Foreign policy in times of economic downturn

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu shaking hands with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in the UAE, which he visited on December 15. (Photo: Twitter/Çavuşoğlu)

When President Tayyip Erdoğan announced the following year’s minimum wage as 4,253 Turkish Liras per month on December 16, he said, “do not compare it to its dollar value.” I think he knew what people would ask if they calculate the wage on US dollars because when the amount of the minimum wage is calculated on dollars, despite its 50 percent raise, it eventually decreased. It turned out that people could buy less with that amount. Besides, 50 percent raise is a de facto announcement of real inflation. Turkish citizens ignored Erdoğan’s call to stay away from dollars, and those who could afford it rushed to buy dollars and gold. On December 17, one US dollar could buy 16 Turkish Liras. Yes, the real problem is distrust of economic policies, and it continues. But the distrust and vulnerability affect not only the economy or domestic politics, it also has a huge effect on the foreign policy, Turkey’s foreign and security interests.

Because of the fact that the economy is in this state, the priority of foreign policy has inevitably shifted to finding resources. Almost all foreign policy steps are taken for this purpose: from the move to normalise the relations with Egypt, which happened in spring when there were hints of a dollar crisis, to the reconciliation with the UAE, which was considered an enemy until recently; and finally the normalisation efforts with Armenia.

It’s not easy to ask for money while criticising

A successful foreign policy opens the door to a successful economy. For this reason, after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk won the War of Independence, he first sought and provided political and economic cooperation with the occupying England, France, and Italy. His national motto, “Peace at Home and Peace in the World”, symbolised this.

“The Precious Loneliness” excuse embraced by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is a result of deviating from the “Peace at Home, Peace in the World.”

The foreign investment that AKP is looking for reconsiders its move thoroughly to invest in a country where politicians constantly threaten or criticise its neighbours and cut diplomatic relations every time they cross. In addition to this, there is political unpredictability in that country, and the administration has a reputation for interfering with judicial decisions.

Kavala to be released, Saudi Arabia and Israel to be hosted

Moreover, the USA, EU and Gulf countries, which AKP expect external resources to recover the economy, are the countries politicians targeted the most in domestic politics. And that makes it unsustainable.

One day it will hit the wall, especially when there is not enough economic power to support the positions obtained through military diplomacy.

Do you need an example? In September, the press covered the news that the new F-16s requested from the USA would cost 10 billion dollars. When the application was made at the end of September, one dollar was 8.6 TLs. Remember, there were concerns that it would become 9. At that time, the cost of F-16s was 86 billion TLs; today, the cost is 161 billion TLs.

We hit that wall. I will also write why the shift in policy started in the spring: it is also related to the Sedat Peker incident. Now, we can better understand why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and İbrahim Kalın tried so hard to curb Erdoğan’s overreaction to the ten ambassadors who demanded Osman Kavala’s release, which I think was a false attempt at power. They wanted to reduce the damage.

Both Erdogan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Minister of Treasury and Finance Nureddin Nebati say that relations with the EU should be improved. I interpret this as Kavala’s being released from the prison where he was held unjustly.

If diplomacy was prioritized instead of fight

The foreign minister announces that Turkey’s previous Ambassador to US Serdar Kılıç was appointed as the special envoy to Armenia during his visit to the UAE, which was considered one of the powers behind the July 15 2016 coup attempt. He gave the good news at the same event that President Erdoğan will visit UAE in the following months.

Next is to host Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who allegedly ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Consulate General of Istanbul. After that is the reconciliation with Israel, with which we broke off because of the pressure on the Palestinians.

Make peace, of course, but if they had chosen diplomacy instead of fighting, the economy would not have been in this terrible state.

There is a basis for us to say that a successful foreign policy is a successful economy.


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