The Ukrainian crisis has become increasingly alarming. The attack of Russian troops on the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, has alarmed everyone, including the International Energy Agency (IEA). Currently, there is no danger of radioactive leakage, but if it does, Turkey may be exposed to fallout; It reminds me of the Chernobyl disaster. After a long 90-minute meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron made a statement saying, “The worse is on the way.” In Turkey, Ukraine crisis is on the agenda of both the government and the opposition, not only with its political but also with its economic consequences.
The concerns of both the government and the opposition are actually the same. I leave aside the security threat it will bring to the country. In this crisis, it is seen that both the opposition and the government have come together on a common denominator: The Montreux ground provided this. In addition, in the big picture, the fight continues in the dimension of EU-supported USA/NATO and China-backed Russia. For this reason, the attention of both the government and the opposition focused more on the economic and political dimension.
Where does the money escaping from Russia go?
It is clear that the Ukrainian crisis will further shake the Turkish economy, which is already trying to get out of the crisis. This is a development that will put President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in a hardship as the 2023 elections approach.
On the other hand, the economic sanctions against Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine, especially the blocking of banking transactions, caused many world brands to close their Russian operations. World brands are withdrawing from Russia along with their production bases.
Where will they go?
Russia and Turkey are among the countries seen in a similar framework in the eyes of Western investors. Turkey is expected to be at the forefront of the natural routes of money escaping from Russia.
The Ukraine crisis made the international lobbies, who until recently started to question Turkey’s presence in NATO, remember Turkey’s geographical and political importance. Ankara stopped the passage of Russian warships from the Straits to the Black Sea – with the fine formulas devised by the Foreign Ministry, which the AKP members had sneered at as elites. The role of the TB-2 SİHAs (UCAVs) sold to Ukraine in the resistance of the Ukrainian government forces was seen. But Erdoğan also showed that Ankara did not want to cut ties with Russia by not closing the airspace and not participating in economic sanctions that would harm Putin even more.
“Why shouldn’t they come to Turkey?”, right?
Coming to Turkey but when?
Foreign investments in Turkey seem to have stalled due to the perception that President Tayyip Erdoğan has driven the country away from the rule of law and exhibited arbitrary rule, especially since the 2018 elections after when the Presidential Governmental System granted sweeping powers to the elected president. While the value of the Turkish lira slumped on the ground, the expected capital flow did not start, even though Erdogan said “we will provide the convenience you want”. Investors in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are waiting for Turkish companies to be a little cheaper, and they also want AKP names in telecommunication, energy, etc. companies to be eliminated. They say “if we’re going to pay for it, you won’t continue to rule.”
CHP Deputy Leader Erdoğan Toprak says, “It will be very good for the country for investments fleeing from Russia to come to Turkey”; “The investments that came after our support to Afghanistan in 2001 played a role in getting out of the crisis. But now there is a perception that Erdogan is pulling the country out of the rule of law. The investors may expect this situation to change.”
I wonder if international capital would expect Turkey to be more democratic and more respectful of the rule of law in order to invest, and therefore make profit out of Turkey as they had to withdraw their investments and profit from Russia for political reasons?
Ukraine crisis and what the opposition can’t say
Toprak’s words were actually spilling out the question that has been in the minds of all opposition parties which cannot utter it out: Will the Ukraine crisis benefit Erdogan?
Will Erdogan gain an advantage in the 2023 elections by using the foreign capital that will flow to Turkey due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine to get out of the economic crisis? It is clear that investor capital inflow will contribute to Turkey’s economic development. But would this be for the benefit of a handful of capitalists who would support Erdogan’s victory in the 2023 election, rather than the benefit of the country?
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s message on March 3, in which he referred the contractors close to Erdoğan as “domestic oligarchs” with the Russia connotation shows an effort to prevent that to happen as the CHP leader promised to hold them accountable if they will be elected. It is important to show that the opposition draws a line between the interests of the country and those of Erdogan and the AKP.
Erdogan knows what to do, but…
Erdogan, on the other hand, is trying to soften his outlook in the West and attract capital as soon as possible, since the cash from tourism is also at risk. His call to the European Union in a “please” tone and preparation for the messages he will give during his visit to Israeli President Isaac Herzog shows this.
After meeting with his People’s Alliance partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli on March 3, it will not surprise me that President Erdoğan returned to the discourse that they had to comply with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Constitutional Court (AYM), although he did not respect their decisions. It would also not surprise me to see the Turkish Judiciary to change their minds and suddenly decide to release imprisoned philanthropist Osman Kavala, even though Kurdish-issue focused Democratic People’s Party’s (HDP) former co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş’s release is more difficult.
Erdogan knows what he needs to do to get out of the economic crisis and gain an advantageous position in the 2023 election. But he is also aware that taking these steps will loosen the system based on ensuring his own authority. The oligarchic structure established around itself will also have to be dissolved. Difficult decision.
Minister of Agriculture was also “pardoned”
Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture Bekir Pakdemirli was also “pardoned” by Erdoğan after his incompetence from forest fires and allegations of corruption and Vahit Kirişçi was brought to his office. It was rumored for months that he would be gone. I wonder how long did it take to clear the files he left behind so that they would not be the subject of further investigation? It comes to mind that the former Minister of Commerce Ruhsar Pekcan, who was sent under corruption allegations, left her office without any consequences. Maybe Erdogan will even give the former minister a board membership as a hush-present.