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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of foreign governments really mad. Let's call the roll.
Europe. The EU is angry that Turkey is drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, and NATO is furious that member Turkey has defied its protests to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia. Erdogan has repeatedly rejected pushback from EU leaders by calling them fascists and Islamophobes.
Just this week, Erdogan refused to express sympathy with France following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by an Islamist extremist, attacked Macron's own response to the murder, suggested the French president needed "some sort of mental treatment," and countered Macron's vow to crack down on Islamist radicals with calls for a boycott of French products.
<p><strong>US.</strong> Last weekend, Erdogan confirmed that Turkey has tested those Russian S-400 missiles, and <a href="https://apnews.com/article/turkey-istanbul-recep-tayyip-erdogan-ankara-russia-5c8014ac07099875577e43d2e8af139a" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">dared the US to impose sanctions</a>. The Turkish leader has few remaining friends in Washington, and if Joe Biden is elected president and Democrats win a Senate majority, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-election-turkey-analysis-int/analysis-biden-risk-looms-for-turkeys-erdogan-and-beleaguered-lira-idUSKBN2761JY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">US sanctions</a> become much more likely. "You do not know who you are playing with," said Erdogan last Sunday. </p><p><strong>Russia.</strong> Vladimir Putin likes to engage Turkey, if only to upset NATO leaders, but he doesn't like that Turkey actively opposes Russian proxies and allies in Syria, Libya, and the disputed enclave of <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/war-in-the-south-caucasus" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_self">Nagorno-Karabakh</a>. Russia expressed its displeasure earlier this week by <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/26/airstrike-in-northwestern-syria-kills-over-50-rebel-fighters" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">bombing</a> a Syrian rebel camp in Idlib, the last stronghold of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition on Turkey's border. </p><p><strong>Saudi Arabia.</strong> Longtime rival Saudi Arabia is taking aim at Turkey too. Broad disagreements over the proper role of Islam in politics and specific issues like disputes over the <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/9/30/erdogan-khashoggi-murder-serious-threat-to-world-order" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">murder in Istanbul</a> of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have created plenty of bad blood between Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. </p><p>Aware that Turkey's economy is in bad shape, the Saudi government has made clear to its business community that it wants a total boycott of Turkish goods into the kingdom. The boycott remains unofficial, and <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/saudi-turkey-trade/saudi-imports-from-turkey-rise-in-august-despite-informal-boycott-idUSKBN27A0A8" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">latest economic statistics</a> don't yet show a big impact on Saudi imports, but the push will likely continue, and Turkish companies will feel the heat. </p><p><strong>China.</strong> Perhaps aware that Turkey will need at least one deep-pocketed friend, Erdogan has been <a href="https://thediplomat.com/2020/08/china-buys-turkeys-silence-on-uyghur-oppression/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">uncharacteristically restrained</a> in his criticism of China for forcing one million Turkic Muslim Uighurs into internment camps in China's Xinjiang region. But even here, Erdogan's government can't completely overlook such a large-scale crime against Muslims, and Turkey's foreign ministry expressed its "<a href="https://www.trtworld.com/turkey/turkey-reiterates-concern-over-china-s-rights-violations-against-uighurs-40386" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">concerns</a>" earlier this month. </p><p><strong>Turkey's economy is hurting. </strong>Erdogan's economic policies are creating turmoil too, and Turkey's people are now suffering real economic pain. <a href="https://www.focus-economics.com/countries/turkey" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Inflation and unemployment are rising</a>. The coronavirus has taken a toll. The <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2020/10/27/turkeys-lira-hits-another-record-low-as-geopolitical-risks-mount" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">currency</a> has hit historic lows against the dollar. </p><p>Maybe Erdogan believes that picking fights with foreigners will appeal to national pride and divert public attention from these hardships. It fits the neo-Ottoman image he has worked to build of Turkey as a strong and independent actor on the world stage. </p><p>But a strong Turkey needs a strong economy, and the health of that economy depends on both <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-erdogan-markets-analysis/cold-turkey-investor-exodus-tests-erdogans-economic-experiment-idUSKBN1ZZ0K7" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">trade and foreign funding</a>. In a moment of economic crisis, new sanctions and boycotts aren't going to help. </p><p><strong>The big questions:</strong> How much economic pain will Erdogan accept before he becomes less combative with those who have the power to hurt him? And how long before he pays a heavier political price at home?</p>
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October 28, 2020
Less than a week before the US election, President Donald Trump is repeatedly questioning the legitimacy of the vote (if he doesn't win) over largely unsubstantiated claims of potential fraud in universal mail-in voting. But with absentee ballots coming in all-time highs in all states due to the coronavirus pandemic, some Americans worry that the system itself may not be able to handle such an influx of ballots, including those already cast by a record number of early voters. Whether or not you agree, Gallup data show that US citizens are now less confident that the election will be conducted accurately — and more concerned about election irregularities and voter suppression — than they were four years ago. We take a look at how Americans' views on these electoral integrity issues have changed from 2016 to 2020.
October 28, 2020
Belarus on strike: In recent days, the Belarusian streets have turned up the heat on strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, as thousands of state factory workers and students in Belarus heeded a call from opposition leader Svyatlana Tikhanouskaya to join a general strike. Protests have roiled the country since August, when Lukashenko, in power since 1994, won a presidential election widely regarded as rigged. Last Sunday, 100,000 people turned up in Minsk, the capital. Tikhanouskaya — who ran against Lukashenko in that election and is currently exiled in neighboring Lithuania — had demanded the president resign by October 26. When he didn't, the walkout began. In one of the most iconic moments of protest so far, a striking worker at a refrigerator factory climbed the plant's tower to record a dramatic call for Lukashenko to step down. Belarus has been hit with sanctions from the US and EU, both of which are calling on him to hold new elections, but so far he has shown no signs of backing down, deploying his riot police with the usual fury. Something's got to give, soon.
<p><strong>Iran's nuclear project:</strong> The UN's nuclear watchdog said Wednesday that Iran has<a href="https://apnews.com/article/iran-iran-nuclear-berlin-united-nations-tehran-effcfe5ea7d691b471355a4b49c7a18c?utm_source=dailybrief&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DailyBrief2020oct28&utm_term=DailyNewsBrief" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> resumed</a> work at its underground uranium enrichment plant in Natanz after the area mysteriously exploded back in July. Natanz, 200 kilometers south of Tehran, Iran's capital, has long been a flashpoint in the row between the West and Iran over the latter's nuclear program after<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-programme/timeline-of-irans-nuclear-program-idUSL227722320080122" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> satellite images</a> in the early 2000s showed rapid construction in Natanz. Now, the UN watchdog says that while satellite imagery suggests that Tehran is in fact continuing to stockpile increased amounts of low-enriched uranium — which can be used to make a nuclear bomb — it does not appear to have amassed enough to produce a weapon at this stage. Indeed, since President Trump walked away from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, Tehran has steadily been ramping up the amount of uranium it can stockpile, in breach of the 2015 accord. Meanwhile, the temperature between Washington and Tehran has been simmering since the US assassinated<a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/who-is-general-qassim-suleimani" target="_self"> General Qassim Suleimani,</a> head of Iran's elite, paramilitary Quds Force, back in January. If<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-iran-analysis/analysis-biden-would-face-uncertain-path-to-detente-with-wary-iran-idUSKBN27D1D2" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> Joe Biden</a> wins on November 3, will he opt to resume dialogue with Tehran — a move that might encourage the Iranian regime to hit pause on nuclear enrichment?</p><strong>The Tanzanian "Bulldozer":</strong> Tanzanians go to the polls today in an election where the result is already known: President John Magufuli, one of Africa's most eccentric leaders, will get a second term in office. Magufuli — who likes to be called "<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tanzania-election/tanzanias-bulldozer-president-hopes-mega-projects-impress-voters-idUSKBN27B0WU" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">The Bulldozer</a>" for his love for public works and his pitiless approach towards critics — remains immensely popular. He has invested millions in infrastructure mega-projects and, having refused to shut down the country over COVID-19, can boast one of Africa's few economies to actually <a href="https://www.afdb.org/en/countries-east-africa-tanzania/tanzania-economic-outlook" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">grow</a> this year. However, dissidents warn that Magufuli is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/28/world/africa/tanzania-election-john-magufuli.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">eroding democracy</a> by cracking down on the opposition, muzzling the independent media, and tweaking laws to favor the ruling Party of the Revolution (which has dominated Tanzanian politics for decades). Although it's unclear how the pandemic will affect the election, "The Bulldozer" has declared the country <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-52966016" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">coronavirus-free</a> thanks to prayers from Tanzanians. For the sake of the millions voting in person in crowded facilities, he better be right.
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Who does Vladimir Putin want to win the US election? Given the Kremlin's well-documented efforts to sway the 2016 vote in Donald Trump's favor, it's certainly a fair question. And while there's no solid evidence that Russian interference had any decisive effect on the outcome four years ago, the Trump administration itself says the Kremlin — and others — are now trying to mess with the election again.
So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.
<p><strong>Trump: Is this as good as it gets?</strong> If Donald Trump's election in 2016 was supposed to dramatically improve the Russia-US relationship, then you're very disappointed. None of the <a href="https://2009-2017.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/ukrainerussia/index.htm" target="_blank">Obama-era sanctions</a> (over Ukraine or human rights) has been lifted – and in fact the Trump Administration has <em><a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/09/25/on-the-record-the-u-s-administrations-actions-on-russia/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">expanded sanctions</a></em> against your officials, companies, and cronies. What's more, Washington has, over your repeated objections, walked out of <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/read/is-the-u-s-inf-or-out" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_self">one major arms control treaty</a> that was important to you, while <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/the-start-of-the-end-for-arms-control" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_self">another</a> hangs by a thread with just days until the US election. </p><p>On the other hand, you love how Donald Trump sees the world. For him, US alliances are based on political and financial transactions rather than values. Trump's Washington is far less interested in playing global policeman or haranguing you about human rights and civil society. This is a world in which Russia can punch above its weight. Plus, Trump's toxic effect on an already deeply polarized American society has been a delight for you: just desserts for an America that once — obnoxiously, in your view — styled itself as a model of democracy. </p><p><strong>Joe Biden: the perks of predictability?</strong> </p><p>Joe Biden, meanwhile, has already <a href="https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-election-2020-joe-biden-campaigns-voting-d52427a53ee53993b14526e77c848e86" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">promised</a> to make you pay for election meddling— though it's not quite clear how. But even beyond that, you're not excited about a Biden administration that would shore up ties with European allies, reaffirm the US commitment to NATO, or restart efforts to break the stalemate in eastern Ukraine (you like your conflicts frozen, not stirred.) And while Washington will always be reluctant to impose crippling sanctions on your oil sector or sovereign debt — the costs would probably be too high for energy consumers and banks on both sides of the Atlantic — you could certainly see fresh US sanctions on new energy projects that are important to you. </p><p>But there'd be some upside too. As a more traditional supporter of US alliances and international agreements, Biden has signaled he'd want to rejoin the Iran Nuclear deal -- which you and the other European signatories still see as the best way to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons -- and he'd almost certainly sit down with you to renegotiate those strategic arms control treaties. </p><p>But perhaps most of all, Biden would be a much more predictable leader. Unlike the barely controlled chaos of Trump's foreign policy you'd at least know where you stand with a Biden administration. Statements and policies would be cleared and vetted and credible, in all the normal ways. (You'd no longer have your spooks watch Sean Hannity for foreign policy clues.) </p><p>In other words, you might not <em>like</em> Biden's policies, but you would at least have a clearer picture of <em>what they are</em>. Then <em>you </em>could quickly reclaim your title as world's most unpredictable leader of a great power! </p><p><strong>Then again... </strong>You know you can't shape the election outcome, and you'll be prepared to deal with whoever wins. Your <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/putin-rejects-trump-s-criticism-hunter-biden-s-business-n1244731" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">recent slap-down</a> of Trump's unsubstantiated corruption allegations about Hunter Biden show that you're looking at the polls and hedging your bets. </p><p>So maybe, in the end, you don't care that much who wins. You're rooting for chaos, the American nightmare of a close election that pushes protesters into the streets. After all, anything that claws down the drapes of American democracy is a good outcome for you. </p><p>You'll be up early next Wednesday. </p>
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