as in “real press”…
(audience laughing) that the National Security
Advisor Michael Flynn accepted a payment– was
willing to accept a payment of $15 million to essentially
allow US Special Fo– I don’t know who,
essentially to grab Gülen out of his compound
in Pennsylvania, shove him on a plane, and
ship him off back to Turkey. I mean, you can’t
make this stuff up. (audience laughing)
It’s mind-boggling to me. I mean, a national
security advisor who is, by all
intents and purposes, kind of knows something
about the rule of law and due process, and that
you can’t do that here! So no, I mean,
I don’t think that– that is a red line
for the United States, and Turks
know this. It’s not like
Turks do not– the Turkish government or the
Turkish Ministry of Justice does not know how this
extradition treaty works. They know US laws,
and they have advisors. They could say, “Look, this
is how it has to play out.” So they’re
aware of this. But on the issue of Syria
or how you overcome these, look, as heavy-handed and as
crass as Erdogan has been, the reason why Turkish military
went into Syria into Afrin was understandable. I’m not condoning it,
but it’s understandable. And this is one thing
that they’ve gotten, in my opinion,
hugely wrong, as in, the Trump
administration. When Trump took office,
one of the assurances he gave to Erdogan in one
of the first phone calls that they had
together was, “Okay, I’m going to stop arming
the YPG, the Kurds in Syria. “And soon as the IS
is basically defeated, “we’ll basically
give you assurances. “We’ll work
together. “There won’t be
a new state in– “a YPG state in
Northern Syria. “We’ll work with
you on that.” Assurances
were given. 23 days ago, in January,
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a speech
at Stanford, and said a new border protection
force of 30,000 fighters, the bulk of which would be
Syrian Kurdish fighters, which Turkey
considers terrorists, would be
established. Turkish decision-makers
and government must’ve looked and said,
“Are kidding me?” That was, in my opinion,
a monumentally bad decision. Turks found out about
us over the wires. That’s like throwing
gas into the fire. Erdogan must have looked at
it and said, “You know what? “Okay, you want to
try and do that?” And Erdogan said,
“You will not do that.” And as a result, they said,
“We will eliminate that– “even like the
offing of that,” and hence why the Turkish
military has poured into Syria and is engaged
in operations. So, beyond that, right now, the only thing
that can be done is you need cooler
heads to prevail, whereby you need
heads of government, trusted senior diplomats,
and military commanders on both sides to sit down
and sort of re-evaluate and assess how we essentially
get back to a tabula rasa, and understand why we
are allies and partners, and really seek to
reignite that partnership. Because the only
winner out of this is, right now, is not Turkey
or the United States. The real winner
is Russia. And it, again, it
costs them nothing. And it is undermining the very
fabric of the transatlantic– and it’s not just the
United States and Turkey, but it’s eroding the foundations
of the NATO alliance. The two biggest
heavyweights in NATO, Turkey and the United
States, are bickering. And it’s spilled out onto the
streets, and it looks ugly. And this is even in the absence
of a major global incident, where NATO would
ordinarily have to respond or has
responded. And we will see one,
sooner or later, I can assure
you of that.>>I’ve got a lot
more questions. So, just quick, quick
kind of tag-along, what about Turkey’s wish to
become a member of the EU– do you think
that’s possible? Do you think they even
desire it anymore?>>The public do, but, under
these circumstances, no, because the
retrogression and decline of democratic
standards in Turkey has become so bad that EU institutions won’t
process Turkey’s application. But also, just like he’s
handled the United States, Erdogan has been even more
ruthless in his rhetoric against European
countries. For example,
last week, the Netherlands withdrew
its ambassador from Turkey and will not allow
a Turkish ambassador to be appointed
to The Hague. That is unheard of,
simply because… Turkey accused– Holland refused to allow
Turkish government ministers to conduct election rallies in
favor of Erdogan in Holland. And Erdogan
retorted, saying, “Wow, Nazism isn’t
dead in Europe.”>>(chuckling). So what is
driving Erdogan? And really, is it
personal power, religion? What’s going on?>>At some level,
it’s very basic. What Erdogan is doing,
you have to understand, is very
rational. It’s not warped. He’s not a
psychopath. He’s not a
maniac. He’s not,
right? It boils down
to corruption. When Erdogan– he’s been
in power since 2003, and he’s come
through for Turkey on economic, political,
diplomatic grounds. Turkey’s probably
better off economically than it was before
he came into power. But here’s the
thing, in 2014, a major corruption probe
exploded in Turkey, which exposed Erdogan’s level
of corruption, not only his, his son-in-law,
his family, highest echelons of
the family network. Sound familiar?>>(audience) Yeah!
>>Right? But this was supported not by,
like, “he said, she said.” This was supported
by wiretaps, video evidence,
bank documents, clearly showing embezzlement
of billions of dollars that Erdogan has essentially
conducted in the last God knows how
many years. It was
astounding. And at that time, we thought
that was it for Erdogan. He was done,
you know? That nobody– I mean, you know,
you had Turkish prosecutors and police raiding the
houses of cabinet ministers. They were coming for
Erdogan necks, essentially. It all started melting
down in late 2014, early July– June–
January 2015. So the essential premise is
Erdogan’s got two choices. And I didn’t think
he had a choice. I thought
he was done. You either
weather this, and by “weathering it,” I
mean you have to basically get rid of any person
who can arrest you, you have to get
rid of any venue, i.e., a courtroom that
will hear these cases or that consider this
evidence in court, or you, your family, you go to
jail for the rest of your lives, and the entire government
comes crumbling down. It makes Watergate read
like a child’s book, except we saw, as
consumers of Turkish news or Turkish citizens, the hubris, the level of
corruption that came out. So what did
Erdogan do? Since then, he has eliminated
judicial independence, fired just about any prosecutor
that was not loyal to him, gotten rid
of judges, appointment systems
to the court, changed Turkey’s
system of government from a parliamentary system
to a presidential one so that the law now says
that he can’t be tried, he can’t be indicted, that
he can pass any legislation without recourse
to Parliament. He can annul any parliamentary
law that’s passed. So, I’m saying he’s not
a maniac or a psychopath. He’s acting very rationally
because, if he doesn’t, the consequences
are too bad.>>Well, that’s
sobering to think about how
fragile everything is. (all laughing) And maybe, as a follow-up,
just to talk about what the consequences have
been for the Turkish people, especially thinking
about intellectuals who have been
persecuted. And what’s
happening?>>It’s a tragedy
beyond all reckoning. When the coup attempt
of 2016 happened– a botched attempt
to take down Erdogan by rogue factions of the
Turkish Armed Forces– Erdogan looked
up and said– looked at himself and
thought, “This is it.” And he actually said this– he
said this was a gift from God, simply because he had been
combating these allegations with prosecutors and
this and that, trying to– and he was successful at
getting rid of the accusations and firing prosecutors,
and this and that. But what the coup attempt– the
failed coup attempt did, was… if you play
certain video games, this is like when you gain
the status of superpowers for like 30 seconds, right,
that you become invincible. He enacted a central part
of the Turkish Constitution, which provides a state
of emergency rule for up to three months, which
can be renewed by Parliament. That has been renewed
every three months since the
coup attempt. The tragedy of Turkey
is under that– since that time,
is over 150,000– no kidding– 150,000 civil
servants and military personnel have either been fired
and/or detained in jail. When you’re detained in Turkey
under state of emergency rule, you cannot have
access to a lawyer, charges do not have to be
brought in court against you for up to
12 months. No one can come
to see you. You don’t have
access to anything. So the rule of law in Turkey
has essentially been forfeited. And once you
lose your job, whether it’s in the private
sector or the civil– in the government sector
or the military in Turkey, it’s not like, “Wow, I lost
that job, that’s a major drag.” Now there is a
system of vetting by Turkish companies
or governments. If you’ve been fired,
they’ll check you out. And if you’ve been fired for
those particular reasons, you can’t
get a job. No one will hire you
’cause they’re afraid of repercussions
from the government. Turkey’s a
failing democracy. And I always say this, Turkey
was never a free democracy in the sense of being
a liberal democracy, but it was a free democracy
where we chose our leaders in free and
fair elections. There was a semblance
of due process of law, and it was a
country of laws. And what Erdogan
has precipitated for his own
self-preservation and mobilized the entire
resources of the Turkey state for his own
well-being, I have never seen, in any
other system of government, in my entire 20 years of
studying this sort of stuff. It’s earth-shattering
for Turks. It’s extremely
demoralizing because there is no
recourse for alternatives. You can’t
vote him out, because he’s ensured
all voting mechanisms are under
his control. The process of
ballot box monitoring is now by civil servants,
not by independent monitors. If you protest,
which, in this country, is our constitutional
right to do so, since the Gezi protests
of 2014– sorry, 2013– if you protest
in Turkey today, if 10 of us went out into
the streets with banners to protest
against Erdogan, they will deploy at least
100 police officers. And they have afforded
full rights to shoot you with no
repercussions. You can capture
it on camera. You can…
anything. You can prove it, and they
will not be prosecuted. If you deploy
100 people, they’ll come out
with 1,000 people. They will
use tear gas. They will– you know, if you’re
not willing to back down from being a dissident,
they’ll go after your family. They’ll arrest
those as part of a collective
punishment recourse. 17,000 academics have been
fired from their positions. Turkey has more journalists
in jail than Iran, China, and what’s
the other one? Iran, China…. I can’t
remember the other one. Collectively,
in jail. Unprecedented
measures. So it’s–
I’m not– you know, anywhere I look at,
it’s a travesty in the making.>>We really don’t have time
for any more questions, but maybe
one more. Do you see any hope
to the situation that’s happening
in Turkey right now?>>It’s really hard
to actually see that. And I say that from
a very humble position because I am lucky
enough to be here. I carry
US citizenship, and, for me, that’s
an enormous privilege. This is home
for me. But it’s also, you know,
point of origin, your country
of birth. I always say, “Never
underestimate the goodwill “of a certain number of citizens
who wish to enact change,” but I have to say the odds
are stacked against people. Courts are
now not in– you know, no judge in Turkey
is a judge in Turkey unless they can prove
their loyalty to Erdogan. They’ve been vetted
for that position, same with
prosecutors. And we really found out– and
this should possibly give you a sense of this– about three weeks ago or two
weeks ago, I can’t remember, the Turkish Supreme Court,
you know, one we thought to be one of the
last bastions, whereby existing
Supreme Court judges– they’re not
life-appointed. They’re appointed for a term
of a certain number of years. I can’t remember
how long now. I think it’s–
I can’t remember. I don’t want
to mislead you. But anyway, they rendered
a landmark decision, okay, saying that two
journalists’ rights– pretrial detention was
found out to be a breach of individual rights, that
they had been detained for too long without charges
being brought against them and ordered their
immediate release. And as a result,
because of those… those two cases, this was
thought to be a precedent that would have freed
all in-jail journalists in Turkey
immediately because it’s the
Supreme Court ruling. So that decision
was communicated down to the
lower court, which has one responsibility–
to carry out that decision. The lower court doesn’t have
the right– at that point– it’s like here. The Supreme Court renders
a decision, that’s it. It’s the game. It’s “the buck
stops there.” The lower court
said, “No.” And those guys are
still in jail. And that’s the
constitutional crisis. That is a failure
of rule of law. I mean– and everyone’s sort
of twiddling their thumbs, thinking, “Well,
what happens next?” Well, I don’t know–
I mean, nothing happens. So when you have no recourse
to public protest rights, when you have no judicial
oversight or judicial rights, when… I don’t know
what avenues exist. So– but we’re
still very excited about the upcoming
presidential elections, and I’m not
quite sure why. (audience laughing) In Turkey, that is.
>>Right, right. Well, thank you for
this really thoughtful–>>Thank you for having me.
>>And engaging conversation.>>Thank you.
(applause)>>And thank you for
being with us tonight. If you’d like to carry
on this conversation, we do have a talk back
afterwards at Derby Station. And Cathy, I always–
there you are. Cathy Dopp, of our
Global Connections group, will be leading
the discussion. And it’s fun,
right? Yeah, yeah,
it’s a lot of fun. And of course, next week,
we will be hosting Dr. Stephanie Young from
the RAND Corporation, and she’ll be talking about
the US defense budget, also in the
news right now. So please join
us next week. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *